Learning Yet?

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Learning reviews: they share a dream marriage with the qualification process. It’s a sweet relationship where experience informs our approach to future opportunities. We capture what went well and should be done again, what didn’t go well and should be avoided, and what should never, ever, be repeated. Like playing kiss-chase at school, when we come to the next game, we run towards Nicky Sweetchops, dodge Riley Brushlip, and flee from Parker Cheesetongue.

Or do we?

All too often we find ourselves working on those ‘crackers’ bids where the ‘extra mature’ stink is so great we taste the disappointment of someone who’s succumbed to the old chat-up line of, “Oh, go on, it’s strategic!”

An important pop-up? Such opportunities usually reveal little more than a shrivelled peanut of a proposition and require much huffing and puffing to get the thing in. They’re more of an awkward insertion than dream submission. ‘Not a chance?’ We smooch our frogs as we search for true love. Sadly, without applying what we learn along the way, we end up in a queue at the Ribbit Hotel.

We bidders are suckers for saying ‘yes’. (Indeed, saying ‘no’ can be hardest thing to learn.) Like serial monogamists who marry many times, we hope the next opportunity will result in our perfect proposal. But in doing so, we sense the awkwardness of knowing that our art is part of a money-making machine.

Like Zsa Zsa Gabor said of her ninth husband, “I want a man who’s kind and understanding. Is that too much to ask of a millionaire?” So, we compromise where we can and learn as we go, slogging through the tough bids and skipping through the better ones, knowing things could get better if we worked smarter not harder. Because as Joan Collins (herself married five times) said, “Even when you win the rat race, you’re still a rat.” It’s better not to be a rat. Instead, be the well-trained racehorse running a different and more exciting race.

Reflect upon your personal performance and that of your team, conduct formal learning reviews, and – critically – apply this learning to the next opportunity.

Honour the marriage between learning reviews and qualification. Don’t shy from it. Learn quickly and qualify early. As Mickey Rooney said after his eighth marriage, “Always get married in the morning. That way if it doesn’t work out, you haven’t wasted the whole day.”

This article was written by Dr Nigel Hudson.

Affectionately known as ‘The Bid Doctor’, Nigel has a doctorate in workplace learning and is BQ’s resident professional development expert. His research was an industry first, exploring how people learn from experience within the bid profession. It builds upon his 25-year career, coaching and leading sales and bid teams, training more than 5,000 people worldwide, winning multiple awards for his bid academies, and – with Jon Williams – creating Europe’s leading proposal training syllabus. A customer and people champion, Nigel’s mantra is: “What does the customer value most, how will we deliver it better than the competition, and if we do this, will we have fun?”

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