We do a lot of thinking and talking about how to create cultures where it’s psychologically safe for people to learn. Even with our good intentions, it can be tough. There is always a lot of pressure to get things right. We don’t feel like we have enough time or space to learn. We don’t want to look stupid or make other people pay the price for our learning curve. So in our hurry and our drive for excellence, we often forget about the beauty of learning.
This is a picture I took while in Indonesia a few years ago. This was an elder of the village dancing with one of the young boys. A common occurrence, I was told. As the oldest members of the village began to play music, the dance began. The elder would move through the steps and movements and the youth would carefully follow. What was interesting is what everyone else did. They made sounds through the whole dance, all in response to the moves of the boy. Every time he moved they clicked and chanted their approval and encouragement. When he got it right, the sounds changed a little bit. When he really faltered, they changed again, but not in the way a crowd sounds like when an athlete misses a shot at the goal. It was different, more like when someone is about to open a present they know they are going to like.
I’ve thought so much about this dance over the years. The way the entire village was a part of the boy’s learning. How they created the conditions for him to feel safe, supported, challenged and seen as he learned. How a learning ritual was such a fundamental part of the village’s daily life. It continues to inspire me when I think about creating the conditions for learning in our space.
How is the idea of learning held in your “village” (your team, your organization, your family)? How might you slow down, hear the music and enjoy the dance?