Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Lifelong Learning: Think Deep AND Broad

The most successful leaders are lifelong learners.   As their career progresses, they master new skills and seek out experiences that will build their capabilities in key areas.  For many people, career development efforts focus on building expertise in a particular area.  They want to develop specialized knowledge of high importance to their organization, and hopefully, of high value to other firms in the marketplace.  Becoming an expert in a valued domain is certainly a good career strategy.  However, it's not enough.  Lifelong learning should involve broadening efforts, as well as deep dives in your area of specialization.   

You should ask yourself:  What adjacent domains should I be exploring?  What societal and technological trends should I be learning about right now?  Beyond that, you should seek out interesting topics, even if they don't seem directly relevant at the moment.   Become a bit of a polymath.  Such learning will stretch your mind and expose you to new ways of thinking.   Moroever, broadening your knowledge to new areas will help you in conversations and networking opportunities.  Being able to carry on a conversation on a variety of topics is a very useful skill as your career progresses.  

Imagine that you have an opportunity, as a young employee, to spend tim at dinner seated next to the CEO.   Could you carry on a conversation on a range of topics?  Would you be able to speak intelligently about issues outside of your specialization?   Answering these questions affirmatively proves to be very important if you hope to advance successfully in your career. 

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