Babies can teach us a lot about a more natural way to learn, adapt and experiment. There isn’t one right answer, and perfectionism can’t be achieved in an ever-moving, living system. 

Nature is always experimenting, learning, and adapting. This always makes me reflect on the connection between active learning and our ability to thrive and adapt.  When we see ourselves as separate from the external environment, we don’t notice the feedback and signals that it sends to us that we need to adapt to better fit with what is happening outside of ourselves.

Living systems are always in dynamic movement and that is amplified by the underlying structure of interdependence. When you start with the assumption of dynamic movement, then relationships and connectivity in the system amplify the movement that flows through a living system. COVID-19 has been a wonderful teacher of this principle, movement in the health sector, and personal health touched most of us in all aspects of our personal and works lives.

The slow death that comes to any species in nature when they stop learning and adapting, is apparent. If a species doesn’t adapt to their environment, in nature, they don’t get to pass on their DNA to the next generation. Nature is designed to evolve and create conditions conducive to future life. Therefore, those species that fail to adapt, don’t thrive as the ecosystem continues to evolve and change.

This dynamic nature of the world and our need to learn leads us to challenge our habits (individual and organizational) to keep our hearts and minds open to learning so we can thrive in the future world (or the world that is becoming).

There isn’t one right answer

There is a human version of this story as well. When we stop learning, we become rigid in our thinking, we think that we know all that we need to know, and we only notice narratives and events that support our view of reality. Over time we become more certain that there is only one right answer to problems. We also assume that we know what that right answer is and anyone who disagrees with us is wrong. This triggers an acceleration of the “slow death” because we stop seeking out disconfirming information.

Living systems – including human beings – evolve with feedback and information. This is just a fancy way of saying that the more we actively learn and seek information the more we choose evolution over stagnation. Anyone who has observed a baby in the first few years of their life is directly reminded of the speed and natural predisposition they have toward learning and experimenting. It seems like every day there is new evidence of the ongoing growth that humans are capable of.

If we want to stop atrophying, then we need to let go of the “one right answer” and move towards a humbleness that invites more “answers” and innovations into our life.

Perfectionism is dead

The second thing habit we need to retire from our life is the pursuit of perfection. Perfection only occurs in static controlled and closed systems. Only in controlled environments with predictability and low movement can perfection be defined and achieved. In a rapidly evolving and dynamic environment, perfection can’t be defined because adaptive behaviors are dependent on matching the dynamic change that is going on around us. Perfection can’t be achieved in a moving system. Because what works keeps changing.

Perfectionism and one right answer are two habits that contribute to our atrophying. If we choose to evolve instead, we need to place these habits into the dustbin of our life and start ramping up our ability to learn and adapt.