Never Stop Learning

never stop learning

Stay Relevant, Reinvent Yourself, and Thrive

 

Almost every conference I have attended in the last ten years has highlighted the rapid changes that we are experiencing in every aspect of society. Companies need to evaluate digital futures, new technologies, and global strategies. Individuals need to develop plans to keep developing their skills.

How do we best deal with this constant pace of change?

Brad Staats is an associate professor of operations at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. His new book, Never Stop Learning: Stay Relevant, Reinvent Yourself, and Thrive, provides the framework to help all of us become dynamic learners. He says that, “If we fail to learn, we risk becoming irrelevant.”

He also says that we aren’t so great at learning.

I recently spoke with him about his extensive research into learning.

 

“One of the most powerful ways we can learn from others is to ask, ‘What do you think?’ and be open to the answer.” -Bradley Staats

 

Learning is a Key Differentiator

Why is learning more important today than in past generations?

Learning has always been a key competitive differentiator. What has changed is that things are moving faster and increasingly we are in a winner take all (or at least most) environment. There are four factors I’d highlight that are driving these changes. The first is routinization. Through the use of technology (information and otherwise) we can knock out repeatable tasks. That means our attention can turn to new things where we can innovate. If one looks at job changes in the US over the last 30 years, the data reveals that routine jobs are flat and growth has only occurred in the non-routine settings.

jobs

The second driver is specialization. Knowledge around us is increasing, often exponentially. It is estimated a physician would need to read 29 hours a day to stay current on all the necessary knowledge. So we are forced to pick areas to dig in. The third driver is globalization. In the 1990’s, in particular, the global economy opened up as countries like India, Russia, Brazil and China flooded the global labor market with talented individuals. Success is no longer a local affair, it is a global one. Finally, we have digitization. We can capture knowledge digitally and share it around the world. All of these factors mean that great products and services can quickly capture markets and squeeze out others—so we have to learn if we are going to stay relevant. As Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, has said, “Ultimately, the ‘learn-it-all’ will always do better than the ‘know-it-all.’”

 

“Whatever we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.” -Otto Rank

 

Why are we so bad at learning?

How to Build an A Team

a team

Build an A Team

Those who aspire to be successful quickly realize that individual performance isn’t usually enough. Only a team of committed individuals can accomplish great things. So a leader’s job turns to finding, selecting, and cultivating an amazing team.

If you wonder whether you are performing at your best, look at your team. My philosophy has always been that, if they are growing, your company will follow.

 

“Successful business leaders prioritize talent-development as a recruitment tool in the same way top athletic coaches do.” -Whitney Johnson

 

One way to tell whether you are growing is to look at where your team falls on the S curve. Based on Whitney Johnson’s proprietary research around disruption, every organization is a collection of individual S – or learning – curves. You build high performing team by optimizing these individual curves, including yours. In her book, Build an A-Team, you will learn how to manage people all along the S-curve and what to do when they reach the top of the curve. As employees are allowed, even required, to surf their individual S-curve waves, disrupting themselves, you will not only be less vulnerable to disruption, you’ll also be a boss people want to work for.

 

“The mind and skill-expanding opportunity motivates great engagement more than money or accolades.” -Whitney Johnson

 

After the release of your last book, Disrupt Yourself, you traveled and met the leaders of many organizations. As you spoke with them, what surprised you most?

Many people feel stuck, like a genie corked in a lamp; if somebody (usually their boss) would just pull that cork, they could make magic. They say, “I’m ready to disrupt myself. How can I persuade my boss to let me?” Or, “How can I get my team to disrupt themselves? How can I get my boss on board with that?” In Build an A Team I answer these questions and address the fact that, in most cases, fear of failure is the cork. We may be the cork in the bottle—our own, and our employees’.

 

“Want to know if you are about to be disrupted? Take the pulse of your workforce.” -Whitney Johnson

 

Be the Boss People Love to Work For

A Travel Guide to Training Around the World

global travel

Learn from Other Cultures

Every year I have the opportunity to travel and conduct business around the world. Learning from other cultures is something I treasure.

The world is getting smaller. When I run into someone I know halfway around the world, I’m no longer surprised. And I’m reminded daily that social media is an exercise in global communication.

Getting a team trained, no matter where they’re located, can be a daunting task, even without cultural differences. Add in the need to think globally, and it can be overwhelming.

That’s where Donna Steffey and 15 other authors can help, with their book Destination Facilitation: A Travel Guide to Training Around the World. As someone who has conducted training in 25 countries, Donna is someone I was eager to talk with about developing a global mindset.  

