Chapter 3: Behaving Like a Hyper-Learner – Hyper-Learning


Behaving Like a Hyper-Learner

Hyper-Learning is behavioral. Good intentions are not enough.

Behaviors are granular. They are reflected in how you talk, your tone, your physical presence, your volume, how you connect with people, how you listen, how you think, how you manage your emotions, how you ask questions, and how you react. Behaviors have impact. Behaviors can be positive or negative. Behaviors are how you operationalize your values, beliefs, and purpose.

This chapter is about illuminating the key behaviors you’ll need to adopt or improve upon to increase your ability to become a Hyper-Learner and stay relevant in this rapidly progressing digital age.

Let’s reflect together. In the Prologue, we talked about how Hyper-Learning requires a New Way of Being and a New Way of Working that facilitates learning, unlearning, relearning, and continually updating your mental models to keep pace with technological change in the digital age.

I explained that I believe Hyper-Learning will be necessary for human beings to do the skills that technology will not be able to do well: higher-order thinking involving creativity, imagination, and innovation as well as critical thinking that is not linear or that involves moral judgments or little data. You also learned about the increasing importance of high emotional and social intelligence, not only because as the digital age progresses jobs requiring those skills will be even more prevalent but also because Hyper-Learning itself requires us to excel at socially and emotionally connecting with others who can help elevate our thinking and learning.

In chapter 1, we discussed the science of us—our typical way of being and the realities of how our minds and bodies interact and operate, much of which can compromise our ability to Hyper-Learn unless managed. We then discussed how to cultivate a state of Inner Peace as a first positive step toward Hyper-Learning.

In chapter 2, we discussed the need to change our beliefs and assumptions about how the world works and how best to manage ourselves in it to create a mindset conducive to Hyper-Learning. That chapter outlined certain theories and philosophies (e.g., about human existence, about how and why to manage one’s mind) that are relevant to developing a Hyper-Learning Mindset.

This chapter’s purpose is to drill down to the basic behaviors that enable Hyper-Learning and to give you the opportunity to actively participate in choosing the Hyper-Learning Behaviors that you believe are most crucial and important for you to adopt or improve upon to become a Hyper-Learner.

To do that, we are going to learn from a successful public company that specializes in the property and casualty insurance area, W. R. Berkley Corporation (WRBC). The leaders of WRBC decided that because of coming digital age advances, all employees must excel at continual innovation, and thus they developed a behavioral approach to innovation. You should walk away from this chapter with a plan for how you will improve your Hyper-Learning Behaviors and how you will measure your progress.


So far, you’ve read about how your brain, mind, body, and emotions are all interrelated and involved in how you learn, and you’ve also discovered that you learn best when others help you overcome your reflexive ways of being.

You’ve also read that as the digital age progresses, most human activities will be team-based, require collaboration, or involve the delivery of services that are emotionally laden.

You’ve learned how positive emotions are critical to effective collaboration and human engagement.

Learning behaviors, then, are broader than just linear thinking behaviors. They include the social behaviors that enable emotional engagement with others and high-performance collaboration.

They also include the behaviors that enable innovation, creativity, and emergent thinking (an activity you’ll learn more about in part 2).

All of those types of thinking require exploration and discovery and, in many cases, going into the “unknown.” Learning is much more than just memorizing facts or developing a skill.


Step 1: Reflecting on the first part of this book and your experience as a learner, please make a list of behaviors that you think are necessary for you to become a Hyper-Learner. Yes, it could be a long list. Think of this as a brainstorming exercise. Don’t evaluate or critique. Just generate your list of behaviors. Behaviors should be observable by a third party.

Here are some ways to think about this. We have defined Hyper-Learning as learning, unlearning, and relearning.

What behaviors would help you learn?

What behaviors would help you unlearn? Be granular and keep it simple.

For example, one learning behavior might be “asking questions in order to understand why something is true.” Another learning behavior might be “refraining from being defensive when someone disagrees with you.”

This is important. This exercise is your introduction into thinking behaviorally. It is not an easy task because most of us have not been trained to think behaviorally.

I suggest you take 15 to 20 minutes for this exercise.

Okay. Here is a short list I created of possible Hyper-Learning Behaviors. I am not saying it is inclusive. It is the list I use in my teaching and consulting. You probably have some behaviors on your list that I don’t have and vice versa.

A Hyper-Learner exhibits these qualities and takes these actions:

Curiosity, exploration, imagination

Embraces uncertainty and ambiguity


Challenges the status quo

Humility, a Quiet Ego

Emotional and social intelligence

Mindfulness, being fully present

Stress-tests one’s thinking


Effectively collaborates

Courage and candor

Uses data-driven decision-making


Reflectively listens

Manages self (mind, body, emotions, ego, and behaviors)

Trustworthiness and integrity

Step 2: How does your list compare to mine? Please consolidate them.

Step 3: Now assume you have been asked to lead a team that will recommend seven key Hyper-Learning Behaviors from your consolidated list for a new initiative at your work.

Which behaviors are foundational?

Look for key behaviors that can be defined by several granular sub-behaviors that are actually observable.

For example, say you choose effectively collaborates as one of your key behaviors. That would be a good choice because you could probably easily identify several granular sub-behaviors of effective collaboration that could be observable by a third party and measured. It also would be a good choice because of the importance that collaboration plays in team activities.

This will take you some time. It requires thinking deeply about how best to learn and considering what you have learned so far about Inner Peace and a Hyper-Learning Mindset.

I highly recommend that you do this exercise together with someone—a work colleague, friend, or loved one. Do the exercise yourself first and then share it with someone and collaborate. That would be a wonderful and fun learning experience.

Step 4: Once you have identified your seven Hyper-Learning Behaviors, I want you to get granular by identifying the observable sub-behaviors that would evidence each of those desired behaviors and the observable sub-behaviors that would evidence the lack of each desired behavior. This is key.

