Singing bowls aren't everyone's cup of meditative tea, but don't ring them until you've tried them. The same goes for other experiences. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
I know many Chief Learning Officer readers are getting tired of seeing our blog posts start with “When I was at Spring CLO Symposium” — like this one by Ed Cohen on asking questions, or any of the three recaps written by myself or editors Ladan Nikravan and Kellye Whitney.
But here’s one more, anyway.
At the LearningElite dinner, I sat next to a CLO who said one of the ways she develops herself is by trying something new every year. Last year she learned to shoot guns, which led to her winning multiple awards for marksmanship.
Inspired, I resolved to go one step beyond that and try something new each month. For April’s adventure, I signed up for a gong meditation class. Granted, I can’t win medals in it, but it’s a new experience.
So on Sunday, I packed up my mat and headed out to my local yoga studio, where I plopped down for an hour of sound meditation. I’m not exactly a novice — an album of Tibetan singing bowls are my ambient noise of choice whenever I’m trying to focus at work — but I had never been in the same room as they’re being played; it’s a completely different experience than listening to them through earbuds.
I didn’t know what to expect from the experience itself, but I did know I wanted to learn something new. And there lies the why-you-should-care part of this post. Trying new things isn’t just important to alleviate boredom, but for our brains’ development, too. Of all the people in an organization, CLOs have the best ability to get employees out of their comfort zone and into the learning zone.
Some psychologists say that neophobia, the fear of trying new things, stems from the fact that mankind seems to be wired to fear an unknown outcome more than a known one. We would much rather stay in our comfort zone than venture out with no idea of what we might experience.
I can attest to this: In my great-grandfather’s twilight years, he refused to try new foods for fear that he’d like them, and therefore realize he had missed out on them for the last 80 years.
Don’t let your employees be like my great-grandfather. Push them to try new things. Author Dr. Alex Lickerman wrote in Psychology Today that having unknown experiences not only keeps us from getting bored — an engagement killer — it forces us to grow.
Job rotation is a perfect way to get employees out of their comfort zones. Make employees try their hand at a task outside in their general job description to make them learn something about how another side of the business works. Or give employees the opportunity to try a mindfulness exercise. Or encourage them to start their own battery recycling initiative and try their hand at leadership. The possibilities are endless.
If you do it right, they might also learn a little something about themselves and their own potential, and what more could a learning leader want?
As for the gong meditation experience, I learned two things. First, it takes six people in the Nepali mountains to create a single singing bowl. Second, I can fall asleep even when there’s a large gong being banged right over my head. But hey — those are two things I didn’t know before, and I consider myself just a little bit better for having that knowledge.