THE ART OF CONTINUOUS LEARNING
Motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said that the world’s most successful people are lifelong learners. They understand that an ongoing education is their own responsibility. “Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune. I am quite sure that many of us have Entrepreneurs in our circle of friends, or we ourselves may be entrepreneurs. Have we ever wondered why some entrepreneurs thrive while others flounder? Do we ask ourselves why some businesses stay ahead of the pack, while other businesses struggle daily to keep up with changes in their industry? And why do some businesses remain relevant but others die out within a couple of months or years?
The answer is simple: In today’s knowledge economy, continual learning is an imperative, not an option. But in our part of the world, there is a Learning Culture Deficit that I would say is one of the major killer diseases of businesses in this era. The Learning Culture Deficit in leaders and entrepreneurs can be classified into three categories: Knowledge Limitation, Resource Limitation, Attitude Limitation.
Some leaders have the desire and the willingness to learn and grow but they completely clueless as to where to start. Such leaders have a Knowledge Limitation. For other business leaders or entrepreneurs, being asset and resource strapped may limit their learning. And finally, Attitude Limitation is when a leader, entrepreneur or business is aware of significant changes in their industry but is complacent in addressing them to their business.
Limitations exist all around us but as you may have heard many times, where there is a will, there truly is a way. In the fast-paced era of the internet and social media, knowledge is abundantly available. But at the same time, many competencies are quickly rendered useless to the advent of an entirely new skill. For a leader or entrepreneur to survive in these times, he or she has to know not just what to learn but how to approach learning new skills and competencies and the frequency with which to do so, in order not to be rendered redundant in this fast-paced technology driven era we are in. Modern businesses have to strive to not only adapt to change but to concurrently initiate it if they wish to be at the upper echelons of their industry and remain there. Change can only be embraced in a business where continuous learning is encouraged.
In a recent study, Forbes stated that about 90% of all start-up businesses fail in the first few years of establishment and it is my contention that there is a significant correlation between this failure and a learning culture deficit in most modern businesses. The Guardian also stated that staff who undertake learning activities are more able to adapt to the changing requirements of an organization and gain a competitive edge in the job market. Candidates who demonstrate that they are conscientious about their personal development are likely to be seen as highly motivated and engaged. Their openness to learning also suggests that they are flexible, adaptable and will bring a continuous improvement culture to the workplace – all of which is appealing to an employer and the business as a whole.
University of Guelph, categorized continuous learning into three different levels: Individual, Group, and Organization.
1. Continuous Learning for the Individual: At the individual level, continuous learning is about expanding your ability to learn by regularly upgrading your skills and increasing your knowledge. Strong continuous learning skills are required to successfully adapt to changing work and life demands.
2. Continuous Learning for a Team or Group: At the group level, continuous learning is reflected, for example, by a team transforming itself in response to changing conditions.
3. Continuous Learning for an Organization: At the organizational level, continuous learning is increasingly important to the success of the organization because of changing economic conditions. Given the current business environment, organizations must be able to learn continuously in order to deal with these changes and, in the end, to survive and thrive. They also stated that continuous learning in the workplace involves viewing your experiences as potential learning and re-examining assumptions, values, methods, policies, and practices.
Jim Kwik, a renowned learning improvement and brain performance expert, designed The FAST Framework, an acronym to help guide faster learning. Each letter represents a reminder, which if implemented, can lead to limitless learning.
1. FORGET: Forget what you think you already know. Your mind is a parachute and it only works when it is open. Be humble.
2. ACTIVE: Be active about learning — the brain does not learn through consumption it learns through creation. So, get up and do something. Apply your learning.
3. STATE: Information combined with emotion becomes a long-term memory. We must control the state we are in when we are learning to optimize the learning potential of the effort.
4. TEACH: Teaching is a force multiplier. Learn in order to teach someone else, Jim Kwik recommends, because when you teach what you have learned, you learn that thing twice.