Using my example of effectively collaborates, what granular sub-behaviors evidence that someone is an effective collaborator? Assume you say, “Being a good listener.” That is a good start. But how can you tell that someone is a good listener? How does a good listener behave? What can you observe that tells you it is highly likely that someone is a good listener? How about, before responding, she asks questions to make sure she understands what the other person is saying. Is that observable? Yes. Is that a good sub-behavior that would enable effective collaboration? Yes.

Okay, let’s come up with an observable sub-behavior that would indicate someone is an ineffective collaborator. Got one? Please write it down. Is it observable?

Here’s one: a person who interrupts a speaker to tell the speaker why he or she is wrong would be an ineffective collaborator. What do you think? Is that an observable sub-behavior that evidences poor collaboration?

Why is this exercise and its granularity so important?

Because to change behaviors, you need to measure yourself and hold yourself accountable. To do that you must be able to objectively confirm the data (your behavior).

What I mean by getting granular is directly and objectively observing behaviors without making any assumptions or guesses about why you are behaving or not behaving the desired way. And granular means observing the details: how you talk, the words you use, your tone, how you connect to people, your facial expressions, your presence, how you listen, and so on.

Here is another example. Many clients choose reflectively listens as a key behavior, and they tend to state that making eye contact is an observable sub-behavior that demonstrates listening. I ask them how they know a person making eye contact is really listening. Could the person be daydreaming or thinking about what he or she will say next instead of listening?

To help you understand how to do this, here is the result of a similar exercise I conducted in consultation with WRBC. The company identified courage as one of its key behaviors and identified a set of granular sub-behaviors that would evidence courage and a set of sub-behaviors that would evidence a lack of courage.

What observable actions evidence that the behavior is present? What observable actions evidence that the behavior is not present?

Takes risk / willing to experiment / willing to fail

Admits when wrong—good at not knowing

Seeks out disconfirming views

Willing to navigate ambiguity

Volunteers for new projects

Openly shares view/opinion

Challenges the Status Quo

Willing to have difficult conversations

Challenges the views/opinions of higher-ups

Asks for help

Asks for feedback

Willing to be vulnerable

Transparent about one’s thinking and reasons/why

Embrace difficult conversations

Be authentic, be transparent

Unwilling to take risks— unwilling to try new things

Guarded and closed lipped

Avoids difficult conversations

Not open—non-transparent regarding beliefs

Does not stress-test thinking with others

Does not frequently seek feedback

Rarely speaks up to higher ups

Afraid of making mistakes, looking bad or disagreeing with higher ups

You will probably note that some of WRBC’s observable sub-behaviors may not be as observable as they think. But this is hard, and it was a good start for them.

Now it is your turn.

This exercise will take you about an hour. Please use your Learning Journal.

Please list your top seven desired Hyper-Learning Behaviors. Then, for each of those behaviors, list seven observable sub-behaviors that evidence the desired behavior and seven observable sub-behaviors that evidence a lack of the desired behavior. Some people find listing negative behaviors easier and then inverting the negative behavior into a positive behavior.

I suggest you make your list and then explain the objective to a friend or loved one and have them stress-test the granularity of the observable sub-behaviors you identified to see if they are granular enough.

Please save your work product. This is the first step.

Reflection Time

What did you learn?

About yourself?

About defining behaviors?

Do you see how this all fits together?

Hyper-Learning = Inner Peace + Hyper-Learning Mindset + Hyper-Learning Behaviors

Why are behaviors part of the Hyper-Learning model?

If you need others to learn at your best, does that make behaviors important or not? Why?

Does how you behave with others in learning impact the quality and quantity of your learning?

Does how you behave toward others impact the willingness of others to help you and the quality of the help others are willing to give you?


You will have the opportunity to reevaluate your desired Hyper-Learning Behaviors after you read the WRBC story that follows and take the Hyper-Learning Behaviors Diagnostic at the end of the chapter. Now let’s look at how WRBC approached the need for every one of its 6,500 employees to become a Hyper-Learner. They took the approach that they would make “Innovation by All” a strategic business objective, and for that objective to happen, employees had to become, in effect, Hyper-Learners because innovation requires continual learning, unlearning, and relearning through experimentation. To operationalize “Innovation for All” they used the mindset and behaviors approach I’ve been describing.


W. R. Berkley Corporation was founded by Bill Berkley in 1967 when he was a student at Harvard Business School. In 2019, the company’s estimated revenue was $7.7 billion, and it had a market capitalization of $13 billion. Bill Berkley is now the company’s executive chairman, and his son, Rob Berkley, is president and CEO.

WRBC is an entrepreneurial company with a decentralized, parent holding company structure and 53-operating units—46 of which were created internally. Each operating unit has lots of autonomy over daily operations because its people are closest to the customer and the market.

WRBC’s strong people-centric culture is common across all operating units. Two quotes from the company’s 2018 annual report illustrate this:

“The culture of our Company emphasizes that everything we do and every person who participates is important to our enterprise, and that always doing the right thing is the cornerstone of our success.

“Our values and principles are demonstrated every day at each of our operating units in the way we conduct our business, engage with our team members and give back to our communities. We exist as part of a greater society and have always believed in being supportive of the communities that we are part of because, in the long run, our enterprise and all its stakeholders benefit.”

In 2018, WRBC’s leaders decided that because of the disruption likely to arise from continued technological advances, the company needed to develop a culture of innovation throughout the organization. This is the story of how they went about doing it, bringing to life the importance of cultivating an inclusive, people-centric culture conducive to Hyper-Learning. As you read, think about the autonomy given to WRBC’s people and think about the invitation the company’s leaders are making. Notice how they talk about “feeling safe” and the “failure of innovation ideas.” Relate their words to what you learned from the first two chapters.

What the leadership is asking of everybody is that they embrace both a New Way of Being and a New Way of Working. Chairman Bill Berkley and CEO Rob Berkley explain as much in their own words below.

I suggest you now imagine yourself to be a WRBC employee reading or hearing these words from your chairman and your CEO.

I invite you to read slowly and savor each sentence.

Please underline phrases or sentences that resonate with you.

