Lifelong Learning Isn’t an Option but a Necessity in Business
The world is in a state of constant change. Some changes happen swiftly and others are gradual in nature. Change can be revolutionary or minute. It is essential for a professional to adapt the philosophy of becoming a constant learner if they hope to be the best version of him/herself. The combination of talent that makes up a company, when individually adhering to a constant learning philosophy, creates a talent pool to drive innovation and profitability.
This article will cover some of the benefits for pursuing lifelong learning and the subsequent impact it has on business.
The Importance of Consistent Learning
A consistent learning philosophy is important on an individual and organizational level and it impacts an industry as a whole. On a personal level, the more knowledge, skills and capabilities an individual possesses, the better equipped that professional is to perform optimally. This can lead to superior work, pay increases and promotion opportunities. On an organizational level, a company where the sum of its parts is made up with superior talent has an advantage over competition. The byproduct of a superior talent pool is increased value to the customer which in turn can equate to higher profit margins, increased market share and better cash flow from operations. From an industry perspective, talent within an organization that is always learning possesses more variables in which to innovate. It is these innovations that can change the scope of an industry for the better.
Take a look at Amazon for an example of innovation through consistent learning. Amazon initially began as an online book retailer. Hence the logo with the swooping arrow from A to Z. It competed with the likes of Barnes and Noble, whom at the time was the market leader. Amazon later expanded into other products outside of the literary vertical. The talent at Amazon innovated, mastered supply chain management and diversified its scope of offering throughout the evolution of the company. This is not possible without continuous learning. As a result, in 2015, Amazon surpassed Walmart as the United States most valuable retailer measured by market cap. They are doing it again with the acquisition of Wholefoods and even more impressively, guaranteed one hour delivery times.
Amazon built this empire with internal talent and sourcing external executives at major competitors. Without consistent learning, a company like Amazon would likely never be where it is today. Remember, when Amazon began in 1994, the internet was still an unknown quantity. Innovation and continuous learning were paramount to Amazon becoming the giant it is today.
Decisions Are Based On The Known
A leader is limited by three things. 1) The number of known variables in a decision equation, 2) their known decision frameworks and 3) the company’s capabilities to execute the decision. Each one of these three key areas is drastically impacted by learning. In addition, the elements are fluid. This means that they are consistently changing. A decision framework that worked 10 years ago may be irrelevant or less successful today. The variables that impact a decision, both external and internal, are constantly evolving. The company’s ability to execute is dependent on its growing and evolving capabilities. An industry leader has positions itself to know as many variables as possible, possess a host of decision making frameworks, and places the organization in a position to execute on many levels.
Creating a Learning Organization
A learning organization is one where the group IQ exceeds that of any individual’s IQ. When a company employee individually learns and then transfers this knowledge across the team, the organization benefits. When this is done by each employee throughout the ranks of the organization, the company is infinitely more equipped to innovate, adapt to change, increase profitability and scale the company. To learn more about the framework of creating a learning organization, click here. To learn more about how an executive team creates an environment conducive to creating a learning organization, click here.
Internal & External Learning
Both internal and external learning initiatives are required to be an industry leader. Internal learning is the training a company provides to develop its workforce. External learning is the information, capabilities, and knowledge gained from external resources and research. If a company solely limits itself to internal learning, their workforce will predominantly regurgitate what the company has taught them. As a result, the organization in many ways may become stagnant. A company that fosters a culture which promotes external learning in addition to internal training, positions the organization to learn and evolve. It is the combination of external influences with internal standardization that give the company operational stability with the ability to innovate.
The United States has evolved in its business industries. Our country which used to be the world leader in manufacturing is now highly comprised of service based industries. Over two-thirds of US based businesses are in the service sector. Internal talent affects a company’s ability to drive value to its clientele and shareholders. Talent that pursues consistent learning and then shares that knowledge with internal peers positions the organization to gain competitive advantages over competition, drive increased value to clientele and increase profitability for shareholders. The old adage that knowledge is power has never been truer than it is in today’s business environment.
Learning doesn’t and shouldn’t be limited to higher education institutions but should occur on a daily basis through multiple channels. Business evolution often moves faster than curriculum development and what is being taught in schools today may be less relevant in five to ten years. Am I advocating not going to school? Absolutely not. I just graduated with my MBA in 2017 after being out of school for twenty years. The point is to not limit your education and learning solely to higher education institutions. Learning as a lifelong pursuit takes many forms and isn’t limited solely to business, but to all aspects of life.
Author: Rob Comeau is the CEO of Business Resource Center, Inc., a business consulting and M&A advisory firm. To learn more about Business Resource Center, Inc., visit them on the web at www.biz-rc.com.