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Monday, September 28, 2020

The Importance of Continuous Learning for Business Leaders

Continuous learning is a popular topic in ever-evolving modern business culture. However, to experience the full benefit of this powerful professional mindset, leaders, managers, and employers as a whole must acknowledge the fact that learning isn’t something reserved for those further down the corporate ladder. It must also be embraced by those on the highest rungs of a business’s structure.

The Power of Continous Learning

With so many new concepts constantly making the rounds, it’s important to define what the term “continuous learning” means in the first place.

While it’s certainly up to interpretation on a certain level, continuous learning can be boiled down to a few specific principles, particularly as they apply to the business world. The core tenet behind the mindset is that employees are given a variety of different opportunities to make learning a part of their work.

This could come in the form of new responsibilities, training to use new software or even extracurricular education outside of the workplace. The important thing that makes something qualify as continuous learning is the fact that it helps to develop the talents, skills, knowledge, and abilities of an employee while they’re actively on the job.

Learning can obviously take place on an individual level as employees personally hone their professional education. However, the goal of maintaining a continuous learning mindset is often applied on a company-wide level as well.

Amazon, for instance, has realized its meteoric rise largely thanks to a continuous learning mindset. The company got its start selling books online — which was already ambitious enough back in the early 90s when the company was founded. However, since its inception, Amazon has ceaselessly looked for opportunities to grow. It built the largest online e-commerce store in the world. It expanded its originally book-centric business model into one that has invaded and adapted to every retail market on the planet. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling healthcare e-commerce products or pantyhose, Amazon has you covered. This is all largely thanks to a willingness from the company’s leadership to always be adapting, growing, and looking for new opportunities to expand their current product or service offerings — i.e. applying a continuous learning mindset.

The largest retailer in the world aside, continuous learning has had an impact on company cultures far and wide. For example, industries everywhere have been put into a state of flux as the technologically-driven 21st-century has unfolded. This has led many larger companies to hire a Chief Learning Officer to help manage the constant change. A CLO can focus on identifying meaningful change and then figuring out what programs, courses, training, or other learning opportunities must be offered to keep employees up to date with the perpetual flood of new technology.

Another example comes in the form of the sea of smaller companies that have discovered small-yet-effective ways to apply continuous learning to their business models. Many have learned that e-commerce and the digital economy are instrumental to long-term success — especially in the wake of the coronavirus. They’ve flocked into the online marketplace in droves, only to find that simply creating a website isn’t enough. They must also keep up with digital transformation trends in areas such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and 5G technology. 

In other words, rather than simply trusting to a “build it and they will come” mentality, they must continually learn about tech trends and then find ways to adapt their e-commerce sites accordingly. This can be as simple as updating to a trendy new look or as complex as reformatting to a single-page site or integrating a chatbot. Either way, small companies must keep that continuous learning mindset to ensure that they’re aware of what is needed in the here and now.

The breakneck pace of change has, at times, even become so intense that keeping up with new tech on a small business budget requires shifting focus from updating to straight-up reinvention and innovation to remain viable over the long-term.

The point is, whether it’s Amazon, one of its competitors, or a tiny mom-and-pop shop on the corner, continuous learning has become part and parcel of the modern business model.

Why Leaders Should Embrace Continous Learning

The question that naturally arises at this point is why leaders, in particular, should embrace a continuous learning mindset. There are several answers to the question. For example, a leader who embraces a continuous learning mindset can: 

       Inspire their employees to follow suit. Continuous learning is a discipline that requires patience and fortitude. By demonstrating it regularly, a leader can show their employees the long-term benefits of continuous learning.

       Overcome the challenges of remote work. In the post-COVID-19 era, looking for remote growth opportunities has become a challenge — one that continuous learning can help to overcome.

       Help employees identify how to enact change. A good leader knows how to think of others and find beneficial solutions, even when it comes to helping them learn and grow.

       Show that the learning journey is never complete. Leading in the effort to continuously learn is a key concept in developing teamwork, empathy, and a tenacious desire to never give up.

Guiding Employees into a Continous Learning Culture

Learning to think differently has always been valued in the business world. However, doing so in the context of continuous learning can take a bit more effort. Always striving to learn and grow isn’t glamorous. Nor is it always exciting.

However, if leaders can cultivate and demonstrate a continuous learning atmosphere in their workspaces, they can help to develop a culture that is always willing to adapt and change. This isn’t just helpful, either. In the modern era, adaptation has become a critical aspect of long-term survival. This is true both for businesses as a whole as they learn to shift to the evolving needs of their customers as well as individuals who must maintain their skills and knowledge to remain active contributors to their company’s success.

Either way, though, it falls to the leaders to shape and direct the course of change through the adoption and application of continuous learning regularly.

About the Author: Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but technology and business topics are his favorite. When he isn't writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.

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