People in business, education, religion and politics are recognizing more and more that it’s very important to adopt a lifelong and continuous learning attitude.
To be up-to-date is to be successful in dealing with continuous change, new and disruptive ideas, and the large amount of information available today. It’s a challenge to be ahead of new information as it develops. It demands an openness to the new, the different, and the experimental. The key word to get started is to anticipate.
Our focus is on continuous learning in business. It entails a sensitivity to the faint signals that are out there and an immersion in the trends in business and business processes. It’s the jumping off spot to the future. Further, it’s also clear that reading business thought leaders — beyond Peter Drucker — can move the learning process further along. Current thought leaders include women and men such as Indra Nooyi, former CEO of Pepsico; Warren Buffet; Jake Schwartz, co-founder of tech education company General Assembly; Margie Warell, a global leadership coach and columnist for Forbes magazine; Sanjay Rajagopalan, a proponent of design thinking, a problem-solving technique; and Robert Greenleaf, the author of “Servant Leadership,” which is experiencing a resurgence.
Each thought leader, and others you are curious about, can be studied online. Continuous learning takes time and the ability to integrate these new thoughts quickly. Taking notes as you read reminds you of the skills you learned in college — to not only get a good grade but also to apply what you’ve learned. This is a continuous learning skill.
Beyond studying up on current trends, continuous learning includes traditional learning methods, like coursework, workshops, association meetings and seminars. What else can business leaders and others do to keep growing by learning. Companies like Protolabs — a Minnesota-based rapid manufacturing firm — are looking for new ways to stay ahead in their market and are hiring chief learning officers. Across many organizations, mentors and coaches are being hired for people at all levels and functions. Companies are holding more internal discussions on trends and new applications.
Learning discussions include technical, process, behavioral content and touch on trends occurring in other disciplines, with a focus on dealing with the pace of change. Keeping ahead of developments in artificial-intelligence software, 3D printing and cybersecurity is critical.
Whatever you’re curious about should be your starting point for investigation. Read, discuss and apply to your work what you learn, whatever that may be. Online resources make it easy to grow through learning. Returning to education for another degree is more and more often done online, not in the traditional classroom. For quick updates, workshops or seminars are appropriate.
As individual careers lengthen and include more change, the need to update basic skills is a must for all. But what other skills are important? The answer isn’t up to the employer anymore. The answer now lies in a combination of employee interest, motivation and employer job requirements. We can see that in the rise of self-employed workers who maintain their skills with frequent updates and challenging assignments for client companies.
A major service that provides new skills and practices is the professional coach for CEOs and managers. Technical knowledge gets you in the door; social skills keep you there. The professional coach can help business leaders refine those all-important social skills.
Having what Stanford professor and motivation psychologist Carol Dweck calls a “growth mindset” also means seeing the importance of gaining new knowledge through continuous learning. What are your learning goals for 2019? What are you curious about? What’s a quick way to meet your goals?
Henry Ford offered this thought: “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”