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Can you learn from the safety zone?

Can you learn from the safety zone?
Published: June 11, 2016
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Now in its fourth year, Learnfest has taught us that learning, like achieving, is done best when you’re outside your normal environment and comfort zone. The comfort zone, as defined by Lifehacker, is a “behavioural space where your activities and behaviours fit a routine and pattern that minimises stress and risk”.  It’s human nature to gravitate towards a neutral, stress free state, where we focus on doing what needs to be done to get by. But in order to maximise performance, studies show that we need to reach “optimal anxiety”, a space with slightly higher stress levels than usual. Choosing to live without any element of stress kills ambitions to stretch yourself and learn new things… Comfort reduces our motivation to transform ourselves, our people and our organisations.

Stepping out of your comfort zone necessitates an element of risk, the people who push through this successfully are able to make a more positive impact than those who don’t. They can be more creative, learn more and lead change. Fear of failure is the biggest inhibitor of creativity and innovation and the best way to start to reduce these fears is to confront them head on and turn them into our friends. Of course, success is achievable without pushing yourself to new heights, but differentiation from the norm is only achievable for those of us who take the next step. Reaching something new involves the risk of trying something at which we might not succeed.

Learnfest is a rare opportunity for everyone, regardless of individual comfort thresholds, to push personal boundaries to a plane where we can learn and achieve more. Last week saw almost 200 HR and L&D professionals embark on a unique learning adventure to develop themselves and their organisations…taking part in experiential workshops inside tipi’s overlooking Lake Windermere and even stood on paddleboards to add an extra element of excitement and possibility of failure! Linking learning to unforgettable experiences more effectively embeds information and enhances our ability to recall new ideas and skills.

Learnfest is a unique environment for learning, a place where festival-goers are supported to try new things and thrive for three days in an environment where ideas and creativity can be unleashed. Headline acts on the main stage radically challenged thinking around digital trends and behaviours and inspired around how to future proof strategy; yurt-based, experiential workshops brought people together to maximise personal and team performance, build responsible businesses and explore successful entrepreneurship; and adventurous fringe activities got people wakeboarding, street dancing and trying out tee-artistry. Naturally we tend to seek information that confirms our current perspective. Trying new things highlights clashes with new and old ideologies and inspires us to challenge the way we think. Although opening your mind to new ways of thinking and trying new things is difficult, last week Learnfest provided a safe platform to do both. It allows us to look at what we do from a new perspective, improve ourselves, and consider problems with renewed energy.   

This week, post-Learnfest revellers are back to their comfort zones, which is an important time to process the information gained from a week of optimal anxiety experiences. So sit back and reflect on your most recent learning experiences to instil those inspired, productive and creative moments. The reflection I am focusing on today is from Martine Wright, 7/7 survivor and one of Learnfest’s headline acts, who inspired us with the thought that we are all fundamentally resilient. Every one of us has the propensity to achieve more than we will ever give ourselves credit for.

Put this theory to the test and come to our unique festival of learning in 2017.