There is so much learning in their words. Let each sentence sink in and feel it. They are sharing with the entire company how they have made meaning of coming digital age challenges, and they are inviting every team member to join them on a journey to innovation as a core way of learning and staying relevant in the digital age.


Bill Berkley: Change is always a constant, and technology sort of put steroids in it because it makes change not only faster, it makes change in different ways. Artificial intelligence doesn’t just change how you look at things, it totally speeds up the process for decision making. Innovation is something that is constantly going on, and the idea isn’t necessarily to just try and be ahead of it, but try to recognize directionally—where things are going so you can be open-minded to understanding how things get built one upon the next.

Rob Berkley: I think as it’s been said in the past by our chairman, we as an organization have to have a constant discontent or dissatisfaction with the status quo. In order for us to be the company that we want to be in the future, we need to not only accept disruption, but we need to find ways to create it for ourselves, which is a hard thing to do.

When you’re a successful organization and what you’ve been doing, not just in the past but today, has worked well, trying to find ways to reinvent yourself, and challenge and question what you’ve been doing is not easy.

But, undoubtedly, just as sure as the world is changing, our industry is going to need to continue to change, and we as a company are going to need to find ways to change and innovate and disrupt what we’ve been doing in the past.

Well, certainly from our perspective, when people ask us, “What is the culture of W. R. Berkley Corporation?” our response is there are 53 different cultures, but our expectation is that throughout those 53 different cultures, there is a handful of common values that serve as a common theme or a common thread throughout.

Our view is one of those values needs to be innovation, that finding ways to reinvent one’s self, finding ways to adapt your business model to a new reality that we’re facing every day, that’s part of the challenge, but that’s part of the opportunity.

What Is Innovation?

Bill Berkley: I think innovation is solving problems in a new way, doing things that are required to meet your customers’ needs in a way that is different using technology, using communications. It’s doing things in ways that are different. That’s really what innovation is all about. It’s helping to meet those customers’ needs, it’s helping to fulfill their expectations, and doing it better, faster, more efficiently and effectively at a lower price.

Rob Berkley: The employees are a key to this happening. The idea of innovation, this is not something that is going to come about by one or two people sitting in a room full of whiteboards. The ideas, the opportunities, and converting those ideas and opportunities into a reality, that is going to come from every member of the team. Some of the best ideas are going to come from people at all levels throughout the organization. This is a team sport, this is a team effort. This is not about any one individual. This is about us all working together in pursuit of a common goal.

Bill Berkley: You need everyone on your team to be working on it, looking at it, examining it, and be committed to embracing change, to embracing innovative ways of doing things to do better, and not to be afraid of failure just because you tried something new. If you try something new and it doesn’t work, you set it aside and you move ahead.

Rob Berkley: Our view is that innovation, again, is not about one person with one idea, but this is about everyone pulling together to really grapple with, “How do we make this a better business? How do we bring more value to customers?” Ultimately, that is something that we need everyone engaged in at all levels of the organization.

Innovation is not just about the one brilliant idea. Innovation is a constant effort of questioning the status quo, and, in every action and activity that we’re engaged in, “How do we do it better? How do we reinvent ourselves? How do we bring more value to customers?” That, undoubtedly, has to be something that is happening at all levels of the organization. If we want to have the future that we would all like to have, then we all as a team need to engage in this effort.

How Do You Innovate?

Bill Berkley: I think you have to make an environment that’s receptive to other people’s ideas. You have to make an environment that accepts the fact that failure is inevitable when you try new things. You have to make an environment where it’s much better to try something that’s thoughtful and have it fail than be afraid to try things. If you don’t try things, you can’t bring about change, you can’t be on that leading edge, you can’t do the best job for your customers, you can’t possibly optimize risk-adjusted return.

From our point of view, it’s the whole thing. You get there as a team because the team has to embrace each person’s contribution and make them feel like, “I value what you do, and if it doesn’t work out, it’s okay. Let’s look for the next thing.”

Rob Berkley: There are no failed initiatives, there are no failed experiments. They may be unexpected outcomes, they may be not at all what we had anticipated, but what we are very focused on is trying to create an environment where people are encouraged to experiment, they’re encouraged to question, they’re encouraged to try and find new and different ways to do what we have been doing all along.

I think the idea of innovation through people, or that tagline or title has really come about as a recognition that this progress, this opportunity is not going to be driven by anything other than the collaboration of the team, working, yes, as individuals but as a team to try and move the business forward. Innovation does not come through computers. Innovation comes through people with new ideas and doing something with those ideas.

Bill Berkley: It’s even more than that. It’s that people need to be accepting of those ideas. As Rob pointed out, they can’t say, “This failed.” They have to say, “Okay, what did we learn?” because every time you try something new, you learn something, and then you build on it.

You may try something else new that’s a little different that succeeds, and that wouldn’t have happened if you didn’t try something else that didn’t succeed. It’s really all about people benefiting from what each other’s trials and efforts are, so it’s really a team effort. That innovation comes about over a period of time with process, lots of the pieces of innovation are small, and every now and then it’s, “Eureka! I found it.” It’s a wonderful thing, and it makes a big change.

Rob Berkley: This is a call to participation, not just a call to action but a call to participation throughout the organization. Regardless of your role, regardless of your position, we need your engagement, we need your support, we need your participation in order to help move this forward. The best ideas are often found in cubicles and not corner offices. It’s a key ingredient in what our future will be.

Bill Berkley: Ten or twelve years ago, we put in our annual report that, “Everything Counts, Everyone Matters®.” That was really something that’s not far from this idea, and that is that every single person in our company can contribute to this process. Everyone has an idea, because they know their job, they know their particular place in our universe better than anyone else. They can contribute. They can make a difference. The reason it’s so important for everyone to contribute is because they have that expertise and that knowledge. For us to really succeed, we need all those people to have innovative ideas that let us reach that star.

