Photo: Keith Yamashita

A joyful road

Reflections on teaching and learning

Jarin Tabata
5 min readDec 9, 2021


I have always followed curiosity for curiosity’s sake — down multiple paths of learning and mastery, and around the world. It’s been a rich, if winding, road.

My time at SYPartners has afforded infinite space for chasing curiosity and applying learning at an organizational level. Now, as a firm, we are pursuing this even more intentionally. Over the past year, we have held dedicated days of learning, where our people can gather to share skills, explore topics, and hear insights from the world’s top leaders. As these sessions have unfolded, I have witnessed the power of actively promoting curiosity and learning — to deepen community, to transmit culture, to build knowledge and capability. Essential ingredients for a thriving organization.

During a recent Learning Day, I had the privilege of hosting a conversation with Joel Podolny, former Dean of Apple University, and prior to that, Dean of the Yale School of Management. Drawing from his rich experience building and leading some of the world’s greatest academic and corporate learning institutions, Joel shared his thoughts on what makes for great institutional learning and how it can fuel organizational distinctiveness and longevity. It left me wondering: What is the role of learning in our organization? How do we determine what is worth teaching and learning? Who should teach it, and how?

These are just some of the questions we have been holding at SYPartners, in our ongoing journey as a learning organization. But these questions are universal — every organization must grapple with the challenge of evolving in a world of constant change, while maintaining distinctiveness and culture. As we attempt to answer them, I have been thinking about four essential factors:

Distinctive practice

What you teach should engender greater distinctiveness within your organization: What can only be learned here? Organizations are constantly being pushed to lose their individuality — through ‘best practices’, through insecurity, through the dilution of culture over time. So it’s crucial that we reinforce the skills, practices, and traditions that are true to the organization. Access to unique experiences is certainly part of the appeal of working at a place like SYPartners. How can…