“Give a man a fish, and he is hungry again in an hour. Teach him to catch a fish and you have given him,” as Nelson Mandela once said, “the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world”. Whether or not you are planning on catching any fish in the near future, Mandela still had a point that can be applied to entrepreneurship: education and growth in your personal life are the secrets to long-term success in your professional life. Committing to the concept of lifelong learning is, to my mind, the most effective way of succeeding as an entrepreneur (Newman, 2017).
Here are my thoughts on 4 ways that leaders and businesses can approach the art of learning to help them strategically position themselves as disruptors in their industry.
1. THE UTILITY OF SKILL
The value of your skill lies in the utility of it. If your skills can be utilized in the most optimal way then you can leverage it for the growth of the business and to impact others. A lot of businesses recruit talent but fail to mentor the recruit in order to scale up the skill within the individual to a point where it is useful and of high value.
2. LEARNING NOT IMPLEMENTED IS LEARNING LIMITED
Learning or developing a skill occurs in three stages – Engagement of learning, Experience of learning and Expression of learning. Engagement is rudimentary. Any individual can be instructed to follow the processes in exercising a skill. However, for the learning evolved from engagement to experience the talent has to be deeply interested or passionate in order to implement or exercise the skill fully. You can run the risk of limiting your learning when you put a square talent or individual in a round skill. Finally, when you experience the learning fully, you will be able to express it in the most appropriate medium.
3. THE 3 “E’s” OF QUALIFICATION
There are 3 qualifications that help make a business exceptional. These are your qualification by education which entails your academic credentials, qualification by experience which deals mainly with your collateral bank of knowledge regarding the products and processes of your industry and qualification by engagement which entails knowledge imbibed from relationships and networks you have built. As a business, you need all of these qualifications in your talent pool. Limiting yourself to one will be a huge disservice to the growth of your business.
4. THE CONTINUUM OF LEARNING
Learning never ceases. However, what you are learning and how you are learning matters. Soft skills, for example, play a crucial role in the growth of a leader and organization. Whenever you hear of a company’s budget being slashed, one of the first casualties would be training and capacity building. A key research from the Carnegie Institute stated that 85% of financial success is due to soft skills. Thus, it is important to focus keenly on learning continuously and with a particular inclination towards soft skills.
And the World Economic Forum agrees: In 2016’s Future of Work report, it predicted that, by 2018–2020, the emergence of new technology such as advanced robotics, autonomous transport, artificial intelligence and machine learning will start to have a drastic impact on industries and business models of the future. In their executive summary, the WEF state: “On average, by 2020, more than a third of the desired core skill sets of most occupations will be comprised of skills that are not yet considered crucial to the job today, according to our respondents. Overall, social skills — such as persuasion, emotional intelligence and teaching others — will be in higher demand across industries than narrow technical skills, such as programming or equipment operation and control.” (Newman, 2017)
A business that continuously upgrades itself, is a business that stays afloat come hell or high water. As Charlie Munger said of Warren Buffett: “The other big secret [to our success] is that we’re good at lifelong learning. Warren is better in his 70s and 80s, in many ways, than he was when he was younger. If you keep learning all the time, you have a wonderful advantage.” The secret is in the pudding and the pudding is the art of learning!
Are you ready for TRANSFORMATION?
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo: The H.E.L.P. Coach
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo is a Personal Impact, Professional Growth and Influence Expert specializing in Humanness, Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Power – H.E.L.P.
A career spanning over two decades, she has established herself as a Certified High Performance Coach, Speaker, Author, Wellness Expert and award-winning Entrepreneur with a clientele ranging from C-Suite Executives, Senior Management, Practitioners and Sales Leaders spanning 3 continents.
She is the Founder of Dzigbordi K. Dosoo (DKD) Holdings; a premier lifestyle business group with brand subsidiaries that include Dzigbordi Consulting Group& Allure Africa.
She is one of the most decorated female entrepreneurs in Ghana having being named “CIMG Marketing Woman of the Year” in 2009; “Top 10 most respected CEOs in Ghana, 2012; Global Heart of Leadership Award and, Women Rising “100 Most Influential Ghanaian Women”, 2017. She has also been featured on CNN.
She can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org and @dzigbordi across all social media platforms.