Keep Learning, Or Become Dust!

If you stop and think about it, the world has dramatically changed from what it was when you were a kid - even if you are still young, a student, or just left school and in your first job, you can still look back 5-8 years and think, wow, things have changed. The speed of innovation has got faster. It is easier to build and develop than ever before, and the cost of doing things, everything really, has dropped in price. Sometimes, you look around at other people in your organization, or organizations you admire, and might wonder - why did that guy/girl get a promotion and I didn't?

If you leave nepotism and other such old school barriers to progress aside, it usually comes down to knowledge ... you can say experience as well, but really at its core, experience also brings knowledge. From another viewpoint, we can have knowledge, but no experience on how to apply that knowledge in practice - it's the difference between knowing the theory and having the ability to apply the theory ... both are valuable, but one is more valuable than the other.

If you need to get a job done, you don't seek out the least qualified person for the job, you seek the best person. That person will usually have some skill, knowledge, and experience that singles them out from the rest. When you need to ask advice, do you go to the most junior person in the office or the person who has the most knowledge and experience of the subject you need assistance in? ... it's clear that the knowledge/experience combination wins every time.

When we started out in our careers, we went to school, we learned the theory and then we went into the world and gained experience of application of this theory - sadly, a lot of people then stop. They simply stop, and never open a book or research anything new again, unless they absolutely have to. I can think of very few careers where knowledge stands still - surely in every aspect of life things are changing and evolving constantly, as new understandings are gained, new perspectives uncovered and new advances made.

If we don't want to be left behind then, if we don't want to be simply gathering dust in the corner of an office like an unused laptop who's battery has finally decided not to recharge, it behooves us to keep learning, to keep improving ourselves. 
There is a method in business called 'Plan-Do-Check-Act' - it is the continuous improvement cycle. It is a simple framework that allows us to take something from its very simplest stages, and keep building and improving on it until it is a well oiled machine that has no equal. Once we get from the start of the process to the end, we simply start again ... and thus we get better and better all the time. This process should not be kept only for business and organizations however, it should also be applied to our own personal growth and learning. We should set ourselves goals, and constantly strive to expand our minds and improve our skill-sets.
Microsofts Brad Smith said '40 years ago, every elevator had a job inside, a person pressing buttons for you. Today, this doesn't happen, and why should it?  In 40 years' time, we will think it equally curious that there used to be a job in every taxi when there are so many driverless cars and drones roaming our streets - jobs are changing, and businesses need to make sure they don't fall behind'.

As cloud technologies add ever increasing power to things that used to be costly and time consuming, in particular AI and Machine Learning, we need to ask ourselves - will our business/organisation/job, still be relevant in 10/20/30 years time? ... there is one thing for which there is no doubt - the world in which we live and work in the future, will be a very different place to today.

If we stand still, we are in danger of going the way of so many professions that have ceased to exist over the years - it is more critical than ever, that we make a personal plan to continuously improve ourselves and constantly strive to add more value to our workplace through a combination of learning, acquisition of knowledge, and application of that knowledge through experience.
I have often heard the response when I talk about continuous learning ... but it's expensive, it costs too much money, I have no time! ... not true. If you take as little as 10 minutes a day to learn something new or practice a skill, you will have invested an amazing 60 hours (over two working weeks!) of time in the period of 12 months. And the cost? ... it's free, and only costs you an internet connection. 
So, let's get started. Go and join the Microsoft Academy, for free, and learn new skills and position yourself for the future!

                                                               happy learning!


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