Everyone has a place to contribute. Everyone has your own place, your idea. I think that starting from a blank sheet is really the optimization of innovation, is you start with a blank sheet and say, “Okay, if knowing what we know today and knowing what the world is today, how would we create an insurance company to do the very best for our customers, for our shareholders, for our employees for the society we operate in? What would it look like? What are the things that would make it extraordinary? How could we give the very best returns and, at the same time, give the best value to our customers?” Maybe you would think of things in a different light altogether.

Rob Berkley: We are so encumbered by our day-to-day life and the process, and how we operate every day. What we’re looking to do in this effort around innovation is to almost unencumber ourselves, and, as suggested, stare at the blank sheet of paper, and if you were going to start from scratch, what would you build?

Reflection Time

The above talk by the chairman and the CEO is pretty amazing. They clearly and compellingly put forth why WRBC believes that a new way of working—innovation— should become part of the mission of every employee. Think about that. They are inviting everybody to learn how to innovate.

I asked you to visualize hearing this message as an employee of WRBC. I want to focus for a minute on innovation from a behavioral perspective because it is one of the types of thinking that the digital age increasingly will require humans to do.

How did it feel hearing their words?

Do you understand why they want you to be an innovator?

Are they empowering you to try to innovate? How many times did they say that they needed all employees to innovate?

Did they address your fear of doing innovation experiments that may fail?

How did they address that fear?

What role does teamwork play in their definition of innovation?


In May 2018, WRBC’s senior leadership began as a team designing the system that would support an innovation culture. That system responded to the following three questions about innovation: Why innovation? What is innovation? How do you innovate? Answering those questions required new mindsets, behaviors, and processes.

We started with the senior leadership team, about 16 people, in a two-day workshop. They made meaning of the questions together in small teams and created a short list of Berkley Innovation Behaviors doing the same process that you recently did—defining observable sub-behaviors that evidence the desired behavior and sub-behaviors that evidence a lack of the desired behavior. Then that list of observable sub-behaviors was iterated by a team over a month.

On my recommendation, they adopted a growth mindset and NewSmart mindset and agreed to the principles of psychological safety, self-determination theory, and an idea meritocracy.

Their work produced seven key innovation behaviors.

Berkley Innovation Behaviors:

1. Managing Self

2. Reflective Listening

3. Courage

4. Evidence-Based Decision-Making

5. Effective Collaboration

6. Challenging the Status Quo

7. Resilience

A note to employees announcing the seven Berkley Innovation Behaviors described them as “the foundation for the new ways of thinking and working together that will lead to better outcomes. Practiced with daily rigor and discipline, they will help us infuse our culture with a new spirit of curiosity, collaboration, and positive action.”

In August 2018, the company held three-day workshops for approximately six subsidiaries at a time. Each operating-unit president came with a diverse team of four or five colleagues to participate in various experiential, making-meaning workshops. The workshops focused on the needed mindsets and behaviors and on how to use innovation processes. The following is a copy of the letter from senior leadership that served as the workshop invitation.

Please read this letter as if you were an employee of WRBC. Please underline the points that resonate with you.

Dear Colleagues:

As many of you are already aware, over the past year we have launched a comprehensive company-wide effort to incorporate a strategy of innovation into our culture and our operations. We would like to share with you our reasons for embarking upon such a wide-reaching initiative, and ask you for your participation in these efforts. We are pleased to share with you the enclosed video expressing those thoughts.

Our world is continually changing. As consumers, we are aware that technology is changing the way we conduct our daily lives, whether it is how we order groceries, buy tickets, watch movies, or conduct our banking. What may not be as readily apparent is that our industry is in the early stages of the same type of disruption. We are historically a traditional, transaction-based business that until now has succeeded, or failed, in a significant way on the basis of operational excellence. But we are now in an era where performing as we once did—albeit at a very high level of quality— will no longer be enough. We must learn to perform the day-to-day functional aspects of running our businesses while generating the creative thinking that leads to innovations both big and small. And we must institutionalize the processes, mindsets, and behaviors that will allow us to sustain this momentum. Innovation must become an ongoing, sustainable part of our culture.

We are not changing who we are—we are enriching our culture with a new element. Our core values, with a constant focus on Accountability; People-Oriented Strategy; Responsible Financial Practices; Risk-Adjusted Returns; and Transparency, remain steadfast. What we hope to do now is enhance our existing strengths with a new drive for innovation, building on the competitive advantages of our decentralized model and our greatest asset—you, our people.

This will be an ongoing process that will require new ways of thinking and doing from each and every one of us, from running our daily operations to meeting customer needs and to anticipating the “next big thing” on the horizon. It will require new behaviors, built on collegiality and collaboration in a psychologically safe environment. And it must be a commitment by all to a new, and better, way of growing our business as we strive for even better outcomes through risk-adjusted return. But most of all, it will require the participation and the contributions of those at every level of the organization—the very best ideas are more often born not to those in the corner offices, but to people who are close to the task, the customer, and the communities in which they live and serve. This has been the cornerstone of our competitive advantage since our inception.

This is an exciting time. Change is always a daunting prospect, but with it also comes unlimited opportunity—an opportunity for all of us to improve how we work and how we live. This is our investment not just in our business but in each of you. Our model, with its autonomous, decentralized structure, is ideally positioned to allow for each individual to think outside the normal structures and barriers and contribute the unique solutions that will make us better as employees, as operating units, and as an enterprise that strives to make a difference.

Over the coming weeks, you will be hearing more from your team leaders and colleagues about the ways in which you can add your voice and the significant value you bring to our enterprise to this initiative. This is above all a team effort—and it will succeed only to the extent that every member of our W. R. Berkley family lends their ideas, their energy, and their commitment.

We invite you to join us as we build the company of the future.

Bill Berkley and Rob Berkley

Reflection Time

What did you hear Bill and Rob saying to you, and what journey were they inviting you to join?

What phrases or sentences really connected with you?

How much of what they said could apply to you and your work life?

What are your three key takeaways?


