March 5, 2019

Creating a sense of urgency to spark continuous learning

Disruption, technology, digitization, and big data — whenever we hear these terms, we’re likely to feel some sense of urgency. Whether as individuals or as organizations, we feel we must act soon or we’ll face the consequences. We feel this because we’ve seen the dramatic effects of these big changes in our world.

Just look at Kodak and Blockbuster – one moment, they were the leaders in their industry, but just like that, they were disrupted.

Learning has another field that is being disrupted, but we haven’t felt the full effects of this change yet. For a start, learning can no longer be seen as a luxury that only those with time and money can afford. In today’s world, the thing we can no longer afford to do is to sit back and do nothing while the world around us changes rapidly.

Gone are the days where learning ended after we left school or when the working day was over. These days, we must engage in continuous learning and push the boundaries we’ve set for ourselves.

The first and most obvious reason for this is that the world is changing fast and the business landscape can be anyone’s game. Just because businesses have been thriving for decades, that doesn’t guarantee them a spot at the top.

If you look at the business leaders who have steered their organizations toward success, they all have one thing in common — they’re always doing something new and adapting to changes. This comes from their own learning or the lessons they have absorbed from the mistakes and failures they’ve faced.

The second reason is our own need for growth and development. We are all born curious and natural learners. The moment we stop learning is the moment we stop fulfilling our purpose. No matter what you aim to do, whether it’s becoming a business owner or working with top companies, you need to learn continuously to grow.

Without learning, we cannot expect to know any more than we already do, understand or grow beyond our own limitations. Today, we cannot depend on what we already know, we need also be able to unlearn what is no longer relevant to make room for more relevant information.

The third reason is that the advancements created by humans can now replace humans themselves. Without learning, the inventions we have today wouldn’t be possible. But many inventions, especially those rooted in technology, have become so advanced that they take away human jobs. This is as true in the current Fourth Industrial Revolution as it was in the first one more than two centuries ago.

As jobs are taken away, new ones open up to the who have acquired the skills needed to fill them. Research and studies can help us understand and predict what those new jobs and skills are. We can then expand our knowledge and prepare for the future.

The fourth reason is that agility is needed now more than ever, and the only way to practice this is through learning. Think of your own brain as if it was a muscle — the more you consistently work on it, the stronger it gets and the more agile you become. Likewise, if you do not consistently work on it, you lose your edge and your brain is no longer as sharp as it once was.

The fifth and final reason is that many people still have misconceptions about learning. Many still confuse studying and learning. The crucial difference is that learning isn’t limited to the conventional types of education we’re so familiar with. In short, studying is acquiring knowledge, learning is applying it.

Because of misconceptions, people don’t realize how urgent learning is, making it even more crucial to understand its true meaning. Learning isn’t about forcing yourself to acquire information or skills; rather, it is about feeding the natural hunger you have to grow and make sure you’re able to stay ahead in the changing world.

Additionally, learning can happen even through conversations and networking or even through free video tutorials on YouTube. You cannot limit yourself and put yourself inside a box because, in this era, learning is possible anywhere at any time.

In sum, the urgency to nurture continuous learning is increasing. We are no longer able to excel by depending on our experience alone. As our world changes, everything in the business landscape changes with it. Experience isn’t enough because it may no longer relevant. You must learn continuously so that you can keep up with change.


Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC (formerly APMGroup) Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Center. She can be reached by email at arinya_t@seasiacenter.com or https://www.linkedin.com/in/arinya-talerngsri-53b81aa