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BW Businessworld

Learning: The Winner’s Mantra

Every day, every interaction, every individual, whether in personal or professional lives, can enable learning. It is for those who live in the quest to grab the opportunity to learn, and imbibe what each of life’s experience teaches, to reap the benefits!

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Every time that someone tries to teach another, except of course when there may be an exam syllabus to cater to for grades that folks believe will get them somewhere, people usually only pick that part of the teachings that clicks with them. It is what stays with them, it is what resonates. Other portions, while staying with people, missing the resonance, are generally not what are aspired to be practiced or developed. They may stay in memory, but not inspire the conviction to follow. This may happen because people may not inherently believe in them or perhaps the ‘teacher’ may not be viewed as someone who understood their circumstances, thought processes or even compulsions. Or perhaps, they may not have the patience of going all out to understand what it is that the teacher is trying to teach or understand the perspectives shared.

Well-intended as the learner may be, sometimes the teacher may go far beyond what the former’s cognitive abilities could absorb at one time. Pedagogy is not everyone’s forte. Hence, guides, mentors, coaches may not always be able to undertake guidance at the pace at which learners can practice and assimilate. This is probably the reason why ‘live projects’ are as much sought after alongside courses and programs as are the latter themselves. They allow leaners to put their learning into practice while understanding the subject with the guidance of their coaches.

For several people, having obtained the relevant degrees that could get them into that much-sought after profession is assumed to be the beginning of the application of what they have learnt.. and the end of learning per se. Much as the anticipation of moving into the realm pf applied learning invigorates, several people find themselves disillusioned in two ways. Firstly, there are areas within their jobs which require them to not necessarily use what they may have learnt. For example, for someone who has a mechanical engineering degree, the assumption is that they will make use of their degree in working on developing mechanical engines. Having joined an engine development and manufacturing organization, such people find themselves in jobs that may (for example) be related to the sale of the engine for an equipment. This may (for example) require them to focus on ensuring the right part is selected and the documentation undertaken in agreement with the customer. Folks may beyond a point find this to not entail a hundred percent of utilization of their proficiency developed at the Engineering school.

Secondly, it may also happen, that there are newer areas that they are expected to learn on the job. In the above example, it would be about customer engagement or the processes and systems that a company may deploy to create the bill of materials, invoicing, and so on.

The point that people need to understand is that learning will be a continuous process. It does not end with the acquisition of a degree or several of them. We need to have an open mind with regards to the sources from which we can learn. Peers, juniors, seniors, customers, competitors and all our stakeholders within our organizations and outside, have an innate ability to enable us to become a better version of ourselves.

Whether it is because of additional responsibilities that seniors may charge us with even when they may know that one does not have the requisite experience to deal with the issue. Or at other times it is via questions that juniors or even peers may ask, in their quest to understand better a part of their or your function or responsibility. The first is an instance in which one is thrust upon the unknown with a belief that they have it in them to figure it out- to learn and execute.

The second an example of the push that is exerted with questions that may seemingly be with obvious answers but allow one the opportunity to reflect and establish the efficacy of the understanding that may have existed so far. In fact, for several industry veterans who, having established their command over their areas of expertise, are invited to speak at forums, the opportunity to gain from the interaction with their audience, is as much as for those who listen to them. Every session, every interaction brings with it a new facet of the subject, a deeper dive into that which may have already assumed to be mastered.

Doctors, lawyers, accountants, and so on and so forth- every field one thinks of, works hard at keeping themselves relevant and abreast with changes that may be taking place via new research, new experiments, new regulations, new cases, and what have you. Its similarly the case in the corporate world. Experiences add to the repository and richness of expertise one brings to their work as much as the zeal to learn and experiment.

Organizations engage in learning and development programs for their employees, enabling building of expertise in specialized functions or topics. Whether via in-house faculty or by tying-up with institutes established for the purpose. The intent being to ensure there is a constant upgradation of abilities and of skills, that employees possess. To stay ahead of the curve, organizations understand that it is important that employees do not stay at skill levels that they may have been hired at. For those spending a significant amount of time dedicated to their work, it is the responsibility of their employers to ensure they are given an opportunity to expand their repositories.

But, not just organizations, it is equally the responsibility of employees to ensure they push their boundaries and move out of their comfort zones. Human potential is tremendous. It is unexplored to its maximum. What is clear is that each person has it in them to go beyond what their qualifications or designations may prove them to be.

Qualifications, roles, number of years of experience are all ways in which one provides validations to what may otherwise be a vast, innate ability. One cannot blame organizations in using these metrics and criteria to determine the ability of people to perform roles. The question is on whether individuals themselves work with the assumption to be limited by what these external affirmations signify or are they willing to go beyond these shackles and ensure that the continuous learning process ensures that they constantly prove themselves to be much more than the stamps they carry.

Every day, every interaction, every individual, whether in personal or professional lives, can enable learning. It is for those who live in the quest to grab the opportunity to learn, and imbibe what each of life’s experience teaches, to reap the benefits!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Bhavana Bindra

A graduate of Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Bangalore, Bhavana joined the corporate world starting with Consulting at The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), followed by almost 13 years in the Manufacturing & Engineering sector with the US MNC Cummins India Limited. Setting up and running businesses with expertise in the areas of leadership, strategic thinking, sales and marketing, Bhavana believes learning is continuous and experiments worth the time spent. This explains explaining her stint at a start-up in the Data analytics space, as well as her last role in the Chemicals industry as the Managing Director of a Dutch company in India.

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