WRBC Behaviors

Here again are the seven Berkley Innovation Behaviors that senior leadership identified as crucial to creating a culture of innovation along with observable sub-behaviors that can be used to assess whether the main behavior is being achieved. The following is WRBC’s actual work product that they use in all their companies. It reflects a very good behavioral approach to Hyper-Learning.

For each desired behavior, two sets of measurements are required:

What observable actions evidence that the behavior is present?

What observable actions evidence that the behavior is not present?

What observable actions evidence that the behavior is present? What observable action evidences that the behavior is not present?


Does not reflexively defend, deny or deflect

Good at not knowing

Non-judgmental—non-opinionated—data driven

I am not my ideas—a quiet ego

Fully present with a calm demeanor

Willing to change one’s position

Seeks out opportunities to learn

“Yes, and

A critical thinker

Manages one’s emotions

Emotionally connects with others

Be NewSmart

Closed minded—always right

Emotionally defensive


Quick to judge—Quick to conclude

Poor listener

Negative body language


Not data driven


“Yes, but

Does not emotionally connect with others

What observable actions evidence that the behavior is present? What observable actions evidence that the behavior is not present?

Makes eye contact

Positive open body language

Is fully present—does not multitask

Does not interrupt

Asks clarifying questions before telling/advocating/ disagreeing to seek understanding what the other person is saying

Reframes to make sure he/she understands

Reflects before advocating/ thinks before speaking

Critiques the idea not the person

Listens to learn not to confirm: open minded

Seeks the best result not being right

Ask questions to understand

Seeks to learn not confirm

Does not make eye contact

Negative body language



Responds without asking questions or reframing

Attacks the speaker

Rushes to conclusion—shuts down others

It is all about me—looking good—winning the debate

Raises voice—fails to manage one’s emotions

What observable actions evidence that the behavior is present? What observable actions evidence that the behavior is not present?

Takes risk / willing to experiment / willing to fail

Admits when wrong—good at not knowing

Seeks out disconfirming views

Willing to navigate ambiguity

Volunteers for new projects

Openly shares view/opinion

Challenges the Status Quo

Willing to have difficult conversations

Challenges the views/opinions of higher-ups

Asks for help

Asks for feedback

Willing to be vulnerable

Transparent about one’s thinking and reasons/why

Embrace difficult conversations

Be authentic, be transparent

Unwilling to take risks— unwilling to try new things

Guarded and closed lipped

Avoids difficult conversations

Not open—non-transparent regarding beliefs

Does not stress-test thinking with others

Does not frequently seek feedback

Rarely speaks up to higher ups

Afraid of making mistakes, looking bad or disagreeing with higher ups

What observable actions evidence that the behavior is present? What observable action evidences that the behavior is not present?

Verbalizes the use of Critical thinking questions/processes

Unpacks one’s assumptions

Stress-tests one’s beliefs with others

Seeks out disconfirming data

Evaluates the quantity and quality of data

Uses the Pre-Mortem thinking tool

Will change views when presented with better data

Give me the data—not your opinion

I am not my ideas—ego is minimized

My mental models are not reality—openness to seeking data

Quiet ego


Reflective Listening

Stress tests one’s beliefs

Did not rigorously use Critical Thinking questions/processes

Good at knowing

Ego is invested in being right

Defensive thinking

Closed minded

Has not stress-tested views with others

Did not seriously evaluate data

Poor listener

What observable actions evidence that the behavior is present? What observable action evidences that the behavior is not present?

Leader affirmatively establishes Psychological Safety at beginning of the meeting

Leader establishes that collaboration is not a competition

Leader defines the purpose of the meeting upfront

Everyone is fully present—fully attentive; good eye contact; good body language; emotionally connected to each other with no multi-tasking by anyone

Leader and others enable the “collision of ideas”

People recognize and positively reinforce “Challenging the Status Quo”

People recognize and positively reinforce “Courage”

People are open-minded— seeking the best result

Everyone writes down their ideas/views first before anyone speaks

Leader of the meeting speaks his/her views last

Leader makes sure everyone speaks

“Yes, and” not “Yes, but

Younger members and introverts asked to speak first.

Leader does not establish Psychological Safety

Some people are not “fully present”

The highest-ranking people dominate the discussion

Some extraverts dominate the conversation

The conversation is not a genuine open discussion—the answer is predetermined

The real goal is consent & compliance not Effective Collaboration

People get personal in their critique

Some people are close-minded

Some people do not Reflectively Listen

The Leader does not use the Effective Collaboration processes.

People whose views should be heard are not in attendance

The meeting size is too big to allow for Effective Collaboration

Everyone does not speak

Certain people aggressively advocate their views and push to a conclusion quickly

What observable actions evidence that the behavior is present? What observable action evidences that the behavior is not present?

Encourage all views—leader requires everyone to speak

High emotional recognition (‘thank you for sharing. Great points.’ etc.) for younger members and introverts

No personal attacks

Respectful, active listening

Build upon ideas—not just attacks ideas

Leader uses After-Action Review Process at end of meeting

Leader seeks individual input at end of the meeting—“How well did you and we collaborate?”

Enable Psychology Safety

Collaborate—don’t compete

Best idea wins—an Idea Meritocracy

Some people violate the rules of “quiet ego”; “don’t attack the person”; “Yes, and” instead of “Yes, but

What observable actions evidence that the behavior is present? What observable action evidences that the behavior is not present?

Frequently asks “why”, “what if?” “why not”

Speak up

Disagrees with higher-ups with curiosity and data

Willingness to be the contrarian

Seeks to explore and discover—not to maintain the status quo

Seeks out disconfirming information

Fights complacency

Uses the Pre-Mortem Thinking Tool—What if we are wrong?

Initiates difficult conversations

Avid learner, reader and seeks out the new opinions/ ways of doing things

Looks outside the company/ industry for new ideas

Go along—get along; play the corporate game

It is not broken mentality— why try something new?

We tried that years ago and it did not work—so that is a bad idea

Will that make my superior mad or unhappy?

Rarely speaks up or disagrees

Rarely seeks out disconfirming information

Avoids difficult conversations

Not comfortable trying new things

Fixed mindset

What observable actions evidence that the behavior is present? What observable action evidences that the behavior is not present?

