The day we finally receive our university degree feels like the end of a long journey. With our education finally finished, we are ready to take on our roles in the world of business. Little do we realize that, not only is the journey not over, but it has actually just properly begun.
Let’s explore why continuous learning is something all business leaders should strive towards, and how it impacts both them and their teams.
Stagnation equals irrelevance
We no longer have the luxury of staying behind the times, as the times will simply steamroll over us and leave us behind.
Think of any company in any line of industry that is at the top of its game. Google, Tesla, Amazon, Function of Beauty, Sony – what they all have in common is innovation and a readiness to do things differently.
Even as a leader in a smaller company, you still don’t have the luxury of doing things like you always used to, because that would mean allowing your competitors to get ahead of you. Only by continuing to learn and expand your and your team’s knowledge will you ensure your continued success.
Expectations and personal limitations
Imagine you had a member of your team who simply didn’t improve. Imagine they stayed just the same as they were on day one in every respect: performance, productivity, skill levels. How would you feel about them in a year or two?
We expect the members of our team to grow, to keep improving and working on themselves. It is then only natural (and fair) to expect the same from ourselves. Of course, learning will happen naturally during the course of our daily tasks – but in order to thrive, we must continually and consciously work on learning.
Evolution and revolution
Our brains are incredibly adaptive, and they have an innate capacity to evolve with every new piece of knowledge we acquire. Not only that, but continued learning can also improve our cognitive capabilities throughout our lives. The more we learn, the faster our brains become at transmitting different information.
We know that learning and engaging our brains in new ways is one of the best methods to prevent all kinds of degenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease.
If we are to reach new heights at work, we need to keep exposing our brains to new kinds of stimuli – and this exposure shouldn’t be limited to the workplace.
Let’s take a look at different ways to keep continuous learning alive, and how they can impact performance and productivity:
Learning a language
Learning a language rewires the way our brains work. In fact, bilingualism is thought to improve mental processes, and those who speak more than one language from a young age are often more creative, open-minded, and able to examine different concepts with more ease than those who only speak one.
When learning a new language at any age, you experience these same benefits and keep your brain sharp and young. Not to mention, you open your mind up for new ideas and cultural nuances that can help you acquire a new worldview.
From a business perspective, learning a new language can help open the company up to new markets and collaborations. If you are wondering which language might be the best choice, we would suggest learning Spanish. That’s because Spanish is generally not as difficult as other languages to learn, but the benefits are numerous.
Working on a motor skill
Even if your work has nothing to do with fine motor skills, engaging in crafts like knitting, woodworking, making miniatures, or anything at all that requires you to use your hands is a great way to reinforce the neural pathways between your fingers and your brain.
This will not only ensure you type faster and more accurately, but it will also give your brain and entire upper body a boost, as the nerves engaged in the process run the length of your arms and are quite numerous.
You can easily set up a monthly craft class for the team – it’s not only a way to bond; it’s a way to learn and grow.
The more unread books you own, the better, says Umberto Eco. And while it may seem counterintuitive, the fact is that knowing there is so much more to read and experience keeps you hungry and motivated to keep working and improving.
Establishing an office book club (whether fiction or nonfiction, work-related or not) will help your employees read more, engage with each other, and discuss all kinds of different and new subjects that they may not have been aware of previously.
Of course, there is that most obvious aspect of continuous learning – improving the skills and knowledge base that complements the specific role of each member of your team, as well as yourself.
I’ll say it once again: while improvement, growth and learning are all expected, businesses don’t always encourage or facilitate them well enough.
Establish regular in-house workshops, where either an outside expert or someone from the company teaches others about something they are good at.
Provide subscriptions to magazines and courses your team members find interesting and useful.
But, most importantly – openly talk about the importance of continuous learning. Foster and encourage it at every step. Lead by example and offer praise and assistance when you notice someone is working on their knowledge and skills. Not because that will make them better at their job and lead to a promotion, but because it will make them better humans.
The benefits of continuous learning are numerous. Introduce some of these practices, and you’ll soon experience them for yourself.
Sarah Kaminski is a freelance writer and social media marketer from San Diego, California. She works with a number of small businesses to build their brands through more engaging marketing and content.