In a recent blog post, “Fully baked“, Seth Godin remarks on the difference between medical professionals and knowledge workers in their attitudes towards ongoing learning.
…knowledge workers often act as if they’re fully baked, that more training and learning is not just unnecessary but a distraction.
This is a really good point, and something I think about regularly.
Am I learning enough in order to continue getting better at what I do? Or, learning enough just to maintain the status quo while the world evolves and changes around me?
Of course, there are so many more ways to learn than reading a book or attending a course, so it would be limiting to measure learning progress solely by those yardsticks.
On the other hand, those are nice, straightforward KPIs by which to monitor your progress and demonstrate measurable achievement.
For example: I will read 5 books on x in the next 6 months; I will take 2 courses on y topic; I will become certified in z methodology or technology in this calendar year.
It’s also easy to become overwhelmed by the number of things you could or should be learning but are not. So much so, that you end up doing nothing or making little progress.
For example, I could do with learning JIRA better so that I could use it more efficiently; I’m not as strong at agile scrum as I’d like to be; and I could do with developing a more structured approach to managing a product portfolio. And this is just to start…
In the end, it’s better to start anywhere rather than do nothing, paralysed with choice. As my developmental requirements (and interests) change over the course of my career, I find myself introducing and switching out blogs and newsletters; my main sources of ongoing education.
I’ve also started listening to new podcasts on product management during my commute, so that I can more effectively use that time for learning.
It’s also easy to downplay and take for granted the things that you have learned over the course of the year.
For example, I recently took the plunge and migrated my Movable Type blog to WordPress (with a new hosting provider). So, now I know how to set up and manage a WordPress site and to migrate a blog with hundreds of posts to a new CMS.
At work, I learned how to set up an internal app testing program using TestFlight for iOS and Google Play Alpha/Beta Testing for Android (although we moved our Android internal testing over to Beta by Crashlytics, as the Google Play tool was too painful to use).
So, as Godin points out, to succeed it is necessary to adopt an attitude of life-long learning within your chosen field. You will never be “bully baked.”
That being said, how you go about learning is perhaps less important than that you do it at all. What have you learned recently?