Leaders role model and talk about and enable the NewSmart Mindset

Mistakes and experiments that produce surprises—results different than expected—are treated as learning opportunities

Use After-Action Reviews to quickly learn from mistakes and surprises and move on

Have the courage to try again

Invest your ego in being a continual good learner

Help others be resilient

Acknowledge and emotionally reward resilience

Quickly show your confidence in others by quickly giving them a new project

Reward Courage and Resilience emotionally

Use After-Action Review learning process after every mistake/ surprise.

Leaders “punish” mistakes or failures—privately or publicly

Leaders do not share their failures and mistakes

Leaders do not enable the “courage to try, explore, experiment”

Leaders do not help their people bounce back

Leaders do not role model the NewSmart Mindset

A person does not quickly bounce back

A person is emotionally distraught for days after a mistake/surprise result

People are ignored or ostracized after mistakes/surprises

The Courage to try again is not recognized and positively reinforced”

Reflection Time

What did you learn from the WRBC story?

Did Bill and Rob’s story about the why resonate with you?

Earlier, I asked you to imagine you worked at WRBC. Let’s continue with that point of view. Assume you are a new employee of WRBC and that you have been asked to read over the WRBC behaviors and discuss your ability to behave this way with your team leader.

Your team leader will ask you three questions:

1. Do you understand why these behaviors will help you succeed at WRBC?

2. Which behaviors do you need to improve?

3. Are you willing to adopt these WRBC behaviors and hold yourself accountable?


I am very grateful to Bill Berkley and Rob Berkley for sharing their approach and their Innovation Behaviors with you. They are a powerful learning tool.

I am sure you realize by now that their Innovation Behaviors are the same behaviors at which a Hyper-Learner needs to excel.

Now I invite you to do the following workshop as the capstone for this chapter. This will help you finalize your list of desired Hyper-Learning Behaviors and will help you focus on which desired behaviors you should prioritize for improvement.


I invite you to take the following Hyper-Learning Behaviors Diagnostic to help you focus on creating your personal Hyper-Learning Behaviors Development Plan. Please answer the questions honestly. I have used most of this content with over 3,000 senior executives. When people are honest, there are very few grades of 4 or 5 (or for negatively stated questions, grades of 1 or 2) because most of us have not been trained in learning behaviors. The most common score is a 3.

Use this diagnostic to create your Hyper-Learning Behaviors Development Plan, including the behaviors you need to improve and your strategy for doing so. This plan together with your Daily Intentions and your Hyper-Learning Mindset are your Hyper-Learning enablers.

Hyper-Learning Behaviors Diagnostic

© Edward D. Hess

Scale of 1–5: 1 = Very rarely 2 = Rarely 3 = Sometimes 4 = Often 5 = Most of the time

1. A Quiet Ego

________   My work colleagues would describe me as having humility.

________   My spouse or significant other would describe me as having humility.

________   I have been told I am arrogant.

________   Work colleagues would say I know my weaknesses.

________   If someone disagrees with me, I quickly defend myself.

________   I often say, “I don’t know.”

________   When I act badly at work, I apologize to that person in public if the act occurred in public.

________   I take ownership publicly of my mistakes.

________   I am open about my weaknesses and ask people at work for help.

________   Colleagues would say I am compassionate.

________   Colleagues tell me I am empathetic.

________   If someone disagrees with my thoughts, I often react negatively.

________   In a conversation I want the other person to leave thinking I am smart.

________   I frequently put myself emotionally into another person’s shoes.

________   I believe leaders must be strong and not show weakness.

________   I actively try every day to “quiet my ego.”

________   I am aware when I am becoming very “me” oriented.

Scale of 1–5: 1 = Very rarely 2 = Rarely 3 = Sometimes 4 = Often 5 = Most of the time

________   I want people to know that I am very smart or even smarter than they are.

________   I evaluate daily my humility and whether I was arrogant or “all about me.”

________   I believe “I am not my ideas.”

________   I understand that it is “not all about me.”

________   I think mostly about myself—not about others.

________   I engage in meditation practice regularly.

________   I express gratitude to people very frequently.

________   I keep a gratitude journal.

________   I define my self-worth by being better than other people.

________   My ego is invested in winning.

________   My ego feels good when I earn more money than my friends earn.

________   I need to be better than other people in order to feel good about myself.

________   I am always comparing myself to other people.

________   I frequently write thank-you notes to people.

2. A Quiet Mind

________   My mind wanders when I am in meetings.

________   When someone else is talking, my mind is coming up with my response.

________   I can sit in a meeting and be totally focused with a completely quiet mind (inner silence) when others are speaking.

Scale of 1–5: 1 = Very rarely 2 = Rarely 3 = Sometimes 4 = Often 5 = Most of the time

________   My mind frequently talks to me.

________   My mind frequently critiques me.

________   My mind likes to judge other people.

________   When I am listening to someone, my mind is totally silent.

________   When another person is talking, I often multitask.

________   When I think I know what someone is going to say, I interrupt them to get to the point.

________   When I have lots of meetings, I tend to think about my past meeting in the beginning of my new meeting.

________   I know how to achieve inner silence.

________   I can achieve inner silence at will.

3. A Quiet Body

________   I am very sensitive to signals from my body.

________   I can feel myself getting angry or upset through my heart rate.

________   I am sensitive to my body temperature.

________   I am sensitive to feeling stress in my body.

________   I am aware of how fast I am breathing.

________   I actively manage my breathing to reduce stress.

________   I do deep breathing exercises daily.

________   I generate positive emotions when I am feeling negative.

________   I know how to mitigate negative emotions.

________   I minimize the time and effect of my negative emotions.

________   I regularly greet others with a genuine smile.

Scale of 1–5: 1 = Very rarely 2 = Rarely 3 = Sometimes 4 = Often 5 = Most of the time

