The Benefits of Lessons Learned


I had one of my regular skype calls with Ron Young and the Knowledge Associates Team on Monday to review and share what we know about ‘Lessons Learned’. We shared our experiences and discussed what would we might advise others.

It dawned on me afterwards that the whole reason for carrying out safe to fail experiments when your situation is uncertain (in the cynefin Complex domain) is not just to find out what works, but to probe the situation, cause an action or reaction of some sort and gain knowledge in the form of the feedback you receive. Hence you have ‘learned a lesson’.

Where you are gaining knowledge in the specific business area that you have chosen to focus your work in, this effectively becomes knowledge that you can apply to your Strategic advantage as your competitors may not have such knowledge.

I love Ron’s story that Ernst & Young had told him, during a collaborative project, that they would often turn down work if it did not involve them gaining new knowledge. So:

“will I gain new knowledge (learn new lessons) from this project?”

should be a key question when assessing a new project, if learning, resilience and sustainability is important to you.

With unbelievable timing and serendipity, I was clearing out my office and came across a couple of my ‘experiments’. I have very rarely used explicit feedback sheets at the end of workshops. At one workshop a few years ago, for a huge international client, I was asked to facilitate a ‘Lessons Learned’ workshop after a big project bid. At the end of the workshop, I handed out, what I called at the time ‘Workshop Satisfaction Sheets’ and as an experiment, to get the client to self-realise the importance of such a workshop, I added a box that asked:

“How much money could the organisation save if all the lessons discussed today were heeded?”

I will let you self-realise the benefits of running such a workshop from the following selection of returns… [click on the image to enlarge]

lessons in a million



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