Donna Steffey, MBA, CPLP, president of Vital Signs Consulting, is an international trainer, author, facilitator of the ATD Master Trainer™ Program, and adjunct faculty member at Lake Forest Graduate School of Management.

 

“Cultural Intelligence develops intentionally with your commitment to increasing your global mindset.” -Donna Steffey

 

The Impact of Globalization on Training

How are the major trends in technology and globalization impacting the field of training?

DestinationFacilitation-EditedbyDonnaSteffey-bookCoverThe traditional face-to-face classroom training is now less than half of all training done. According to the Association for Talent Development (ATD) 2017 State of the Industry report, that means that 51% of training is delivered via webinars, mobile, self-paced online, or other methods like DVDs or Podcasts. This represents a 10% change in the last 5 years away from traditional classroom training. With over 300 multi-national organizations employing over 35 million people around the globe, online technologies really do become the best method for reaching remote employees.

We see a trend toward mobile learning with 67% of people saying they now use mobile devices to access learning. What is interesting is that only 20% of organizations have formal mobile learning programs.

A trend known as micro-learning is becoming popular to shorten the path from learning to succeeding. Micro-learning is a bite-sized chunk of learning lasting 3-10 minutes and only covering 1-2 crucial points. It often includes interactivity and testing. According to the Dresden University of Technology in Germany, micro-learning improves retention by 20%.

 

67 percent of people use mobile devices to access learning.

Design Thinking for the Greater Good

greater good

Innovation in the Social Sector

Design thinking is one way to reframe problems, ideate solutions, and iterate toward better answers. It helps solve wicked problems. Those are the type that are especially insidious and difficult.

In a new book by Jeanne Liedtka, Daisy Azer, and Randy Salzman, Design Thinking for the Greater Good:  Innovation in the Social Sector, the authors take on the challenge of applying design thinking to the social sector. The principles apply to all organizations and may help you reach a breakthrough in your organization. I recently spoke with Randy Salzman about their research. Randy is a journalist and former communications professor. His work has been published in over one hundred magazines, journals, and newspapers, from the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times to Mother JonesBicycling, and Style.

 

“Possibility first, constraints later.” -Randy Salzman

 

Practice Design Thinking

What is design thinking?

Design thinking is a modern version of what was once common, a method of addressing and solving problems outside of normal professional siloes. After about 500 years of ever-greater specialization, society is recognizing that wicked problems lie between the professions, between those siloes, and that most “answers” require a grasp of human behavior and a willingness to deeply understand the entire problem, not just “my” professional aspect of it. Design thinking, often called human-centered design, asks us to explore deeply, empathize continually, ideate rapidly, prototype simply and iterate constantly in order to address the problems that bedevil us. Unlike, for example, LEAN and most analytical methods of addressing problems, design thinking seeks to hold problem-solvers in the question space, rather than rapidly jumping to an answer as most Type A personalities – who corporate leaders tend to be — do. Reframing the question, exploring it deeply—and especially building solid empathy with users and other stakeholders—allows design thinkers to find unarticulated needs and desires and build solutions—tapping into unintentionally hidden aspects of human behavior. In today’s “quantitative” planning world, design thinking seeks to return to “qualitative” understanding of both bigger, and littler, picture issues.

 

It is being used today all over the world in a variety of very different organizations. Would you give us a few examples?

While many know of the success of Intuit, 3M, Proctor and Gamble and other major corporations in producing new products and services via design thinking approaches, less is known about the problem-solving methodology’s work outside of product development, and in social sector and government organizations.  Today, many U.S. government bureaucracies – from Health and Human Services, the VA, even the armed forces – are today seeking to understand the people they serve at a much deeper level than treating people as numbers using a quantitative statistical approach.  Non-profits, hospitals, and educational institutions are also adapting their thinking towards design-thinking’s “possibility first, constraints later” approach to problem solving.  For instance, The Kingwood Trust in the United Kingdom is using design thinking to sense and adapt to the needs of autistic adults who cannot use written or oral language to even express their likes or dislikes, and involving them in the design of their living spaces. The Community Transportation Association of America is using it to build local capacity to solve the work-transport needs of lower income employees. Monash University Hospital in Australia has completed a dozen design thinking projects and are presently engaged in solving the truly “wicked” problem of how medical providers can deliver and be compensated for wellness instead of for providing interventions.  All these stories are in our book, Design Thinking for the Greater Good:  Innovation in the Social Sector. But the stories are too many to fit into any book. We only touched on the New Zealand government’s culture-wide tipping to design thinking. Most governmental ministries in that Pacific nation have a design-thinking shop aimed at exploring deeply and empathizing continually with the stakeholders they serve.