________   When I am feeling anxious, I take steps to relieve my anxiety.

________   I never raise my voice at anyone.

________   I am conscious of my body language when I am around others.

________   I exercise regularly.

________   I know how many hours of sleep are optimal for me.

________   I very frequently sleep my needed hours.

________   I am pretty rigorous about eating healthy food.

________   I am very disciplined regarding my alcohol consumption.

________   I get an annual physical every year to monitor my health.

4. A Positive Emotional State

________   I am aware of my emotions.

________   I label my emotions.

________   I try to manage my emotions.

________   I can easily generate positive emotions.

________   I can minimize the impact of negative emotions when I want to.

________   I get myself in a positive emotional state before talking with someone.

________   I project positivity through my genuine facial expressions.

________   I smile regularly at people as I pass them in the hall.

________   I always smile at people when I am introduced to them.

________   When I join a meeting, I acknowledge others with a genuine smile.

Scale of 1–5: 1 = Very rarely 2 = Rarely 3 = Sometimes 4 = Often 5 = Most of the time

________   I often generate positive emotions at work by thinking about my loved ones.

________   When I connect with people warmly, they often connect back with me warmly.

________   I check in on my emotions (how I am feeling) during my day.

5. A Hyper-Learning Mindset

________   I feel good when I come across as smarter than other people.

________   My views about the world are real.

________   If my views are challenged, I try to understand the other person’s views first.

________   I avoid making mistakes—mistakes are bad.

________   The older we get, the less we need to learn.

________   My IQ sets a limit on how much I can learn.

________   I frequently tell colleagues I do not know.

________   I am known for asking questions.

________   I am known for knowing the right answers.

________   Asking questions is a sign of not being smart.

________   I am happiest when everything is like it was yesterday.

________   My stories about how the world works are true.

________   I feel most comfortable when I am in control.

________   I share my fears, concerns, and vulnerabilities with several friends.

________   If a bad thing happens to me, I automatically react quickly.

Scale of 1–5: 1 = Very rarely 2 = Rarely 3 = Sometimes 4 = Often 5 = Most of the time

________   My emotions automatically drive how I behave.

________   I believe I have choices as to how to act.

________   I rarely act on autopilot.

________   I believe that everything is always changing.

________   Learning is mostly done by the end of schooling.

________   I use daily learning processes.

________   I have a growth mindset every day.

________   I define myself by how much or what I know.

6. Connecting, Relating, and Collaborating

________   I know my emotional intelligence weaknesses and have a plan to improve them.

________   I relate personally to people before getting to business.

________   I try to demonstrate to people that I care about them.

________   I try to understand where people are coming from.

________   I try to be an emotionally positive person.

________   I try to be totally honest with people.

________   I evaluate daily the quality of my emotional connections.

________   I am sensitive to the messages I send through my body language.

________   I stop and make sure before I enter each meeting that I am emotionally and mentally prepared to be present—to be fully attentive in that meeting.

________   I view collaboration as a competition to see who is right.

Scale of 1–5: 1 = Very rarely 2 = Rarely 3 = Sometimes 4 = Often 5 = Most of the time

________   My goal in collaborating is to avoid looking dumb.

________   My goal in collaboration is to not lose face.

________   I stop regularly to engage with people during the day.

________   I do check-ins with my direct reports and ask about them as people.

________   I ask people at the end of a meeting whether they are in a “good place.”

________   When collaborating, I try to inquire as much as I advocate.

________   In collaborating, I act as if what is accurate is more important than who is right.

________   In collaborating, I focus on what is wrong, not who is wrong.

________   In collaborating, I am mindful of who is not engaged.

________   In collaborating, I seek to engage the quiet ones.

________   In collaborating, I am mindful of the elephant in the room.

________   In collaborating, I often will raise the hard issue or talk about the elephant in the room.

________   In collaborating, if I don’t know I say so.

________   In collaborating, I am mindful of my body reactions and body language.

________   I am aware when I react defensively.

________   I usually tell people what to do or how to do it.

________   I go out of my way to show gratitude to people.

________   Every day I ask people how are they doing, and I show them that I care about their answers.

Scale of 1–5: 1 = Very rarely 2 = Rarely 3 = Sometimes 4 = Often 5 = Most of the time

7. Reflective Listening

________   I am a nonjudgmental listener.

________   I am a nondefensive listener.

________   When I listen, I focus on whether the speaker agrees with me.

________   I often get bored listening to others, so my mind wanders.

________   I interrupt people when I know the answer.

________   I wait until a person asks for advice before I volunteer advice.

________   I often paraphrase back what I think the speaker is saying and ask if I am hearing them correctly.

________   If I don’t understand, I often ask the speaker to say it a different way.

________   I apologize when I interrupt someone speaking to me.

________   I begin formulating my answer/response in my head while someone is talking.

________   I often respond by telling the speaker that I had a similar experience.

________   I often tell people I know how they feel.

________   While listening, I am aware of my body reactions.

________   I finish people’s sentences out loud or in my head.

________   As I listen, I try to make eye contact with the speaker.

________   As I listen, I am aware of my emotions.

________   Before engaging in an important conversation, I ask myself if I am ready to be open-minded.

________   Before engaging in an important conversation, I calm my emotions.

Scale of 1–5: 1 = Very rarely 2 = Rarely 3 = Sometimes 4 = Often 5 = Most of the time

________   I usually don’t answer quickly; I reflect.

________   While listening, I am sensitive to the speaker’s emotions, tone, and body language.

________   In difficult conversations, before responding I thank the speaker for having the courage to talk.

________   I often assume I know what the speaker will say next.

________   I often ask questions intended to confirm my view.

________   I often ask questions that will lead the speaker toward my view.

________   When listening, I pause to try on the person’s idea or belief to see how it feels.

________   I listen to learn, not to confirm.

8. How-to-Learn Skills

________   I am not my ideas.

________   I accept the science of adult learning: I naturally seek to confirm and defend my views.

________   I understand the limitations of my mental models.

________   I am open-minded.

________   I am fair-minded.

________   I am mindful—really present in the moment with my full attention.

________   I use data to make my decisions.

________   What is right is more important to me than who is right.

________   I confront the brutal facts, even if they make me look bad.

Scale of 1–5: 1 = Very rarely 2 = Rarely 3 = Sometimes 4 = Often 5 = Most of the time

