“I’ve spent almost the last 15 years researching why we are so bad at learning and what we can do about it,” states Bradley R. Staats. And that’s primarily what prompted him to write his book, Never Stop Learning: Stay Relevant, Reinvent Yourself, and Thrive.
Further explaining, Staats says that when it comes to learning, we are our own worst enemy and we often work against ourselves:
- Instead of doing the things that will help us learn, we often do just the opposite.
- We are unwilling to take risks that might lead to failure.
- We obsess about outcomes while neglecting to examine carefully the process through which we achieve them.
- We rush to answers instead of asking questions.
- We look to fix irrelevant weaknesses instead of playing to our strengths.
- We treat learning as an individual exercise and neglect the important role played by others.
- We end up solving yesterday’s problems too late instead of tackling tomorrow’s problems before someone else does.
To help you become a true dynamic learner, the book presents eight essential elements. Among them are:
- Valuing failure.
- Reflection and relaxation.
- Being yourself and willing to stand out.
- Building a T-shaped portfolio of experiences—deep in one area (or more) and broad in others.
- Recognizing that “I don’t know” is a fair place to start—if you quickly follow with a question.
“Learning is so vital today that we can think of ourselves as living in a learning economy,” says Staats. “We can’t just be knowledge workers; we must also be learning workers.”
Staats recently shared his answers to these two questions:
Question: Organizations and leaders often obsess over results, but you argue that process is far more important. Why?
Staats: Understanding the process is vital for learning. How did we get from point A to point B. Only when we understand the steps can we not only repeat them, but also improve and evolve them. The problem is that we assume that good results mean that we followed a good process and that bad results mean we followed a bad process. That just isn’t the case though. There are lots of factors that affect whether we get a good or bad outcome. Dynamic leaders recognize that they must focus on the process, not just the outcome.
Question: If readers took away one thing from reading your book, what do you hope it would be?
Staats: I think that the book has an optimistic story to tell. Although it is true that the bad news is we are our own worst enemy when it comes to learning, that is also the good news. If we are the problem, then we are also the solution. The person we have the most control over is ourself. And so, if we can understand why we take the actions we take, then we can start to design processes to help us learn successfully.
Staats is a professor at the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School. He works with companies around the world to develop their learning and analytics strategies.
Thanks to the book’s publisher for sending me an advance copy of the book.