“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong learning attempt to acquire it.” ~ Albert Einstein
Lifelong learning has long been understood to be a critical success factor. But today, it’s taken on even greater importance.
The pace of change continues to accelerate and the level of complexity, ambiguity and uncertainty means that what you knew yesterday may be irrelevant today. The half-life of technical skills continues to shrink. According to Josh Bersin, the half-life of a technical skill is just 2 years.
And lifespans continue to grow. In fact, it’s expected that 50% of millennials will live to 100 or older. Science confirms that learning throughout life has a profound effect on brain health.
As a result, building the sustainable capacity to continuously learn, grow and remain relevant has become a priority. It’s a differentiator for individuals and for the business. This concept, which I call Learn-gevity, may be the most fundamental core competency to be developed at all levels of the organization.
Remaining current and competitive today (and into the future) demands more than a casual interest or even a passionate commitment to learning throughout life. It demands new mindsets, habits, and ways of interacting with the world around us.
Consider the following actions to enhance your own learn-gevity.
Discover your discomfort zone
Learning occurs when we step beyond what’s known and comfortable. So pushing your personal limits to the point of heightened awareness and constructive stress (without stepping over the line to panic) offers a rich opportunity to arrive at new insights. But it also develops the confidence to continue pushing those personal limits.
For many, becoming an "expert" at anything can have a chilling effect on the ability to learn. Yet, no matter how much we know or how much we’ve achieved, it’s likely just a drop in the vast ocean of knowledge and experience still to be accessed.
Curiosity is a spirit, intention, and skill we can bring to our work, interactions with others and the world in general. It involves a genuine inquisitiveness, desire to understand, and willingness to step into a void with nothing more than questions and a receptive mind.
Savvy individuals learn to spot trends and patterns. They connect dots quickly and effectively. In the process, they establish a set of operating principles and assumptions that drive their behavior. The upsides of this are obvious; but the downsides could compromise learn-gevity as we inadvertently shut down new sources of information that don’t fit our internal algorithms.
Traditional learning models rooted in the educational system rely heavily on individual research and study. Learn-gevity, however, is based in large part on learning through and with others. Intentional connections offer a range of benefits, including the sharing of knowledge, insights, and experience.
Develop a discipline
A commitment to continuous learning requires (at least at first) a commitment to continuous attention. Build the learning habit by establishing personal rituals. Set aside and schedule specific times to seek out new perspectives or information. Allow for regular reflection. Over time, the effort will diminish as the habits take hold.
Illuminate the insignificant
While deliberate, scheduled efforts to learn are important, it’s equally important to recognize that learning frequently doesn’t occur on a schedule. Life offers a range of moment-by-moment opportunities to gain experience, tap wisdom, push boundaries and try new approaches. Learn-gevity means being open to and ready for these ad-hoc possibilities. It means mining the routine for richness.
Given the volume and velocity that characterize the contemporary workplace, it’s easy to push learning to the bottom of the to-do list. Yet, investing in learn-gevity today can help address current day-to-day pressures while building long-term, sustainable capacity that will contribute to future effectiveness and satisfaction -- at work and beyond.
Julie Winkle Giulioni is the author of “Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Employees Want,” with Bev Kaye. Giulioni has spent the past 25 years improving performance through learning. She consults with organizations to develop and deploy innovative instructional designs and training worldwide. You can learn more about her consulting, speaking and blog atJulieWinkleGiulioni.com.