February 15, 2013

Learning By Doing

published this at 9:02 am

By Jeannie Walters

It’s sad to me how many people think they can’t do it. Whatever it is, they truly believe they cannot do it because they don’t have a rule book.

I remember interviewing a young woman who told me, in a job interview, that she could do whatever I outlined for her on a list and trained her carefully to do. “What if it’s not on the list?” I asked. Her answer was if it wasn’t on the list, she didn’t see it as one of her duties.

“It must be on the list.”

She didn’t get the job. Not because she wasn’t capable, because I believe she probably was, but because she was scared of the unknown. She was scared of trying new things. She felt she had to be taught every little thing before she would attempt it.

Baptism by fire is not a bad way to learn. It’s uncomfortable and scary, sure, but if you can survive, you can really make things happen.

There is no degree for customer experience. And yet that’s the focus of my career. Every day I’m doing something that scares me a little bit. And why not? Humans are awesomely unpredictable. What worked last time will not necessarily work this time.

How do you learn by doing?

Jump in, the water’s fine.

Next time you find yourself saying, “But I’ve never done that before” as an excuse to NOT do it – stop yourself. Rephrasing helps me. “I get to do this for the first time!”

Learn from the masters.

Since the dawn of time, humans have been learning from one another. If you’ve never hosted a webinar before, be sure to attend a few to see what works and what doesn’t. If you’re scared to start that kickboxing class, go to the gym the day before and scope it out a little. It’s ok to do research and recon.

Ask for help.

While this seems to be an issue for many of us, it’s a critical part of learning. Ask for support and help, even if it’s just having a few friends there to cheer you on.

Keep up.

The best people I know are perpetual students. With so much information so readily available out there, it’s easy to keep learning. If you are in a role that is about marketing, make sure you read and follow and watch what’s out there about that role. Do your homework, but don’t let that be a crutch, either. Sometimes you have to stop the surfing and get stuff done.

Forgive your missteps.

Have you ever noticed we are often kinder and more forgiving to others than we are to ourselves? Doing things we haven’t necessarily been taught how to do means we will learn from our inevitable mistakes. If something doesn’t work, examine what didn’t work about it so you can improve the next time. Cut yourself some slack. Forgive and move on.

Give it your all.

Creating something from nothing requires brain power, stamina and determination. There will be times you want to give up, mostly because it’s outside your comfort zone. Don’t do it. Set a small goal and accomplish it. Then set a loftier one and accomplish that. You can do this.

The world is such a cool place these days. We can connect with like-minded people all over the world and create our very own dream jobs. Don’t let a lack of “a list” prevent you from accomplishing great things. Do it. The learning will happen.

Author’s Bio: Jeannie Walters is the Chief Customer Experience Investigator™ and founder of 360Connext, a customer experience consulting firm. Walters has been focused on customer experience issues for more than 15 years and works with organizations all over the world.

Walters now speaks, writes, consults and generally thinks about how the small experiences we have each day – going to the bank, ordering online, tweeting – create the greater experience of our lives. Walters lives outside of Chicago with her husband Mike and their two young sons. As such, her current hobbies include cheering on distracted t-ball players and building impressive Lego villages.

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