We’re turning the corner to the end of the first month of 2013. If you haven’t already, it’s high time to pull back and think about how you are going to build the value of both yourself and your business in 2013. It will come as no surprise that I think active, conscious learning is the key in both cases. Here are three essential rules to keep in mind as you think about learning in the coming days, weeks, and months.
1. Stop thinking “training” or “continuing education” when you hear the word “learning”
Sure, sign up for those conferences and training programs, Get them on your calendar now so that they don’t get trumped by busy-ness. But remember that most of the learning you do (north of 80% by some estimates) – is through experience. Through doing. Through interaction with peers and friends. Through reflection. Basically, through stuff that it is very hard to get much of even in the best seminar, Webinar, or conference session.
A lot of this happens naturally, but to really maximize learning, you have to plan for some of it. Set assign time daily for reflection. Think about who it makes sense for you to connect with and/or follow (e.g., on Twitter, by reading blogs) and schedule some time weekly to keep up with and cultivate your network. Consider implementing approaches like “after action reviews” in your business. These can be really powerful for capitalizing on the experience you naturally gain as you release new products and services and gain new customers.
I cover many of these areas and more in 10 Ways to Be a Better Learner. You can get most of that for free on the Mission to Learn blog. Or, if you prefer to get all of the content in a more organized fashion you can grab a Kindle version or print version, both of which include and expand upon the blog content.
2. Tune in and listen (You can’t learn what you don’t know)
That may seem a bit backwards at first glance, but the idea is that we often don’t know what we don’t know. We need to tune in, listen to discover where we may need to invest some of our learning energy.
I’m a fan of using basic market research and dashboard techniques both for personal learning and for gathering business intelligence. My RSS reader, Zite, Twitter (in combination with Hootsuite) are all invaluable tools to help me stay on top of topics – and discover new topics – that are critical to my personal growth and the success of my consulting and research business.
Along similar lines, one of the practices I advocate strongly in Leading the Learning Revolution is becoming adept at testing your ideas out in the marketplace. There are many ways to do this, but some of the fundamentals are developing a presence on social networks and forums where you can ask questions, using landing pages to test for conversion, and leveraging paid search tools like Adwords as a way to rapidly run tests. (For that last one, I highly recommend listening to my interview with Howie Jacobson and Kristie McDonald, co-authors of Google Adwords for Dummies, 3rd Edition.
3. Teach your customers and members well
An essential part of building long term relationships with prospects and customers these days is to help them makes sense of the “world” in which your products and services fit. This goes well beyond training them on your offerings, or even offering classes in general, if that happens to be your business. What are you doing to help them identify and better understand issues that could impact them? How are you pointing the way to best practices or innovative solutions?
Blogging, social networks, videos, Webinars and Webcasts – all of these should be in the toolbox of most businesses these days. You don’t want to show up only at the moment a customer or member is searching for a specific product, solution, or class. You need to be there all along. You need to be a part of the overall context, the ongoing conversations in which the customer participates.
So, if you haven’t done so already, put some serious thought into what you will give away in 2013 when it comes to educational content. Think about the role you can play in being a trusted curator for your audience. (A concept Tom Kuhlmann of the Rapid E-learning Blog discusses in my recent interview with him.)
Think expansively about what it means to learn. Tune in and listen to the broader environment in which you live, work, and do business. Become a teacher and a leader of learning for your customers and members. Make progress on implementing these practices in 2013, and you will have a banner year.