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NIëL STEINMANN PRESENTING LESSONS FROM LIONS 11 |       May 2016
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Lesson 11: From cub to lion... A case for accelerated development
 
One of the most fascinating aspects of a lion is that they have such a humble start to life. The harsh reality of hunting is that the lioness cannot afford to carry the cubs for too long.  Her gestation period is only between 95 and 105 days and at birth the diminutive newborn cubs could weigh as little as 1 kilogram! It is hard to imagine that the most powerful predator on the African plains enter the world blind, toothless and completely vulnerable.

Before birth, the lioness would spend many days searching out the safest place to raise their young. She will normally give birth to two or three cubs at a time in a well-hidden den in her territory. However, litters can be as small as a solitary cub. I have personally seen a litter of six cubs. Cubs are normally born in isolation, and will only meet the rest of the pride when they're at least six- eight weeks old and fully capable of both walking and running. In the first few weeks the lioness would spend hours suckling and cleaning them or just quietly watching over her babies. She would defend them savagely but there are times when she must leave them and join the pride to hunt.
 

I have shared in a previous lesson how the introduction of the cubs into the pride is strategically timed (normally at a time when there is an abundance of food and the pride has finished eating). This is to ensure a smooth induction into the pride and is a perfect opportunity for the cubs to meet their relatives and begin their education and life with the pride.  Soon the nutritional milk will be substituted by meat and it is only then that the rapid growth of a cub can be appreciated.

I have always been amazed at the exponential growth of lion cubs. Their greatest growth spurt is in my view during weeks 12 – 20, and then again from 6 to 12 months. They literally double in size during those periods and to become “fully lion” their physical transformation needs to be complimented by greater levels of skills and confidence.

Here is a great metaphor to consider!  A cub’s learning and development needs to match the pace of their physical growth. The lioness understands this challenge and wastes no time to intentionally raise her highly inquisitive and playful cubs.

Every opportunity is maximised to explore, play, stalk and chase. As they grow, there is an exceedingly greater intensity and push to learn and acquire the necessary skills to learn, survive and hunt. The pride truly becomes the classroom where the cubs’ skills are honed for their future role.
Accelerated development is part of the life of a lion. At 18 months they will be weaned, physically capable to hunt for a living. Young males will leave the pride they were born into. Males will spend a few years as nomads before attempting to take over a pride of their own. Their manes will be fully grown by the time they are three- four years old. Females will stay in their birth pride all their lives.

In organisations the need for accelerated development is also evident. Young managers gain the practical skills, knowledge and confidence to make the transition from functional manager to business leader quickly and effectively. The best engineer becomes the engineering manager and best Sales representative promoted to Sales manager. Marshall Goldsmith cautions us, in his book “What  got you here won’t get you there” that this transition is enormous with massive consequences for both manger and the organisation.

Early career success often comes through mastery of a function or domain, and this transition to greater responsibility calls for a more comprehensive, broader perspective that can be difficult to navigate. Volatile markets and fast-paced change require managers who quickly adapt to new expectations and responsibilities, and there is generally a need to accelerate the development of managers to sharpen their functional skills but also develop leadership skills, build financial acumen, and gain a deeper understanding of strategy and execution. It is necessary to intentionally mentor and prepare participants to accelerate their learning and performance.

Many of today's leading organizations should rethink how successful they are in their efforts to accelerate development of their staff.

What is Accelerated Learning?
It's a total system for speeding and enhancing both the design process and the learning processes.
What makes accelerated learning so effective is that it's based on the way we all naturally learn. It unlocks much of our potential for learning that has been left largely untapped by most conventional learning methods. It does this by actively involving the whole person, using physical activity, creativity, and on the job exposure to get people deeply involved in their own learning.

It is important enough to assess if we do it effectively. Does the learning that we provide keep up with the growth, pace and movement of staff? Let us take a moment to assess what is needed for accelerated learning to add value.

The mood in the pride influences learning - A positive learning environment is vital.                        
People learn best in a positive physical, emotional, and social environment, one that is both relaxed and stimulating. A sense of wholeness, safety, interest, and enjoyment is essential for optimizing human learning.

Cubs need to remain hungry - We need to develop entrepeneurial learners                                 
Perhaps the most important key is to develop a desire to constantly learn new things. If you are an employer and you supervise young people, give them tasks that require learning and applying new skills. Encourage them to learn outside of work, to learn for its own sake and enjoyment. People learn best when they are totally and actively involved and take full responsibility for their own learning. Accelerated learning is more activity-based rather than materials or presentations-based.

A cub community is vital for the future of a pride - collaboration among learners is needed.
People generally learn best in an environment of collaboration. All good learning tends to be social. The emphasis is not on competition amongst learners but rather creating a learning community.

Cubs learn in many ways - Create variety that appeals to all learning styles.
People learn best when they have a rich variety of learning options that allow them to use all their senses and exercise their preferred learning style. Rather than thinking of a learning program as a one-dish meal, consider a buffet of learning options.

Cubs are taught to hunt for themselves.  Provide contextual Learning.
People learn best in context. Facts and skills learned in isolation are hard to absorb and quick to fade or disappear . The best learning comes from doing the work itself in a continual process of "real-world hunting”, feedback, reflection, evaluation, and doing again
Accelerated learning has really one aim, to get results. It is non-negotiable for the times we are living in.
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