Why leaders should embrace being bad at new things

Technology Eye | March. 22, 2016

We need to be comfortable being bad at things so we can eventually be better at them.

In an article based on her book, Be Bad First: Get Good at Things Fast to Stay Ready for the Future , leadership coach Erika Andersen says: “In order to thrive in today’s business world, we have to let go of the idea that being an adult means being an expert at everything.”

Rather than pretending to be an expert at everthing, we need to embrace being a novice and accept that we will be bad at things. But eventually, if we are open to learning new things, we will get good at them.

Andersen looked at research by British scholar James Atherton , who studied a group of adults taking part in professional training programmes.

His research found that when the trainees shut down when confronted with new information, became confused and were unable to concentrate. Some even became angry, particularly when the knowledge they were given was information that seemed to be contradictory to what they already knew.

He reported that many of the trainees showed an “inability to listen to or to understand ideas which they themselves felt they should have been able to manage intellectually with no difficulty”.

Atherton noted: “Resistance to learning is a phenomenon well-known to most tutors and trainers of adults, but has received remarkably little attention in the literature.”

Many people begin showing signs of resistance when they are confronted with ideas that contradict things they already know. Feeling inexpert can cause many people to shut down and resist learning.

In her book, Andersen says we should get used to incompetence, as it is only temporary. “For many adults, being a novice feels like going backward. We’re used to proficiency.”

This need to be an expert prevents people from getting better. Learning something new means stepping out of your comfort zone and overcoming the discomfort of being a novice.

“Trial and error is an inevitable part of breaking new ground,” Andersen notes. Learning new things means accepting that it may take time and be awkward, but that it is ok to be bad at first so as to be better later.

Have you read? Is this what it takes to be an innovative leader? 5 ways the best leaders learn from failure 8 leadership traits that are critical for success

SOURCE: World Economic Forum

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