We are learning from each other…
I begin this post by asking you a simple question: How much do you remember about what you learnt in college/university? And, how much are you applying in your current job to fulfil your KRAs?
Speaking for myself, I’d say very little. Apart from the English grammar, basic math and some science, I have forgotten pretty much everything else. Don’t remember a single theorem either, nor any of those formulae and circuit diagrams.
Instead, I fondly remember my talented teachers though, and the rich experiences and the lovely memories of high school and university!
When I took up my first job in 1989, I was a wide-eyed assistant in a computer lab. There I was, straight out of a six-month computer course, wondering how to apply all that newly gained knowledge. But I learned through observation, watching what my more experienced colleagues were doing in the lab. I poured through thick text books, made notes, watched technicians, and had many conversations with my bosses and colleagues. Six month later, I was wiser and more useful. Later, I attended industry conferences and networked with people to learn about the latest industry trends.
And that’s how things went as I moved on to new jobs and new workplaces. So it was truly cognitive learning. I learned at the workplace and applied my knowledge there. It also involved a lot of self-study and reading.
What you learned yesterday will no longer be useful tomorrow.
When the Internet came along we had another learning channel. Today, we have Coursera, Edx and numerous MOOCS. And of course YouTube and Google (the quickest channels to learn something new).
But then something else started to happen. I found that others wanted to learn from me: everyone from bosses to interns. And I willingly shared my knowledge and voluntarily conducted customized courses for colleagues at work: social media skills, speaking & writing workshops, language skills, voice coaching etc.
But I also had a few unpleasant experiences over the years as people began to take advantage of my willingness to share knowledge. I am being a bit opinionated here, so feel free to disagree.
Here are a few examples.
1. As I started engaging with people in the industry, I found that peers wanted to learn from me too. When pitching for a business deal, I would receive a volley of questions, often from a group of people. And there would be no outcome from those long meetings and conference calls.
INFERENCE: I figured people appear to show interest in your project, not because they want to invest in it, but because they want to learn everything about it — and apply it for their own benefit.
2. I once had a boss who would take me into a room and grill me with some really tough questions. Some questions were not related to the job.
INFERENCE: I figured this boss wanted to learn from my vast experience. He was also testing me, to gauge my intelligence. My only regret: I could not learn as much from him!
CONCLUSION: I am now cautious and wary about people’s intentions. Knowledge sharing and learning should be mutual and not one sided. And yes, the more you learn the better your chances of success. What you learned yesterday will no longer be useful tomorrow.
So keep on learning!
No people were mentioned and no direct references to companies were made in this post.