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Onboarding at Convictional: Learning Velocity

An abstract graphic depicting Convictional's core values.
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An abstract graphic depicting Convictional's core values.

Convictional works differently than most other companies. In the Onboarding at Convictional series, our Chief of Staff Jessica Powell covers what makes us different by sharing how we do it.

Learning is Convictional’s most core value. Everything we do is in service of learning.  In this article, I’ll share why we value learning velocity, what learning velocity looks like, and how we support Convictional employees to enhance their learning velocity.

Why we value learning velocity

Deeply understanding a company’s multi-faceted context is really what produces the outsized outcomes (read: massive success) that some companies have. What got you here is just as important as what’s going to get you there - whatever there means. You can’t build Google without learning deeply about the problem of indexing information and assigning it relevance. You can’t build Convictional without learning about the many reasons why B2B today is the way it is and how it can be improved. Learning is a leading indicator of success.

Convictional occupies a space of intentional market disruption. We intend to redesign how B2B companies approach their customers using various processes and tools. We intend to support suppliers in making their customers’ B2B experiences more automated, more direct, and more consistent. And we hope to capture at least some of the value created therein. In order to do this we need to learn a nebulous mix of things and we need to do this more effectively than other companies in our space.

What learning velocity looks like

Growth mindset (see: Carol Dweck or Josh Waitzkin) teaches people to be pathological about learning, but it doesn’t necessarily teach them to learn. We’ve interviewed enough people who profess a deep, burning passion for learning and yet have spent five years in the same role without progressing. It’s a clear misunderstanding of what learning means. 

Learning is painful, and requires a stomach for things that are different and generally hard, which can be scary for a multitude of reasons. On a biochemical level, your body works very hard to ensure you don’t actually learn anything at all. Growth mindset rewards people for incrementing their skills over time, and assumes that potential is infinite, but that isn’t true. Growth mindset may be an important tool in your learning toolbox, certainly it’s better to have than not, but no one around you is going to recognize having it as impactful progress.

Our outlook on learning is best exemplified in this illustration of Jurgen Appelo's Celebration Grid:

We’re conditioned to believe that success is an outcome of “doing work,” but diligence is merely a creative application of the learning someone else has done. The only way to sustain success advantage is to learn faster than other people do. The best way to learn faster than other  people do is to consistently seek out novel experiences and ruthlessly cut through barriers to learning. This is especially true for relational and emotional barriers to learning. In short: if you’re not scared, if your ego isn’t flared, if you don’t feel like you’re failing, you aren’t learning.

So, learning is not a skill in and of itself. Instead we’re calling it a competency. We expect Convicts (Convictional team members)  to leverage a large number of learning skills to help them build and effectively communicate their learning. Here’s a list of what we believe the most important learning skills are: meta-cognition, first-principles thinking, self-direction, systems thinking, critical self-reflection.

If you’re not scared, if your ego isn’t flared, if you don’t feel like you’re failing, you aren’t learning.

We want learning to mean doing more with less, as evidenced by having increased impact over time. We won’t value signal, pay lip service, or hold on to ineffective strategies. Instead, we’ll pursue excellent learning housekeeping - becoming self-aware of how we learn and what blocks us from learning, taking a critical eye to failures and successes, leveraging a detached look at where the business is moving and how we can best align our capacities with future needs, and just generally being willing to spend time struggling where others are not. 

This is a tall order. Most people never get to this level of intentionality in their learning. This is the best kind of learning goal (or goal in general) to commit to. If Convicts  can make this brand of learning a priority, we can be successful. But more importantly, they can be successful.

How we support employees to enhance their learning velocity

We don’t expect you to focus on learning velocity on your own. Our commitment to learning is reflected in how we support Convicts on their learning journey through company-wide protocols, systems, and activities.

Protocols

  • Continuous Feedback: We have an open feedback loop. Everyone is entitled to give you feedback as long as they get consent first. We aim to share just-in-time feedback every time we sync up and prioritize giving considered and thorough feedback when requested.
  • Performance Reviews: Convictional offers formal reviews twice per calendar year. Reviews are two-way conversations that incorporate reflection, competency-based evaluation, and future learning goals.The outcome of reviews should be increased clarity about how Convicts can have increased impact at Convictional.

Systems

  • Compound Time: Everyone is expected to adhere to 10% compound time. It’s very easy to espouse that we care about learning and very difficult to actually step away from our deliverables to focus on learning opportunities. Sometimes our deliverables are the learning, but often there’s longer term or less practical learning opportunities that require us to schedule time to ensure we prioritize it. Convicts consider learning time holy. They do not ask to book time during someone’s learning block and do not allow other things to crowd out their  learning time.
  • In-House Learning Specialist: It’s weird to have a learning specialist on the team as a startup. It’s actually kinda weird to have a learning specialist at all in any company. I work to maximize the team and make myself  available for learning syncs, performance coaching, and learning plan formation.
  • Competency Framework: We are in the final stages of building our team-wide competency framework and selecting role-based frameworks that will guide us until we’re ready to build Convictional-specific resources.
  • Therapy: We care deeply about self-awareness and giving you the tools to be successful in your journey as a person. We also believe (from first-hand experience) that putting in the time at therapy will pay off at work as well. We offer a comprehensive and generous benefits package for all full time continuing employees. 

Activities

  • Learning Syncs: It’s pretty typical for people to have regular learning syncs. These can happen with anyone else who can offer them something towards their learning goals. 
  • Book Clubs: We try to always have a book club going of some kind. Anyone is welcome to propose a book to the team or a subset of people. We try to keep great documentation for book clubs internally.
  • Town Hall: We host Town Hall bi-weekly. These are an opportunity to share updates, engage in just-in-time or interest-led learning content, and review business metrics.
  • Communities of Practice: This is something we’re just starting to experiment with, but we’re excited to learn how we can infuse more intentional craft-based learning and opportunities to explore technical leadership
  • ConvictCon: ConvictCon is our quarterly onsite. We use this to talk strategy, address team-wide learning needs, and explore the hard questions.

Strategies to enhance your own learning velocity

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably invested in your own learning path. Here are a few strategies we recommend to Convicts that you can use to enhance your own learning velocity:

  • Find flow experiences, become consumed by your learning.
  • Maintain social connection while learning - find someone who is interested in what you’re learning about and leverage the opportunity.
  • Reframe failure as a mechanism of learning.
  • Seek to understand so well you can articulate the central concepts and implications across a wide variety of contexts and experience levels. See this YouTube series for examples of deep understanding.
  • Document your learning. Have a learning plan, create a resource, write a blog post, do something to teach others. Teaching others really is the best way to learn.

Recommended Reading:

Value learning velocity too? Come work with us!

Many startups espouse the value of learning while building their companies from scratch. Few document what their approach to learning actually looks like. Hopefully you have a better understanding of what we mean by learning velocity and how we support team members who decide to join us on their learning journey. 

If you value learning velocity just as much as we do, consider working with us! We’re aggressively hiring across all our teams. 

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