If you’re not learning constantly, you’re moving in reverse at the speed of change. 

Think about it.

While I’m not sure I can prove the physics in that statement, I’m confident in the principle. We talk about creating learning organizations where we’re able to learn and adapt faster than our competitors. In reality, organizations don’t learn—people do.

And for each of us to truly accelerate learning, we have to fight the inertia of the routines that dominate our lives.

Learning demands effort, much like exercise.

It’s time to renew your membership to your mental gym.

Here are 10 ideas to help you to accelerate learning this year.

Ten Ideas to Accelerate Learning

1. Adopt a Beginner’s Mindset

Revive your child-like sense of curiosity by adopting a beginner’s mindset and asking, “Why?” and “How?” constantly. 

Children are nature’s learning machines—they don’t assume anything and wonder about everything. Strive to suppress your assumptions and look at situations with a desire to understand what’s behind them. Ask questions constantly. 

2. Practice Self-Reflection by Journaling

Taking time to think deeply about your work, actions and outcomes opens a world of new thoughts and ideas. Reflect on “Why?” and “How?” and challenge yourself to identify areas to strengthen or do more of, and you’ll be amazed at how this stimulates self-learning. Journaling is the easiest, lowest cost continuous improvement tool available to all of us.

3. Listen So Hard You Sweat

Listening is a power-tool for learning.

Unfortunately, most of us aren’t great listeners. We’re great interrupters or thought-formers while others are striving to make a point.

Quit forming your answers while someone is talking and genuinely lean-in to the conversation and work to understand their perspective and then build your thoughts. You’ll be surprised at what you learn. You’ll also be surprised at how hard it is to focus and listen. 

4. Read or Listen Constantly

Read constantly. If you don’t have time to read, listen constantly. Leaders are learners. Great leaders are constant learners.

There’s never been a time in human history where content has been more readily available in the form of books in all kinds, as well as podcast interviews with remarkable thinkers. 

5. Search for Foreign Topics

Take a course far out of your field of expertise

I’m great with education in all forms. However, there’s something particularly compelling about learning about topics you are interested in but wouldn’t typically pursue. Thanks to the world of MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses), you can learn physics or coding or any number of subjects from some of the world’s great instructors. (A place to start your search is via the listing of Harvard EdX free courses.)

6. Teach Something

Preparing to teach a subject demands research, building a body of evidence, exploring alternative viewpoints, and then piecing it all together into a compelling learning experience. All this before you gain the questions and insights of the individuals in front of you.

7. Write Something

Whether it’s a monthly note to your team, an industry article, or a regular blog post, the act of writing offers a powerful learning experience. Much like teaching, writing pushes your brain in new places and challenges you to articulate your ideas in fresh ways. It costs nothing to start publishing on any number of platforms. 

8. Argue for the Opposition

A good number of us are quick to engage and argue our perspectives. Instead, pause, think through the viewpoint opposite of yours and try and make a case for it. The act of thinking through and articulating views different from yours pushes you out of those well-worn grooves and opens you to new ideas.

9. Look Beyond Your Industry for Ideas

Chances are, the trigger events—the convergence of technologies and business models—that will change everything for your firm are happening somewhere outside of your industry where you’re not looking. Strive to develop as an anthropologist and visit some places far-removed from your business and industry. 

10. Experiment. Constantly.

Mostly, we learn by doing. The idea of writing or teaching might seem exciting or foreboding, but until you put it into action, you’ll never know. Visiting a tradeshow in a far-away industry might demand a challenging discussion with your boss; however, what if you come back with just one idea to put into action that will change everything? Regardless of what you do, do something that forces you to think and act differently in pursuit of learning.

The Bottom-Line for Now

Most of us fill our days with activities that fit neatly into our routines. Learning requires us to jump-out of those well-worn grooves and draw upon all of our senses as we take in new environments, ideas, activities, and individuals. The alternative is to stay stuck in place and move in reverse at the speed of change, and that’s not a great plan. 

Wishing you nothing but success as you learn and grow in the new year!

Art's Signature