The lack of time is one of the most pressing issues for scale-up CEOs. You are always trying to achieve the most within the shortest time possible. You constantly feel that time is running out.

scale-ups have metrics to measure their speed of improving product and service performance

It is not just that there is always so much that still needs to be done.  As daunting, a lot of urgent choices are waiting on your desk – some very strategic, e.g., which customer segments to focus on next, which international markets to enter, what new products to develop, how to keep reducing your costs.  To make these choices you need to conduct learning experiments – small trials that inform you in which direction to make a bigger leap.

But which learning experiments to go after?  Where to invest to become an expert? This is the paradox of learning velocity*: learning quickly and outpacing your competition actually requires you to slow down and reflect on where you should focus your learning.  As the French proverb goes: stepping back in order to jump forward.

85% of scale-ups have metrics to measure their speed of improving product and service performance, versus 45% of stall-ups (ScaleUpNation database finding)

It is crucial to think critically about what you need to learn and focus on the most important learning objectives. Is it understanding the market better, researching a new technology or mastering a new skill? How much time do you have? What level do you need to achieve? And what should you leave to an expert partner instead of learning yourself?

Reflecting on what is really important requires some peace and quiet. A place away from the office, a stroll in a park or along the beach can put you in the right mood for reflection on learning. One of the scale-up CEOs has managed to find the regular time for reflection in his busy schedule:

Every Friday morning, I have an hour when nothing is planned. I switch off my phone, sit in an empty bar and try to reflect on what has happened this week, what I have learned from it, and what is the one thing I should try to understand better. 

There is a lot in this one example.  The discipline of a weekly rhythm. The choice of location without any distractions, first of all by switching off your not-so-smartphone.  And, most importantly, the reflection on learning. After all, most of us, when reflecting on what went wrong last week, immediately jump to corrective action.  Very few ask themselves: what did I learn from this that triggers me to dig for deeper understanding?

ScaleUpNation wishes you a reflective and successful New Year with lots of fast and focused learning!

*Research on learning velocity in scale-ups is conducted by ScaleUpNation and supported by the Goldschmeding Foundation and Europees Fonds voor Regionale Ontwikkeling (EFRO).

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Menno van Dijk

Author Menno van Dijk

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