WD-40 Learning Maniac: Lessons from a Learning-Obsessed Culture

Continued learning and education is a topic I frequently find myself revisiting. Ongoing exploration, innovation, and resourcefulness are three key ingredients needed to become and maintain a fast moving organization.

This Harvard Business Review article about WD-40 – yes, the stuff you use for squeaky hinges – illustrates just how important continued learning is for company growth and, in this case, reinvigorating a tired brand.

WD-40 was an old “one-trick pony” when Garry Ridge took over as CEO. Ridge broke the company out of its rut by creating a learning-obsessed culture unafraid to take risks.  Since 2009, WD-40 has expanded to 176 countries, added many brands and products, and nearly tripled its overall value as an organization.

The pledge required of all employees is one of the most brilliant things I have ever read.  Ridge calls it the “WD-40 Maniac Pledge,” a solemn vow to become, in his words, a “learning maniac.”

“I am responsible for taking action, asking questions, getting answers, and making decisions. I won’t wait for someone to tell me. If I need to know, I’m responsible for asking. I have no right to be offended that I didn’t ‘get this sooner.’ If I’m doing something others should know about, I’m responsible for telling them.”

What about this pledge do I love so much? It demands that teams keep learning. Learning offsets the “paradox of expertise” and prevents people and businesses from becoming stagnant.  What an industry did five years ago may seem to be the “gold standard” in a team’s mind, when the world has actually evolved considerably during that timeframe.

Additionally, this pledge requires people to take responsibility when something goes wrong instead of placing blame elsewhere. Being fully accountable for one’s actions encourages resourcefulness, removes unnecessary drama, and eliminates the need for micromanagement. A workforce rich in their ability to find and create solutions independently is a strength in any industry.