We live in a non-communicative culture
We live in a society where technological advances and social media impact our everyday lives. Children right down to the age of 3 know how to use an iPad and a smartphone better than most adults do, but what will the future look like if things continue like this, and what will happen to society in the long run? Let’s start with communication. Children and young adults are the product of a non-communicative culture, where we prefer using technology such as Snapchat, Messenger or Slack rather than communicating face to face. Let us set expectations around feedback and real life communication by teaching it in school.
We see how coding as a subject is making its way into our school systems – but if coding is a language, we should be teaching our children, then what about human interactions? How about teaching future generations how to interact with each other and how to grow and develop – personally, but also as part of a community?
A Danish study by Epinion for LO found that more than 50% of public servants have difficulties expressing their opinions, and that they experience a lack of influence in the workplace. The overall picture tells us that most of us struggle to express criticism towards each other, because we’re part of a culture in which flaws and failures are forbidden and therefore hidden, and where it’s better to be a happy flatterer than an angry critic.
Let’s learn how to fail
We need to put an end to this development in our culture, from the individual to the workplace. According to British professor Julian Birkinshaw, who teaches strategy and entrepreneurship at the London Business School, we’re creating a culture in which people play it safe and hide away their flaws by only focusing on what succeeds.
In this way, we’re missing out on valuable life lessons, and we aren’t growing as individuals when we insist on focusing solely on the positive things within a given context.
Former Minister of Education and Research in Denmark, Tommy Ahlers, said “Failing is an excellent way to learn” and hopes that the youth of the future will “immerse themselves, learn more, be curious and have the courage to fail,” instead of upholding the current culture.
Several American universities have started to teach their students that failing can be a good thing. Rachel Simmons, who leads the “Failing Well” program at Smith College in Massachusetts says that we can never become good learners if we do not know how to fail. She adds that if we have a fear of failure, we’ll never seek out situations where we have the possibility of experiencing the joy of discovering the unknown.
Champagne from the boss as a prize
One Danish company that has already adapted to this mentality is LEO Innovation Lab, which develops digital tools and apps for people with skin conditions. In an effort to end the culture of zero flaws, Kristian Schroder Hart-Hansen, their CEO, always has a few bottles of champagne ready to pop when his employees make mistakes, and not for when the company has experienced growth, made a big new deal or had a profitable financial year. According to Jesper Damm, managing director in Boston Consulting Groups, LEO Innovation Lab’s success is a rare sight in the corporate world, and he thinks many companies could learn from them.
LEO Innovation Lab’s initiative is absolutely worth a thumbs up, but how do we broaden this mentality to the rest of the population, and how do we change a mentality that has existed in our culture for a very long time?
Do we just make some politician get up on a soapbox and yell: “Starting tomorrow, you will no longer be afraid of failure, and you will have the courage to criticize your peers”? Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.
School bells ringing – it’s time for feedback and social skills
If we have an intention to grow, we have to learn how to make feedback an integral part of our everyday lives. I suggest that we put the bulk of the work in the hands of our children, as they are the leaders of tomorrow. In spite of the fact that we live in a world where we’re pushing each other further and further away, professors and politicians agree that robots can never take over our social skills – so why not prioritize them and train them? Feedback as part of our children’s school schedules would strengthen our human interactions and be very valuable for each individual. Consider it a way of teaching the lessons of the school courtyards and playgrounds in a more structured way. It’ll contribute to our society in the same way as math, physics, English and whatever else is already on the school schedule. Society needs us to learn and train how to interact with each other in a better way, and one way could be through a subject like “Feedback” in our schools.