Learning and Doing

A Proactive Plan for Growth and Success 

Learning cannot take place in a vacuum, which is one of the reasons transitioning from school to the workplace is difficult. There are things you can teach which make sense in theory. However, as those familiar with the knowing/doing gap are aware – that which you know is not always that which you do – some things are best learnt through experimentation, through doing and through experience.

Why should you learn?

You gather your thoughts and make decisions, largely based on your own world-view. You make sense of things because of your experiences, your culture and how you’ve been nurtured. The more limited your world view, the less you are able to make sense of what you experience and the more insular you become, holding on to your truths.

It seems easy to argue for what happens if you choose not to learn.
To choose not to actively learn is to stagnate.
To choose not to actively learn is to settle for whatever is before you and just go along with the ebbs and flows.
To choose not to learn is, in a way, a form of giving up.

To choose to learn is to experience all that life has to offer, in rich complexity.
To choose to learn is to understand and accept fully, that failure will be part of that process of growth.
To choose to learn is to have a certain level of comfort with the uncertain and unknown.
To choose to learn is to embrace discovery and joy.

In simpler terms, when you learn, you bring the richness of your experiences and ideas to all the roles you hold. You learn to change as needed and more importantly, to adapt, which are prerequisites in the agile business environment we face.

So when should you learn?

Every day. When you are open to learning new things, to seeing things from a different perspective, you will then notice that there are many opportunities for learning throughout the day.

How shall you learn?

Strangely, despite years of formal education, you are not taught how to learn. How then do you go about doing so?

By exploring, by being curious, by opening yourself up to new experiences, by meeting new people, by reading. Learn how to learn. Every relationship you are involved in offers you countless opportunities for learning and growth. Every transactional conversation, exchange, argument, presentation or dialogue presents you with opportunities if you look for them.

A simple way to start

  1. On the backs of giants

Whatever your field may be, there will be thought leaders and influencers within. One of the quickest ways to tap into the goldmine of knowledge and insight is to simply ‘follow’ these influencers. Today, technology has brought them right into your living room because for a twenty dollar book, you can tap into all of the failures, experiences, wins and insights others before you have endured (without you having to live it).

For a handful of dollars (and there are quite a few books which are simply free), you can listen to world-class podcasts, teaching you every imaginable thing. Through social media, you can follow or like these figures and keep track of what they say, do and how they think about issues.

There’s no doubt that there is real work involved in keeping pace with all of this but the barriers which prevented you from accessing top business or industry leaders, for example, no longer exist because increasingly, many of them have either written a book, run podcasts, tweet religiously, speak at high profile events which are webcast, have webinars made or any combination of the above. You have the opportunity to access this.

Start small : Subscribe to the Human Resources Channel on LinkedIn Pulse which has more than  270,000 followers.

  1. Say yes to new things

It’s daunting to do something you may not be good at. You may fail and do so publicly. But you may also discover a passion or skill you never thought you had. Saying yes can, therefore, be quite liberating. And fun.

Start small : Say yes (or sign up) to one new thing today.

  1. Bite off slightly more than you can chew

They call them ‘stretch assignments’ for a reason –  these are projects or tasks, given to employees which are beyond their current knowledge or skill-base. These assignments typically place you in uncomfortable situations in order to learn and grow.

Start small : Do one thing more than you need to, on a current project. Do it so that it shines and it shines because of you.

  1. Enlarge your circle of influence

If you are in HR, it makes sense to connect with HR professionals. But there’s no reason to not reach out to top marketing, PR, finance, sales or any other kind of professional. These connections can start online and move to physical meet-ups if within the same city. Solid and long lasting friendships can also be built online.

As an HR professional, your aim is to support the business. You do that firstly, by understanding the business you are in – inside out – as well as the different roles within the organisation. Therefore, having a wide range of industry people in your circle can help draw a much clearer picture, not just of how your service or organisation sits in the wider context but also shed light on the complex nature of inter-relationships between the different roles within an organisation.

Start small : Reach out to some friendly faces in the other teams in your office, outside the circle you typically hang out with.  Small steps can begin with grabbing a coffee together. 

  1. Put yourself out there

Learning opportunities come to those who look for them. You can discover and gain awareness of various learning techniques but this will mean nothing if the desire is lacking.

                “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.   Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
     W H Murray in The Scottish Himalaya Expedition.

Start small : Listen attentively to conversations for you may discover things in alignment with the direction you are now taking, which you will now be in a position to jump on.

  1. Offer to help

By offering to help on a project, task or assignment, whether with a new team, colleague or leader, you immediately stand out.

It takes courage for someone to take on more than their share of work, especially in today’s business climate of cost-cutting, redundancies and getting more done with less. But the offer of help will bring the opportunity to discover and gain experience and skills within a semi-controlled environment wherein you are not wholly responsible for the project or assignment outcome.

Start small : If nothing else, volunteer online – you can set the pace and direction according to your skill-set  and preferences.

  1. Write

Writing is a skill, one which improves with deliberate practice.

It leads to better thinking and better communicating. I never really understood the meaning of ‘finding your own voice’ until I saw it in action myself. When I first began to write, it was hard and in fact, it still is. The process is arduous, time-consuming and filled with much disappointment and self-doubt. It may seem that words come easily to others and this may not be so for you.

But it does get easier if you put in deliberate practice. This is not just about quantity but the quality of such practice – a powerful concept.

Start small : Start with nothing (no concept, no website, no followers, nothing – you’ve nothing to lose). Get on to WordPress (or any other free blogging platform) and just start. There are lots of resources there to help you get motivated and begin).

  1. Read

Reading can be one of the most inexpensive habits or methods you use to learn because as mentioned earlier, you are able to tap into the insights of others, regardless of geography or industry, and learn from their experiences and what they share. It is a powerful tool at your disposal.

Read to learn, to grow, to think differently, to explore, to become better at who you are.

Start small : 1. Start with The Personal MBA, updated and expanded : Mastering Business without Spending a Fortune by Josh Kaufman. A free book from ChangeThis, it has been downloaded 64, 657 times.

  1. Get a free audio-book from Audible – choose from more than 180,000 audio titles.

I have written this for you, not your team or department. In an airplane, caregivers are reminded to put on their oxygen mask before attending to those in their care. In the same way, you need to tend to yourself first. You need to believe in these principles, in both mind and spirit, and there needs to be visible signs of this before you can begin the task of getting your team or organisation to become a learning organisation.

First, decide. Then carve out the time and mental space to make that happen. Follow that up with deliberate practice. Success will be contingent on :-

  • putting aside dedicated time. Get up an hour earlier if you need to;
  • the transactional activities you can either delegate or automate;
  • saying no to other things that come your way. You need to carve out the time, remember?
  • starting now; and
  • creating a routine, so that you begin to develop the habit and before long, it will be second nature.

What will you do now?
#learning #entrepreneurial #practice
Headline image of students courtesy Joseph Sebastian of freeimages.com


Author: Rowena Morais

​The HR Gazette's media partner, Vertical Distinct, provides the resources you need to develop your professional abilities and career to the fullest in either HR or Technology including articles and podcasts, white papers, and the latest surveys and reports. Rowena Morais is the Editor of VerticalDistinct.com. An entrepreneur and blogger, she has a passion for HR and Technology. You can connect with her on LinkedIn, Google+ or Twitter. ]

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