Great learning organizations realize the value in celebrating – or rewarding – to develop and grow. Great growth and development comes not only from driving change through research, development, or discovery, but also through changing behavior via reward and celebration. The old adage, “what get’s rewarded gets repeated” is really true. It may seem a bit simplistic on some level, but it’s something we all respond to. I would guess that for many of you reading this, that isn’t groundbreaking news either. I would also venture to say that many of you reading probably don’t celebrate enough. When was the last time you attempted to change a behavior or an outcome by celebrating the correct behavior as opposed to punishing or limiting the incorrect behavior?
Excellent learning organizations understand celebration in two capacities. First, they understand that intentional celebration and reward of desired behavior and outcomes is one of the most effective ways to shape behavior. This is a loaded topic that I don’t fully intend to discuss here. You’ll have to wait for the full book release for everything on this loaded topic, but I think we can all agree on the simple fact the what we celebrate will most often get repeated. It communicates to our organization what we value, and it also helps increase morale amongst our teams and groups. Instead of discouraging behavior you don’t want, consider encouraging the behavior you do want or have found to be most effective. It simple terms, throw some parties. Celebrate great accomplishments, positive outcomes, and even personal or group achievements with the entire organization.
Secondly, great learning organizations understand they are always rewarding something even when it isn’t intentional. They never overlook their own responsibility in unwanted outcomes. They ask the question, “what are we communicating by our reward system”? Consider those that show up late for work. Maybe you continually communicate this is not acceptable, but many employees continue to arrive late. A great learning organization would consider what it is reinforcing in this situation. You might find that the manager delegates work immediately at the beginning of a work day. It may be that everyone who shows up early ends up with significantly more work assigned that those that arrive late. While you are saying, “show up on time”, you are communicating, “the earlier you get here the more work you have to do”. Unintentionally you are rewarding late arrivers with less work. Though we often assume no rewards exist unless we have intentionally chosen to give them, this is simply never the case. Rewards always exist, and great learning organizations have a good grasp of how that system is driving their outcomes.
Read all 10 of the Disciplines of a Learning Organization here.