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Episode 33

Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization

Fostering a culture of adult development is something many innovative companies are exploring – so why are most of them still struggling to create an environment that fosters potential?

In this conversation Dr. Robert Kegan explains what’s not working and why, and the key elements of shifting an organization into becoming a growth culture.

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What Is a Growth Culture

Currently there is very little attention paid to adult development after adolescence, and yet we now know that we continue to develop emotionally and psychologically throughout life. One way of fostering an innovative approach to adult development is through organizations – helping them become what Robert Kegan calls “deliberately developmental organizations”.

A growth culture occurs in an organization that implements a new social contract at work, in which people know that they are an active part of their own and each other’s development. Creating a coaching culture whose aim is to unleash both the human and organizational potential is a big step towards this.

In a growth culture the community is no longer competing but supporting each other, and people have more possibility to do work that suits them; when a person has no more growth potential left in a role they can switch to something that will make them stretch developmentally.

Most organizations that are trying to have a growth culture feel that they’re not doing that well – efforts are going into separate endeavors such as offsites, leadership coaching etc., but this impacts too few people (only the “high potentials”), too infrequently, away from work (problem of “transfer” – as change has to be brought back into the existing culture which will try to maintain the status quo).

How to Shift Into a Growth Culture

For an organization to become a growth culture it must implement and foster these two key features:

  • Care (support)
  • Candor (challenge)

Many organizations are weak in both of these; no candid communication with their people about how their work matters (care), and avoiding conflict and holding people accountable (Candor).

Growth cultures look at talent not as a fixed variable but as a flow-type variable; everyone needs to grow and enhance their talents throughout their career. It’s about making the organization an incubator of talent and being a feedback-rich culture is a big part of this.

Resources Mentioned:

About Robert

Robert Kegan
Robert Kegan

Dr. Robert Kegan is Professor of Adult Learning and Professional Development at Harvard University. His research and writing on adult development have been pivotal in establishing the occurrence of ongoing psychological development after adolescence. His seminal books, The Evolving Self and In Over Our Heads, have been published in several languages throughout the world.

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