Be a Learning Leader

How becoming a learning leader gives you the edge

Your school days may be in the past but there are numerous benefits to continuous learning. Here are a few ways you can become a learning leader.


Re-visit your field of expertise

The “use-it-or-lose-it” phenomenon involves a brain process known as “pruning” in which certain pathways in the brain are maintained (by learning and applying), while others are eliminated (by learning once, then never re-visiting). If you want new information to stick, keep practicing and rehearsing.

Confucius said “What I hear, I forget. What I see, I remember. What I do, I understand.”

The practical effort of doing connects mind and body, generating a deeper connection with the learning and a stronger likelihood of supporting behaviour. Perform your learning activity on a regular basis, practice with other people, immerse yourself in the experience.

Re-engage existing clients

Yes be the expert, but stay humble too. Open yourself up to new information and ways of being. Be curious to learning. Ask your customers and clients what works and what doesn’t. Listen to their feedback and learn from it. Allow yourself to not know everything, to get things wrong even. And let them know you are in partnership with them, that you hear them and that you value their opinions.

Re-fresh a tired brand

If your brand has lost its shiny newness look at what you and your team have been learning and see how you can share it with your key stakeholders – your customers, partners, suppliers. Start by translating the information into your own words to give it personality. This process alone has the added advantage of solidifying new knowledge in your brain, and so supporting your claims of expertise and boosting your confidence. Next, find a way to share what you’ve learned – consider offering a talk at an industry conference or a series of Lunch&Learn sessions at your clients, or submit an article to an online publication or blog.

Re-invent your offering

Want to access new markets? Approach with a beginners mind. When you look at your business as a newbie you can ask the seemingly dumb questions that may open up a previously unconsidered possibility. Need some help? Ask Grandma what she thinks.

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few” Shunryu Suzuki, Zen priest.

Gone are the days of school when learning, or rather being taught, was obligatory; when there were some subjects you loved and some you really didn’t. Now you get to choose (especially if you’re running your own business). Think about topics for which you have a genuine passion and you’ll be much more likely to retain the knowledge from that field and have the motivation to apply it to your business.

Re-energise your team

Learning enhances self-esteem, and encourages social interaction. Help your team to learn in more than one way by creating a rich sensory experience. Think of industry podcasts for auditory learning, then invite them to present back what they’ve learned to access verbal and visual learning. Learning from each other builds team empathy and inspires cross-fertilisation of ideas.

Increase connectedness with a team day where you all learn something new. To really break down barriers and get the creative juices flowing, step outside of your industry and tackle something totally different, like making music together, designing a feast, or learning a circus skill.

Re-define your industry

The process as well as the outcome of learning are key to keeping your mind sharp and healthy. If you work in a predominantly logic-focused industry, tap into your creative side with a visit to an art gallery at lunchtime, allowing a difficult problem to sit in your mind as you experience the creativity. The change of environment may allow new solutions to emerge.

If you want to make major breakthroughs in your field, consider how you can set aside industry expectations and challenge long-held assumptions that have kept you doing things a certain way. Luke Williams’ ‘Disrupt’ book offers a five step process for identifying disruptive business opportunities and successfully executing them. Check out his TED Talk.

If you’d like to challenge the long-held assumptions in your business ask Sarah about the Disruptive Thinking Workshop (scroll down to the relevant workshop).

First published September 2014 on Real Time Minds.

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