If you want your team to learn from their experiences, I encourage you to add this one question to your conversations.
“What are we learning?”
If you want your company to learn from all of its experiences, then I encourage you to adopt this simple question as a part of your regular conversations. However from my own experience I have seen that if you ask it at the conclusion of every meeting, people get numb to the exercise and there is a diminishing quality of responses. Likewise by email I have found that I get short answers or no response at all. So how do you get the best results?
When to ask: Ask just after the part of the conversation when people have let off steam. I don’t have much time for general complaining, but some frustration is understandable when people are focusing on their own excitement or disappointment. Your goal is to transfer the energy of the moment into behavioral reinforcement or change for the future.
How to ask: Start with a quick summary of the circumstances-what you expected, where you are now, and how you got to this point. Try to stick to the facts. Who to ask: Each time, try to ask someone different to weigh in first. That’s a good way to make certain that, over time, everyone gets heard. Many small teams have some very vocal members, while others are quiet. However, some of the best insights may come from the quiet members and to get their ideas means asking them first.
Start positive: The group will want to hear what you have to say. Go last and start first with the productive and positive lessons first. The risk inherent in this question is that it can become another way to point out faults and mistakes. That will not produce a culture that embraces learning.
Skip the blame: Similarly, keep in mind that “What are we learning?” is a very different question than “Whose fault is it?” You are looking for insights that will change behaviors and increase the potential for success in the future. To do that, focus on the facts and the process, not the people.