Are You an Expert Learner?

I heard something the other day in an Innovation session put on by my company that has stuck with me ever since.  “It’s not about being expert knowers.  It’s about being expert learners.”

I believe that we, as professional marketers (and particularly strategists), have a responsibility to know what to look for and understand in how we can solve our clients’ challenges.  We know “best practices”, we know what questions to ask, we know technologies and mediums, and we can know that in order to be most effective, we should understand audience behaviors and attitudes.  We tend to know the right way to do things and the wrong way to do things and when we have no idea if we’re doing the right or wrong thing.  And many things in between.  Our knowledge and experience set a good baseline for everything we know.

But today more than ever, with the interconnected delivery and consumption ecosystem that we operate in, it’s unrealistic to know everything.  Evolution – in communication, technology, and consumer behavior – occurs every single day.  What is one way today could be another way tomorrow.  There’s just no way we can even pretend to know all there is to know, even about one particular subject/industry/vertical.  Malcolm Gladwell, in Outliers, wrote about research that discovered for someone to be considered an expert on anything, they had amassed 10,000 hours on that particular subject, or roughly 10 years of doing nothing else.  But it’s important to recognize that in that 10 year-span, they are not just doing.  They are continuously learning.  By the end of that 10-year-I’m-an-expert-on-X period, that person is also an expert learner. 

This is the cool thing about learning – we learn everyday, no only when we are “doing” whatever it is we “do.”  I suppose it just takes awareness and the wherewithal to recognize moments of learning and the filing away in the mind’s filing cabinet, assuming one wants to learn, first.  And this is me.  It’s more important to me to be an expert learner because the result of all that learning puts me that much closer to being an expert knower, not the other way around.

When it really gets down to it, do you like to learn?  Do you like to soak up information?  Do you like to be surrounded by people who you can learn from?  Do you think you can learn from anyone?    

If your answer to these is yes, I would encourage you to continue, regardless of how long you’ve been doing that thing you do.  If it’s no, come on, give it a try.

One thought on “Are You an Expert Learner?

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