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Are You Learning as Fast as the World is Changing?

| January 29, 2013

by Jim Bruce

The Tuesday Reading today is  “Are You Learning as Fast as the World is Changing?”, written by Bill Taylor for the Harvard Business Review blog.  Taylor is William C. Taylor is cofounder of Fast Company magazine and author of Practically Radical:  Not-So-Crazy Ways to Transform Your Company, Shake Up Your Industry, and Challenge Yourself. 

French novelist Marcel Proust said, “The real art of discovery consists not in finding new lands but in seeing with new eyes.”  Taylor exhorts us that “In a world that never stops changing, great leaders never stop learning.”  Paraphrasing Max DePree, when a leader needs to learn something, he allocates time to do that learning.

Learning new things is all about exposing yourself to new ideas.  To learn faster, you have to think differently including about where new ideas come from.

In the essay, Taylor shares three ideas that he believes will “help you keep learning as fast as the world is changing:”

  1. The best leaders (and learners) have the widest field of vision.  Steve Jobs, in the PBS Documentary “Triumph of the Nerds” said:  “Ultimately it [creativity] comes down to taste.  It comes down to trying to expose yourself to the best things humans have done and then trying to bring those things to what you’re doing.”  Taylor says it this way:  You’re not going to learn faster (or deeper) than everyone else if you seek inspiration from the same sources as everyone else.  Educators know that we learn the most when we encounter people, experiences, and ideas that are the least like us.  …  [I]f you want to learn faster, look and live more broadly.
  2. The best source of new ideas in your field can be old ideas from unrelated fields.  Amazingly, it often turns out that new ideas in one area bear an uncanny resemblance to “old” ideas from other areas.  Well established practices can look downright revolutionary when you use them in new places.
  3. Most successful leaders work hard not to be loners.  Successful leaders build relationships and use their networks as sources for new ideas.  Using these ideas requires a new mindset – ambition to tackle very difficult problems and humility to learn from everyone you encounter.  “Nobody alone learns as quickly as everyone together.

For example, Atul Gawande, a surgeon at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in a recent article in the New Yorker compares what goes on in a Cheesecake Factor restaurant’s kitchen to surgical processes in his hospital.  The opportunities for improvement are clear.


As Bill Taylor notes, “We all want to be better learners.  And the best leaders, it turns out, are the most insatiable learners.”


So, stop and reflect:  Are you learning as fast as your world is changing?  If not, maybe there are sums suggestions here for you to put to use this week.


.  .  .  .     jim