Of late, there’s been an ongoing debate in the scientific community as to whether intelligence is fixed or changeable.
If intelligence is fixed, then each person's measure is doled out in the womb, and no amount of information acquisition can increase someone’s intelligence quotient, or IQ. But if intelligence is changeable, then people can actually get smarter over time. And indeed, this seems to be what the evidence shows; intelligence is far more fluid than we’ve previously been led to imagine.
In one study, for example, researchers tested the IQ of 33 healthy adolescents aged 12 to 16 and then tested it again 3 to 4 years later. At the second testing, 33 percent of participants showed a change in their total IQ score.
What does any of this have to do with your workplace, you ask?
Simple! Knowing that intelligence is changeable makes the benefits of learning all the more salient. And, in fact, companies that encourage and value learning are healthier, more stable, and smarter than those that don’t. As a result they perform better.
Ray Stata, former CEO of Analog Devices, a semiconductor company, is quoted as saying, “The rate at which organizations and individuals learn may well become the only sustainable competitive advantage.”
Like much of everything else, an organization’s commitment to learning is on a spectrum. On one end of the spectrum are progressive, forward-thinking companies with a worldwide reputation for continuous cutting-edge innovation and improvement (think Google and Zappos).
Waaaaay over at the other end of the spectrum are companies on the decline. These companies stopped learning a long time ago and are now paying a very serious price for that decision.
Somewhere in between both these extremes are companies on the right track to becoming learning organizations as well as those headed for decline. An organization with a disdain for learning is definitely in that last camp.
When it comes to eschewing learning, company actions speak a whole lot louder than words. Regardless of what leadership may claim, when an organization disdains learning its processes will reveal the truth.
In these companies, data are viewed lower than history, tradition, biases, and perception. Review and reflection are practically nonexistent, and no one is held accountable for employee development, which occurs unevenly and in a haphazard, non-strategic manner.
Part of the reason for this state of affairs is leadership’s unfortunate attitude that it knows it all, has seen it all, and has done it all—that “Company X’s Way” is always the best way, even if no one has actually investigated any other way.
To put it bluntly, that’s just stupid—which is the very opposite of what you get when you’re committed to continuous learning.