________   I approach having difficult conversations; I do not avoid them.

________   I exhibit intellectual humility in my interactions with everyone.

________   I have learned to decouple my ego from my views.

________   I actively manage my thinking daily.

________   I actively manage my ego daily.

________   I actively manage my emotions daily, especially my defensiveness.

________   I use good thinking processes daily.

________   I use good collaborating processes daily.

________   I grade myself daily and keep a learning journal.

________   I have a checklist of my need-to-improve areas.

________   I share my need-to-improve areas with teammates and ask them to help me improve.

________   I do not fear mistakes or deny my weaknesses.

________   I model learning resiliency—bouncing back quickly from mistakes and failures.

________   I critique ideas, not people.

________   I give all my associates the permission to speak freely.

________   I reward candor.

________   I am honest and transparent about my weaknesses and mistakes.

________   I hold myself to the same high standards as I hold others.

________   I actively seek constructive feedback from others about my behavior.

Scale of 1–5: 1 = Very rarely 2 = Rarely 3 = Sometimes 4 = Often 5 = Most of the time

________   I unpack my assumptions underlying my thoughts daily.

________   I seek to stress-test some thoughts/beliefs daily.

________   I evaluate the results of my decisions and lessons learned.

________   I use mental rehearsal daily to play things out in my mind.

________   I use mental replay daily to reflect on my actions/decisions in order to learn.

________   I ask my direct reports monthly to give me candid feedback on my performance.

________   I tell myself daily that I have to think deeper about an issue.

________   I use the pre-mortem thinking tool.

________   I model an idea meritocracy daily with my teams.

________   I enable daily psychological safety with my teams.

9. Building Trust

________   I am direct, courteous, and honest with others.

________   I keep my word and my commitments.

________   I am authentic with others.

________   I engender trust by taking the first step to be vulnerable.

________   I focus on others when conversing with them.

________   I truly try to get to know others deeply so I can understand them.

________   I do not gossip about others.

________   I keep in confidence things that are said to me in confidence.

Scale of 1–5: 1 = Very rarely 2 = Rarely 3 = Sometimes 4 = Often 5 = Most of the time

________   I keep in confidence things said to me by others when they are being courageously vulnerable.

________   I thank people for having the courage to challenge my ideas.

10. What Did I Learn from My Diagnostic?

When you are done, reflect on your scores. Do not average your scores under each behavior. Focus on where you got the most scores of 1 or 2 (or for negatively stated questions, 4 or 5). What does that tell you? If you were honest, answers provide good information pointing you in the direction of improvement.


How do you change behaviors? Improve behaviors?

I won’t go into theories of behavior change in too much depth here (chapter 8 of my previous book, Humility Is the New Smart, discusses them in detail), but here is a short primer for you.

1. For successful people like you to change your behavior, you first need to change your story about how you define yourself. You are being asked to become a Hyper-Learner. That likely requires behaviors different from the behaviors that have brought you success so far. If you want to remain successful, you need new behaviors—a New Way of Being that enables Hyper-Learning. You need to create a new story by asking yourself, what would happen if I adopted the needed Hyper-Learning Behaviors? How will these behaviors benefit me?

2. Hopefully, the Daily Intentions and Hyper-Learning Mindset principles you identified in chapters 1 and 2, respectively, will help you change your behaviors. Their purpose is to help you create and operationalize your new story. You should go back and review your Daily Intentions and your Hyper-Learning Mindset principles and make changes based on your learnings from this chapter. You should do that throughout this book as you continue to learn.

3. The third key part is that your personal story has to deal with your FEAR. What concerns you about the need to become a Hyper-Learner? What concerns you about trying to achieve Inner Peace? Does it seem too hard? Does it seem like it takes too much time? Are you fearful of not being able to do this? Are you fearful of being transparent and honest with others about what you need to improve? What is holding you back?

4. You will be able to change your behaviors when you become convinced that the upside of changing outweighs the downside of not changing. Think about that. What is the downside? Well, if the scientists and thought leaders are correct, the downside is huge. At least I think so. Why do I believe it is huge? Think about what could happen if you can’t excel at doing the skills that smart technology can’t do. I am not trying to scare you. I am trying to invite you to think deeply about the content in this book, assess your situation, and make the best judgment you can using critical thinking processes.

5. After you have created your new story, take the following steps to change your behavior:

(a) Start with a foundational behavior—one that enables other behaviors. Pick one or two sub-behaviors with respect to which you scored the lowest. Reflect upon why you behave the way you do. What benefit does it give you? What negative effect could it be creating? Why should you change that behavior? How do you specifically propose to change? What will you do behaviorally?

(b) Find an accountability partner or partners from trusted teammates at work and, ideally, also at home. Tell your partner that you want him or her to observe you and appropriately “call you out” when you behave in the nondesired way.

(c) Measure yourself daily. Use visualization techniques to see yourself behaving differently before each meeting. My experience is that you will change when you become fully committed to changing.

6. Have a behavioral checklist that you review before each meeting. Take two minutes before each meeting and take deep breaths to calm down and be fully present. Then say relevant mantras such as: “I am not my ideas.” “Listen to learn, not to confirm.” “Collaboration is not a competition.” “Ask questions before telling.”

7. After meetings, mentally replay your performance. If you behaved inappropriately, think about how you felt then. What triggered your behavior? Is that an early warning sign? How can you improve?

8. If you are having difficulty, talk it out with a trusted other and seek the advice of an expert, someone who is good at the desired behavior. Ask that person how he or she learned to behave the desired way. Get advice. Change is hard but doable. And you will never run out of behaviors to change or improve. It is a JOURNEY—part of the journey to your Best Self. Make the journey fun. Celebrate your successes and do not get down when the journey gets hard. Mental visualization and deep reflection are very helpful.