 

“Fail early to succeed sooner.” —Tim Brown

 

How is innovation shifting?

We like to talk in terms of a shift from “Innovation I” to “Innovation II” and liken to this shift to the one that occurred in quality, post WWWII. In the same way that quality was originally the realm of specialists and then gradually (facilitated by TQM) spread to the point where, today, quality is everyone’s job up and down the organization, innovation is increasingly seen as belonging to those outside of research & development and senior executives. For organizations to adapt and thrive in today’s climate of political and economic uncertainty and challenge, we submit that all staffers, all employees, need the training and authority to innovate. It must become a core organizational capability. In this environment of broadened responsibility for finding new ways to create value for stakeholders, design thinking can do for innovation what TQM did for quality – help us to teach, scale and democratize it.

Certainly, possibilities for innovation are accelerating for a variety of technological reasons, from big data to computing capacities. There has been less attention to the human dimension, to the awareness that flawed human beings do not behave like the so-called “rational consumers” the quantitative planning world was based on. As the authors of Nudge put it, man is not “homo economous” but “homo sapiens,” and until thinkers began to understand that most of us act without thinking – rationally or otherwise – very little qualitative understanding of human behavior was considered by “garage” and other technological innovators. Now—in  what some are calling the “Smart Machine Age”—there is an awareness that every idea and every concept needs accompaniment from a social technology which aids in its spread. We think of design thinking as a social technology for change. As more and more business, governments, organizations recognize that a qualitative understanding of their stakeholders is needed, design thinking opens up a new kind of conversation that creates space for innovation to birth and blossom.

 

Embrace the Growth Mindset

7 Qualities to Give You An Edge

Competitive edge

Gain An Edge

 

“Energy and persistence conquer all things.” –Benjamin Franklin

 

He arrived in the USA from Ireland with ninety-two dollars. He’s since founded a successful business training company and is a leading business expert. Brian Buffini shares his success formula in his new book, The Emigrant Edge: How to Make It Big in America.

Brian’s focus in on emigrants, but the success principles are universal. I recently asked him about his new book.

 

“The greatest use of a life is to spend it on something that will outlast it.” –William James

 

You outline the characteristics of successful emigrants and argue that these can be mastered by anyone seeking success.  Tell us about your story. Is the approach different as an emigrant?

I’m Irish, and where I come from emigration is a very big deal. I moved to this great country as a nineteen-year-old with ninety-two dollars in my pocket, and now I’m a wealthy businessman. I’m the classic American rags-to-riches story. But I haven’t just acquired material wealth since I came here. I also possess a priceless internal fulfillment that no amount of money can buy. Why have I succeeded when people who are born and raised here haven’t?  I believe I have the Emigrant Edge – a special mix of qualities that have given me a head start over native-born Americans. My life’s work has been dedicated to teaching people how to live the American Dream. I believe no matter where you’re from, you too can adopt these traits in your own life and attain success beyond your wildest dreams.  I hope my new book THE EMIGRANT EDGE will help people live the American Dream.

 

7 Traits of Success from Brian Buffini

  1. A voracious desire to learn.
  2. A do whatever it takes mind-set
  3. A willingness to outwork others
  4. A heartfelt spirit of gratitude
  5. A boldness to invest
  6. A commitment to delay gratification
  7. An appreciation of where they came from

 

Turn off the TV and turn on learning

Voracious openness to learn. Turning off trash TV and turning on learning opportunities sounds easy to do, but it’s also easy not to do. What’s your advice on how to embrace learning? Emigrant Edge book cover

It is easy to lose yourself in mindless TV or spend hours on social media. However, you need to stay focused on things that help you grow. You need to upgrade your input – and that includes what you read, watch, and listen to.  Continuing professional development is also vital.  You need to invest in your learning.  If you lack the skills needed for today’s market, the market will quickly render you redundant. Part of the secret is finding accountability partners – it could be a good friend, a mentor, or a coach – to help you stay focused and reach out of your comfort zone. Finally, you need to apply what you have learned.  Listening is never enough – you must apply the teaching if you want your life to change.

 

“Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.” –Bill Bradley

 

How can people develop a Do-Whatever-It-Takes Mindset?