Out Learn THEM!!

“The Illiterate of the future will not be the person who cannot read. It will be the person who does not know how to learn.”

Alvin Toffer

As a corporate trainer, I happen to interact with hundreds of professionals every week from some of India’s best companies. Professionals from all walks of life. Front line executives to the Senior Management. The one thing that strikes me during my interactions, the one thing that scares me actually is how people STOP LEARNING when they start their professional lives. For some reason, 90% of the professionals I meet, don’t remember the last time they personally took the initiative to learn something new – especially something new about business. People involved with Business, don’t seem to want to know anything about Business. Why is it that we do not feel the need to learn beyond our formal education?

In my mind, there are 3 types of learning:

1. Experiential Learning

2. Work Related Learning

3. Business Related Learning

This is the way I have divided stuff that I learn on a daily basis. I’m sure there are better ways to categorize, but this works for me.

Experiential Learning is the learning that happens everyday. As human beings, every passing day teaches us something. Consciously or sub consciously we are learning all the time. However, certain individuals manage to draw much more from their experiences by just being more aware and conscious of the learning from each of them. Ask yourself one question. Consistently. “What can I learn from this person/situation/problem etc??” Good experience or bad, if you can get yourself to consistently reflect on your experiences, you will learn more in 3 months than you have in 3 years. Sounds easy?? Well it isn’t. It requires a certain discipline, a discipline to consciously learn from everyone & everything. Even from the person you hate, by asking yourself “What can I learn from this person I absolutely hate otherwise??”

Work Related Learning: Am I consistently learning more about stuff at my work place?? Have I consciously learnt more about my sphere of work? Do I know how my company actually makes money? Do I know how the other departments in the company work? Do I know about the overall industry?? How much do I know about our key competitors? There is just so much to learn at our workplace and our generation is blessed with the ultimate learning tool of all time – the INTERNET. We live in a knowledge economy. Want a promotion at the workplace, Outlearn the person sitting in the next cubicle. If you know more than others (and know how to use it off course), you will definitely add value to yourself and the company you work for.

Business Related Learning: Well, you don’t need to be an MBA to learn about business. As business people (and if you make money by doing whatever you do, you are a business person), we need to know more about business. Not the boring technicalities and theoretical concepts of business, but a general awareness of what’s happening in the intriguing world of business. How do you do that? By reading Business Magazines like this one. Reading Business Books. Attending relevant seminars. Business Newspapers. Business Blogs. Start of with Business areas that interest you and then move on to other topics. Ask yourself the question – “How can I apply what I’m reading/learning to my workplace?” The Answers may not seem obvious at first. But you’ll soon be able to use a lot of what you read directly to your workplace.

All the professionals I meet want to excel at their work place. Only a few of them will. I can bet half my saving that the executives who outlearn their colleagues and competition will out perform them as well. So Learn, it’s the biggest competitive advantage you will ever have.