While sharing the learning during the course of a "CorporateTheatre" workshop, most participants have no difficulty in seeing how the learning can be applied and share the conviction that they can use it at work as well as in their personal life. However, an occasional participant raises the issue of how the powerful and comprehensive dynamics experienced during the workshop can be applied to their workplace. “We have attended many 'trainings'”, they say, “and after a few weeks or months, the excitement and the impact fades away, and one gets back to square one.” In response, I often say that experiential learning like cycling, swimming or driving, once learned does not have to be relearned again and again. The challenge is to actually go out and cycle, swim, or drive. Even if one chooses not to swim ever again, and years later, they fall into water accidentally, they realise that they have not forgotten how to swim. So, whether they swim again or not is a personal decision. Whether they build a pool or not is a collective decision that also involves the top leadership as well as HR – people who have the authority and responsibility to define the work culture.
I would like to make the onus of personal commitment clearer through a metaphor:
Four young men went to a good coach to learn swimming. One was a very rich young man. Two were quite well off but not all that rich, one was quite poor. Within a couple of months of intense coaching they all became excellent swimmers and discovered that they enjoyed swimming.
Once the coaching period was over this is what happened:
The rich young man went about raising some money and built a spacious pool in his garden and enjoyed swimming almost every day. He became very fit and lived a good active life.
One of the young men who was well off but not rich, took lifetime membership in a small club nearby which had a reasonably good swimming pool, and also enjoyed swimming on most mornings and weekends. He also took advantage of the club's other facilities like table tennis, and badminton, and he too led a healthy and active life.
The poor young man went around and located a good river around an hour's cycle ride away from his house and managed to swim at least twice or thrice a week. With the cycling and swimming, he too lived a healthy and active life.
As for the other young man who was also well off, he went around lamenting that though he loved swimming, he did not have the money to build a pool. He did not take the club membership either, as he preferred to go pubbing with friends on weekends and the membership fee was too much to spend only for swimming on weekends. He never swam again. As years went by he developed a series of ailments owing to lack of exercise and outdoor activity. His work began to suffer and finally he found himself without a proper job, unhealthy , stressed out, and miserable.
The rich young man is like the top management. They have the resources and the authority to change the work environment and are willing to do so. They build a pool where they as well as their teams can enjoy swimming together regularly.
The second young man is the middle manager who though he does not have all the necessary resources or authority to change the environment, finds a way to practise and enjoy what he has learned. This is likely to take him to a level of authority where he can actually build the pool.
The third young man is like the junior manager who finds some way to implement the learning against all odds. He too is likely to get to a state where he can build a pool.
The fourth young man who is also well off but does not see the possibility of swimming again, will soon lose energy and motivation, and end up as a prisoner of precedent, blaming all that is going wrong on the environment. He is unlikely to ever get into a position of authority and empowerment where he can build a pool. He may rise to some mediocre position in the hierarchy and try to find security in his designation without the ability or confidence to provide inspirational leadership to his teams.