Life-long Learning

If there was only one single recommendation I would give to any new entrepreneur starting his carreer:  “life-long learning”.

We often talk of the need for “continuous education” in the context of total quality and of personal improvement, but we rarely speak of it as a governing principle of life.
I would argue that separate and apart from our jobs, we all have a moral obligation to learn and progress. And life-long learning is not so much about big campaigns and programs, academic degrees and credentials, as it is about short daily study sessions and small doses of relevant on-the-job training. Daily or periodic reflexions on lessons learned which will find application in the future.

I quote some lines below from Stephen Covey on the subject which is enlightening:
“The principle of balance is key to continuous learning. I recommend a balance between personal and organizational development; between current job-related needs and future requirements; between industry-related learning and general education. Make sure that your approach is systematic and based on feedback to you personally and professionally. Your learning should balance theory with practice, arts with the sciences.
Also make sure that your learning and development are motivated by a desire to be of greater service. Such “virtuous intent,” as Adam Smith called it in his book The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), is central to moral entrepreneurism. Far too many organizations exploit a person’s knowledge and training; likewise, many individuals exploit the training and education opportunities offered by their organizations. Such “hit and run” activity is expensive for both parties. So there is a mutual responsibility. Organizations make a tremendous investment in the learning and development of human resources. I believe that individuals who take advantage of corporate training programs ought to stay with the company long enough to supply returns on the investment.
Adam Smith talks about the “virtuous energies” that must be exercised by individuals and organizations. Both must feel a mutual responsibility for each other. If the free enterprise system is to function properly, said Smith, “all economic relations must be based upon internal individual virtue” and “a mutual caring one for another.”

My guess is that about 20 percent of the present work force is obsolete. And in another 10 years, another 20 percent could be obsolete if we don’t overcome the cultural norm that education ends when our schooling ends. We need a deep commitment to both personal and professional development on a continuous basis.
The individual must take personal responsibility for professional development, and not put it onto the organization. The proactive person will see the organization as a
resource, also as a source of a feedback regarding what learning is most relevant. But the individual must make it happen.
As proactive individuals take more responsibility for their own learning and professional development, they begin to see the organization as a supplementary
resource. They do not transfer primary responsibility to the organization. They do not expect their organizations to freely provide all the learning and training needed for them to excel in their jobs; however, they take full advantage of relevant training when it is offered, and they pay back their organizations by making significant value-added contributions.
A business can only do so much; the rest is up to the individual. As individuals, we ought to take into account the needs of the organization in our personal and professional development program; otherwise we may be developing for the wrong reason or the wrong time. Our personal development should be relevant to the economy, to the industry, to the company, and to our current assignment.
But we also need to develop in a general sense to avoid becoming obsolete if our company or function becomes obsolete. If our development is too job related, we are more vulnerable to market forces. While we need to be competent specialists in our current jobs, we also need to start and maintain a personal “general education” program.
I believe that is best done in one- to two-hour sessions every day of our working life. We also need about one day a month in training that is systematic and conceptually aligned not only with our present job, but also with our future contribution. I schedule myself for training about one day a month, and I also set aside one to two hours every day for general education.”

 One of the ways to keep me abreast of new developments was to join an executive club which purpose is to provide the executives a monthly seminar on topics of interest to them. Even now well after my retirement I keep on learning by attending the monthly seminars organised by Association Progres du Management.


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