10 Ideas to Kickstart a Curious Learner Culture - GrowinBytes Ed. 106

Published by Linda Rolf on 5/29/2018 and updated 11/17/2021

When I was growing up, my mother told me it was rude to read my book at the breakfast table. Even to a 7-year-old that seemed like some lopsided logic. My father was sitting across from me comfortably buried in his morning newspaper. With my treasured Nancy Drew book unjustly banished from the table, I resigned myself to reading the ingredients on the cereal box. For some reason, that form of table reading was acceptable breakfast-time learning.

Thinking about my own love of reading and learning made me curious about the reading habits of my professional network.

  • What do they read?
  • How frequently?
  • Why?
  • How does their need-to-know stack up against the likes of curious learners such as Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger, Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs?

  • Why Curiosity Is a Good Thing

    Today companies are continuously challenged to be more nimble, responsive and adaptable to forces beyond their control. Often these influences are out of alignment with the company's strategies.

    No surprise, right?

    It is an open, growth mindset that separates the thriving company from one clinging to misaligned hopes. Curiosity means saying "what if". A lot.

    How do companies become "what if" thinkers?

    Enter the Expert Generalist

    I discovered this expert generalist phrase recently and was absolutely delighted. At last, the words to give purpose and context to the avid learner.

    Orit Gadiesh, the chairperson of Bain & Co., coined the expert generalist term. She describes it as:

    "Someone who has the ability and curiosity to master and collect expertise in many different disciplines, industries, skills, capabilities, countries, and topics, etc. He or she can then, without necessarily even realizing it, but often by design:

    1. Draw on that palette of diverse knowledge to recognize patterns and connect the dots across multiple areas.

    2. Drill deep to focus and perfect thinking."

    Historically, companies have emphasized specialization with deep skills in narrow knowledge areas. Today these specialties are becoming more granular as the knowledge fields expand. Companies can often be left with an increasing number of deeper and narrower disconnected knowledge silos.

    This connect the dots capability is an essential asset that growth-minded companies must acquire.

    GrowinByte 11

    10 easy ideas to kickstart a curiosity culture that inspires "what if we tried this" thinking.

    • 1. Identify the learners in your organization.  It’s likely they are the quiet introverts who are anxious to contribute. Quiet doesn’t mean reclusive. They just need to be encouraged.

    • 2. Set aside daily thinking time. Give yourself permission to step away from to do lists, email and busyness excuses. Thinking is where creativity and innovation begin.

    • 3. Commit one hour a day to deep reading. This means books and publications with thoughtful substance. Social media doesn't count.

      "In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn't read all the time – none, zero." – Charlie Munger

    • 4. Share and actively discuss what you have learned with a group of peers who will challenge you.

    • 5. Create an active learning culture in your company. Encourage everyone to participate, inspire and share knowledge. (More on this in upcoming GrowinBytes.)

    • 6. Implement a learning competition. (More on this too.)

    • 7. Take notes. Highlight thoughts that resonate with you. Write in the margins. Start a word list.

      "Marking a book is literally an experience of your differences or agreements with the author. It is the highest respect you can pay him."— Edgar Allen Poe

    • 8. Learn through writing. Expand your notes into ideas that can become "what if" discussions.

      Charlie Munger says, "You have to have a temperament to grab ideas and do sensible things. Most people don't grab the right ideas or don't know what to do with them."

    • 9. Commit to openly considering unrelated idea connections. If you haven't read Blue Ocean Strategy, this book will jump-start your thinking.

    • 10. Build and continuously learn from a trusted group of thinkers outside your comfortable knowledge zone.

    My early love for reading has only grown over the years. And yes, more than a few of the 85+ books I devour each year are at the breakfast table.

    I hope you enjoyed your snack!

    GrowinBytes snack

    Linda Rolf is a lifelong curious learner who believes a knowledge-first approach builds valuable client relationships.

    She is fueled by discovering the unexpected connections among technology, data, information, people and process. For more than four decades, Linda and Quest Technology Group have been their clients' trusted advisor and strategic partner.

    Linda believes that lasting value and trust are created through continuously listening, sharing knowledge freely, and delivering more than their clients even know they need.

    As the CIO of their first startup client said, "The value that Quest brings to Cotton States is far greater than the software they develop."

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