Roy Steiner
Senior Director, Learning & Impact

Looking Back at What We’ve Learned

July 14, 2017

As the senior director of learning and impact at Omidyar Network, I’m passionate about our journey to cultivate learning processes and a learning culture that increases our impact.

Mixed into this journey have been discoveries in neuroscience, exploring some of the foundational principles in building a learning organization, and other innovations in learning that will propel our work and thinking forward.

After sharing the first ten posts from Season 1 of my Friday Learning Notes series, I’d like to highlight some of the insights we uncovered each week and get us ready for the launch of Season 2!

Which ones are your favorite?

Week 1: Cultivating a Learning Organization

“I have an amazing job. I’m not a movie star, astronaut, or ice-cream taste tester. I’m the senior director of learning and impact at Omidyar Network, and my goal is to cultivate a “best in class” learning organization.

This of course begs the question: what is a learning organization?”

Week 2: Learning for Impact Cycle

“At Omidyar Network, we operate in complex systems that are constantly evolving, and we’re making early bets on innovations. Developing learning and feedback cycles enables us to do our work better and to deliver more impact.”

Week 3: Never Stop Learning

“Within you is the most complex structure in the known universe.

It’s even more complex than an entire galaxy. It’s your brain. With over 100 billion neurons that are each connected directly with 10,000 others — there are some 100 trillion nerve connections inside your head.

This week, I would like to share three amazing advances that neuroscience is discovering about learning.”

Week 4: Why Good Intentions Aren’t Enough

“Even when our goal is to create positive change, we sometimes spend a lot of resources to accomplish little or even make things worse.

The world we live in is inherently complex, with linkages that are often difficult to see and understand. This is why it is important to incorporate a systems view when developing a strategy.”

Week 5: A Learner’s Guide to Failure

“A prerequisite to growth is acknowledging what happened, and what we can learn from. And yet — too much emphasis on failure can also stifle our growth if we get bogged down in what went wrong.

As we endeavor to create change, we will likely have a fair mix of success and failure. As we reviewed in last week’s Friday Learning Note, good intentions aren’t enough to transform complex systems. In the world of philanthropy and impact investing, mistakes have been made and will continue to be made.”

Week 6: How Hypotheses Can Help You Generate More Impact

“The power of developing a clear hypothesis is that it enables learning.

Reality is always different from what you expect it to be and the delta between your expectation and what actually happened is where the greatest potential for learning resides. If you don’t write down what you expect, you don’t have a basis on which to adjust your view of reality and make better decisions next time”

Week 7: Becoming Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

“Becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable is a powerful capacity that helps us reach our goals, find better answers, and increase our creativity.”

Week 8: The Power of Asking Good Questions

“As design thinking and lean startup literature tells us, mastering the art of asking questions is essential to creativity and innovation (and of course learning!). In an age of instant information, finding fast answers is getting easier. Asking the right kinds of questions however remains hard.”

Week 9: If You Don’t Have Something Nice To Say…How to Give and Receive Feedback

“If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

Parents around the world have shared this advice with their children in hopes of cultivating kindness. Yet an important way for organizations and individuals to improve is through feedback — which makes many people uncomfortable and isn’t always nice in the way we usually think of that word.”

Week 10: What We Can Learn from Superforecasters

“We all try to predict the future. For example, I wonder: how many children will my newly married daughter and her husband have?

When we can’t figure it out ourselves, we consult everything from intelligence agencies to bookies, media pundits to palm readers.

But it turns out that the average expert is “roughly as accurate as a dart-throwing chimpanzee.”


I’m very excited to continue traversing this learning journey with Season 2 of Friday Learning Notes, which will include my personal learning journey.

I invite you to subscribe to and share our Medium channel so that you can build a few minutes of reflection on learning into your week.




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