Learning is at the core of entrepreneurial success. Not only do successful entrepreneurs know how to learn, they know what to learn, and they organize their work/life schedule so that they have time to learn. There are hundreds (probably thousands) of blogs and articles written about what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. They talk about great teams, innovative products, compelling market opportunities, hard work, passion, imagination, timing, luck, and so many other notable aspects of what it takes to be successful. We agree. Our point is that in business today, change is constant, and to keep up with change, you need to keep learning.
According to InfoQ, a software development company, “A culture of continuous learning is vital to an organization that strives to be innovative. Knowledge is the foundation for new ideas, and the learning that produces knowledge is what keeps brains malleable to create innovative and disruptive solutions. Today’s business world moves much faster than it did 20 years ago. Businesses must be able to adapt, pivot, and grow into new market spaces if they hope to survive. Employees who are learning new technologies and solutions are the employees who will help solve the problems a business doesn’t yet know it has. Knowledgeable employees make a business flexible.”
How are your leadership skills, communication skills, and information skills? Probably pretty good. How are your learning skills? They might be rusty since it might have been a few years since you were in school, and learning was your job. Learning skills can be re-learned. In a blog post written by the State of Alberta, they suggest enhancing these skills:
- Time management
Now that we’ve touched on how to learn, let’s have a chat about what to learn. Here are a handful of skills worth learning or learning better:
- Problem Solving – As we mentioned above, change is constant. Managing change means solving new problems. You must have the skills required to define a problem, develop a solution, and then put it to work.
- Leadership – True leadership is about inspiring, motivating, and empowering. Leaders make good things happen. Leadership is one of those skills that you will never stop learning to do better.
- Communication – Communication has evolved beyond face-to-face interaction. Today, many of us communicate better through email and text messages than we do face-to-face. It is impossible to solve problems or lead without the ability to communicate effectively, no matter the medium of communication.
- Collaboration – The ability to collaborate across the room or across the world is critical to your success and the success of your organization. Excellent collaboration leads to better outcomes.
- Critical Thinking – After learning something, it is essential to understand how what you have learned has helped you or perhaps, others. Did your learning accomplish the original purpose for why you learned it in the first place? According to The Foundation for Critical Thinking, “Critical thinking is that mode of thinking – about any subject, content, or problem – in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully taking charge of the structures inherent in thinking and imposing intellectual standards upon them.”
- Managing Your Information – Learning how to manage information will enable you to better determine what is valuable and what is not.”
In our busy lives, how can we possibly make time to learn? News flash: Finding time to learn is not a time management issue; it is a priority issue. Here are some tips to make learning fit well into your daily life.
- Think about it, talk to your family and colleagues about it, ask questions about it (What did I learn this week? What did you learn this week?).
- Get serious and passionate about it. Isn’t learning similar to dieting? It won’t happen unless you are ready to make a real commitment to it.
- Try something, see if it works. Listen to blogs on your way to and from work. Check out YouTube. Take a course. Read.
- Download Apps such as Flipboard, Quora, Udemy.
- Dedicate 30 minutes to an hour each day.
- Make time for learning by outsourcing and delegating.
- Prioritize tasks.
- Multitask; learn while working.
In a Harvard Business Review blog published in February 2019 and titled, Making Learning a Part of Everyday Work, the authors write, “lifelong learning has become accepted as an economic imperative. Eighty percent of CEOs now believe the need for new skills is their biggest business challenge. For employees, research now shows that opportunities for development have become the second most important factor in workplace happiness (after the nature of the work itself). At the most fundamental level, we are a neotenic species, born with an instinct to learn throughout our lives. So it makes sense that at work we are constantly looking for ways to do things better; indeed, the growth-mindset movement is based on this human need. And whereas recruitment is an expensive, zero-sum game (if company A gets the star, company B does not), learning is a rising tide that lifts all boats.”
The inspiration for this article is my school-age grandson, who explained to me that learning is his job. I think he’s right. I got to thinking that even though I am an old grandfather, it should be my job too. If you are looking for some groundbreaking research on learning and working, you won’t find it here. Rather, think of this blog post as a friendly reminder from a learner.