I am participating in an intensive 12-week program through work that is a combination of reading, discussion, group journaling, group meetings, and individual coaching. The intent is to broaden your individual skills, however, one of the aspects is to gain an understanding of service businesses in general (financial aspects, sales, etc.). We're exploring ideas that feel very timely to me, and one of the first concepts we talked about was learning attitudes. I now see the differences prevalent in organizations.
One's beliefs about nature (innate ability) vs. nurture (developed ability) lead to different attitudes toward the learning gap, and Fred Kofman refers to these two attitudes as the Knower and the Learner:
Those who approach the learning gap with a "Knower" attitude generally have a closed mind because they assume that they already have the answers and are therefore incapable of any significant improvement. This tendency not to admit that they don’t know something, according to Kofman, is the hallmark of Knowers. Yet, as he points out, it’s difficult (or even impossible) to seek and acquire new knowledge unless people are awareand can admitthat they do not know.
On the other hand, those who approach the learning gap with the "Learner" attitude are willing to admit that they don’t know. This awareness and admission of the learning gap allows them to approach situations with an open mind and a sense of ease and even enjoyment as they learn new ways of understanding and doing things.
I now have a new language to explain some of my observations as a coach, like when I try to describe the person who alienates his fellow team members with his strong Knower stance (I previously might've used other language to describe him, and it might've led to different results). Given the talk of "self-organizing teams," "continuous improvement," and "inspect and adapt," I'm surprised by how many Knowers there are trying to firmly lead or manage agile teams. As a coach, I'm glad for new language to reflect back to them what I see happening.