"Do you worry more about how good you are or about how fast you are learning?"
— Ray Dalio
When I think of Versett’s alpha—what truly gives our company a competitive edge—I think of one thing: our commitment to learning. Versett is an organization built for human development. Supporting our people in overcoming their limitations and growing isn’t just an employee perk; it’s a driver of profitability. We invest heavily in our team members so that we can deliver exceptional results for our clients. Our people understand that work and learning are not separate activities; learning is their job.
This commitment to development does require discipline and intention. Building a learning organization is not only about being relentless about continuously improving the processes by which work gets done; it’s about being relentless about continuously improving the people who do the work.
Here are some of the foundational elements that have helped take us from a company that builds digital products to a company that builds highly skilled professionals.
Growth mindset is a term that has become very popular in the organizational culture space. Many companies, however, misunderstand and misuse the idea. Over thirty years ago, the term was coined to describe the belief that intelligence can be developed and that skills can be improved over time, rather than being fixed from birth. We’ve consistently seen that the more we support and encourage our teams to embrace a growth mindset, the more they tend to view challenges as exciting opportunities rather than a demotivating threat. This enthusiasm translates to greater learning opportunities, increased abilities, and better performance over time.
Often overlooked, curiosity is a hugely important part of learning. It can be conceptualized as a drive to satisfy information seeking, meaning that we are driven to close a knowledge gap. Curiosity is an appetite for knowledge, an urge like hunger or thirst, which arises from an incongruity or “information gap”—the discrepancy between what one knows and what one wants to know. We intentionally hire naturally curious people, but we also encourage our teams to stay curious. Folks at Versett care deeply about the why: they ask smart questions, uncover valuable insights, and learn through exploration and experimentation.
Cognitive biases—such as groupthink, outcome bias, the Dunning-Kruger effect, and others—cause people to focus too much on success, take action too quickly, and depend too much on experts. These biases often lead to short-term and short-sighted solutions to save time and avoid costs. Organizational learning depends on embracing failure to overcome these biases. As the oft-cited dictum from design and consulting firm IDEO goes, “Fail often to succeed sooner.” Versett has worked hard to welcome failure and see it as a growth opportunity, and developing psychological safety within our teams is central to this. We encourage our team members to challenge authority and avoid self-censorship. Versett sees and respects nonconformists as individuals whose actions can result in creative solutions to problems.
We’ve found that deliberately identifying the discrepancies between our current reality and our ideal future is what our team finds energizing and ultimately what motivates learning at Versett. These discrepancies are what Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practise of the Learning Organization, calls “creative tension.” Senge uses the image of a rubber band being stretched with both hands to illustrate this notion. The propensity to keep tension on the rubber band is what he calls “personal mastery.” Personal mastery is about keeping creative tension at an optimal level. If it is too extreme, it can lead to excessive arousal that can reduce performance. If it is too small, there is less energy dedicated to goal achievement.
"Enjoyment appears at the boundary between boredom and anxiety, when the challenges are just balanced with the person’s capacity to act."
— Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
In the tech and consulting spaces, thinking—especially the ability to think about complex things—is essential. Critical thinking is a higher-order thinking skill and is not something that people are born with. The fact that it is not an innate trait is a good thing. It means that it’s something that can be learned and, with practice, developed. Critical thinking enables people to acquire new knowledge that aligns with the goals of the organization and to find ways to apply it on the job. It’s the ability to take risks and think outside the box. We encourage all of our team members to carefully analyze, synthesize, and consider their responses to challenging situations. With practice, we strengthen our team’s ability to think independently, clearly, and rationally about what to believe and do.
When adopted on an individual level, these principles have the power to elevate any one team member’s thinking, craft, and intellectual output. Embraced and applied across an entire organization, and the results are profound. Learning-centred workplace cultures do not happen by accident. Leaders, managers, and team members at every level of the company intentionally cultivate and support the organizational culture. We’ve seen that hiring and developing for these skills has levelled up our ability to serve our clients and, as such, is a key driver of profitability. To answer Dalio’s question, how fast we’re learning is always our top priority because it’s a direct predictor of how good we are.