Why Is It Essential To Be A Lifelong Learner?
Self-directed learning: how and why
As a knowledge worker, my main job is to invest in myself, which means it is a job to keep me updated in my area of expertise. I do this by constantly learning and improving my skills; Failure to do so would be a disservice not only to myself but also to the organization to which I belong.
If I don’t keep evolving, it will have two effects:
- Take the risk of becoming irrelevant and obsolete; and,
- To let down my colleagues / team members who are dependent on my performance and thereby make them less valuable to the organization.
In their book Evidence-Informed Learning Design, Mirjam Neelan and Paul Kirchschner talk about obsolescence. Thijssen and Walter quote that obsolescence can take various forms, but it is always related to work. The three types of obsolescence and their causes are:
- Technical obsolescence: due to a lack of or declining technical skills.
- Economic obsolescence: when employment in a particular sector is shrinking.
- Perspective obsolescence: caused by a person’s outdated views and beliefs.
The bottom line is that we all have a tendency to get out of date and we must do everything we can to stay one step ahead of the game.
Who is a Knowledge Worker?
A knowledge worker is someone who works with information or data and whose main asset is knowledge. Peter Drucker coined the term “knowledge work”. In his book, The Landmarks of Tomorrow, he explains that “there is coming an age when people will create value with their minds rather than their muscles.” He believed that knowledge was a more important economic resource than land, labor, or monetary wealth, which led to a “post-capitalist society”. And shortly thereafter, Drucker stated that “increasing the productivity of knowledge workers is the most important contribution management must make in the 21st century.”
Why is it important to be a lifelong learner?
“When you’re a knowledge worker, you get paid to use your brain, so it’s in your best interests to make that brain as big as possible,” says Shane Parish of Farnam Street. Not only do we have to stay up to date, but we also have to keep getting better at what we do.
Continuous learning is something you owe to yourself and is an investment that you are making in yourself. No matter what field you are in, it is good for you to get better at what you do. This affects your development as a person, not to mention the value you would also bring to the organization of which you are a part. As with any investment, this involves effort and over time. Since you are the most important person to yourself, you need to make sure that you are committed to your own development.
Two things that stand in the way of maintaining the status quo in terms of skills and knowledge are automation and the durability of knowledge. The explosion of knowledge means that the shelf life of what you know is diminishing. The speed at which technology is growing is fast and if you don’t keep up you will become redundant. Then automation threatens too. Every routine activity runs the risk of being replaced by automation. All of this requires keeping up with the latest developments.
Becoming a lifelong learner is the only way out. To paraphrase what Mirijan Neelan and Paul Neelan say in their book, “This includes both self-improvement, which means you keep your job now, and self-development, which is for the future, well, and the second, that You don’t become redundant. “
How you do that?
Self-directed learning (SDL) is the motto. “You don’t rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your system,” says James Clear. Let’s make it clear that this is an ongoing task, which means we need to intervene in the long run. That is why we concentrate on installing the systems. We are aware that the results will only show up after years. It will be a long time before we can benefit from the investments we are making – which makes it all the more important for us to set up the systems. We need to create routines that become a part of us and carry us through times when we are not up to the task of hard learning.
This means that we as individuals have to take responsibility for our development into experts. This must be viewed as a journey, and often a long one. While we can count on other people’s help and guidance, it is entirely up to us to make sure we complete the journey we have set out to do. Stoke the fire of intrinsic motivation to stay tuned until the goal we set out to be achieved.
4 steps of the SDL process
Catherine Lombardozi outlines four steps in the SDL process in her paper “Self Directed Learning: Essential Strategy for A Rapidly Changing World”:
- Identify your learning needs; in this case the area in which you will be an expert.
- Plan a strategy for gaining the knowledge or skill you want.
- Study the resources, people, and materials that will help you become an expert.
- Rate and track your progress towards your goal.
The first step is relatively easy as one often experiences a trigger that shows us the learning gap. The logical consequence of this is to measure where we are and where we want to be. Once the gap has been identified, the next step is to see how that gap can be closed.
Next, we determine what resources, people, and materials are required to get us where we need to be. We also need to create a clear plan with a timeline. The hard part is sticking to the plan and having the discipline to overcome our natural laziness. We also need to bypass all barriers we encounter and avoid all kinds of distractions. Catherine continues that there are two qualities that will help us on our way to becoming experts:
- Self-efficacy: the belief in one’s own ability to learn and grow
- Motivation to learn: a combination of intrinsic motivation, openness to experience, curiosity and persistence
One aspect that we need to consider in our workplace today is Parkinson’s law. The law says, “This work will expand to fill the time available to complete it.” This means that it will be difficult for us to learn unless we schedule time for in advance learning a.
Just as success creates success, so does the acquisition of knowledge and know-how work in the same way. The more we know, the better our long-term memory is able to link and understand the new information with what we already know (prior knowledge). The more we know, the easier it becomes to learn more. The knowledge gained is now better organized and more integrated in our memories. This helps us to improve both our existing knowledge and our ability to acquire new knowledge. The more we develop specialist knowledge in our field, the better we learn what we need to further improve this specialist knowledge.
So now we know that knowledge is not just accumulating, it is growing exponentially. It is fair to say that the more expertise we gain, the more mutual the relationship between knowledge and SDL.
As a knowledge worker, it is therefore essential that we continuously develop ourselves and become experts in our respective fields of work – because it is a personal responsibility.
- Mirjam Neelan and Paul Kirschener, Evidence Informed Learning Design
- Thijssen J and Walter E, Identification of Obsolescence and Related Factors in Older Workers Employee
- Shane Parish, Farnam Street fs.blog
- Catherine Lombardozzi, Self-Directed Learning: Fundamental Strategy for a Fast Changing World