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Ongoing Learning

Harnessing New Skills Horizons

New skills are essential to remain competitive — and there’s more than one way to get them.

Juliet Pitman

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Ongoing Learning

Successful business people are those who have the ability to adapt to an ever-changing business environment, something that’s facilitated by new skills sets. It’s true that what got you where you are today won’t be enough to take you where you want to be tomorrow — ongoing learning is essential if you want to keep abreast of the latest business trends and information and give your business and career the best chance of success. Skills and knowledge are as much a differentiator as great business ideas or a top-notch product.

For most people the obvious route to learning is through structured courses at recognised learning institutions, but continuous skills development can take a variety of different forms. Business coaching, networking and online learning can all contribute to a rich learning experience, complementing traditional forms of learning and providing you with a diversity of theoretical, practical and ‘soft’ skills.

Institutional Learning

South Africa has some outstanding business schools with affiliations to international universities and institutions. A full-time business degree is a luxury few can afford, but most business schools recognise the impracticality of business people studying full-time and also offer part-time degrees, diplomas and short courses.

Few things can match classroom lectures in providing a well-rounded education experience — they enable you to interact with lecturers and fellow students and ask questions in real time.

Choose courses that will provide you with both knowledge and skills to enable you to go further in business. Have a clear idea of what you want to get out of your learning experience — do you want certain practical skills, a more in-depth and nuanced understanding of business or a qualification that will open new doors? This should inform the kind of course and institution you choose.

Online Learning

The Internet has opened up a world of learning that surpasses international barriers and allows learning to take place almost anywhere. Sam Paddock, managing director of online education company GetSmarter, points out, “Online learning is inherently flexible, which provides entrepreneurs with a chance to fit learning interventions into their hectic schedules.” He adds that provided the online education model is ‘high-touch’, incorporating regular proactive guidance and support, even the busiest of people will successfully complete online courses. For GetSmarter, ‘high-touch’ means a high level of proactive and personal contact with students, something that can approximate an in-lecture learning experience.

In addition, online courses enable entrepreneurs to gain access to many more learning opportunities than would usually be the case with contact-based learning, which is limited by their physical location. “When it comes to specialist skills this sort of access to education, which is independent of physical location, becomes critical for entrepreneurs,” Paddock explains.

Business Coaching

Business coaching is one of the fastest-growing professions in the world — and with good reason. It provides business people with (typically) one-on-one targeted assistance focused on solving specific problems or achieving particular goals.

“Business coaching won’t ever necessarily replace traditional modes of learning and nor should it, but it can complement them by providing business people with real implementation skills,” says Harry Welby-Cooke, master licensee of ActionCOACH South Africa. Welby-Cooke believes that while many business people have the necessary knowledge to take the next steps in business, they don’t know how or even where to implement it effectively.

“A good business coach provides an important outside perspective.

“They don’t collude with you or allow you to hide from the things in your business that are lacking or require your attention. So if you’re not good at finance and you typically ignore that side of your business, the coach will force you to look at it, acquire and implement the necessary financial knowledge to bring this aspect of your business on track,” he explains.

A business coach can also be a spurring and challenging influence, as the president of the Cape Town chapter of the International Coach Federation, Axel Ritterhaus, points out: “For start-ups, coaching can provide the self-confidence and stamina needed to get through the first hurdles and later on can help you to refocus on the business when you might otherwise get overwhelmed by the different tasks and demands of running a company,” he says.

“Coaching can help executives to be better leaders. A coach can be a sparring partner who challenges you to take things to the next level, someone who is honest with you and provides you with real and valuable feedback that you can use.”

Networking

While less formal than institutional and online learning, as well as coaching, networking can also provide you with valuable skills. Apart from providing you with the opportunity to bounce ideas off other entrepreneurs, it can help you to build your team skills set.

MBAconnect.net founder, Colette Symanowitz, explains, “If your networking efforts enable you to meet and partner with other entrepreneurs who are strong in the areas where you’re weak, your skills will complement each other and your collective skills as a team will grow stronger. This applies to professional, technical and soft skills.”

But she adds a note about the importance of seeking out people who have different skills to yours: “Be careful not to partner with others who you gravitate towards simply because they are similar to you, as this can be destructive for your business. As difficult as it may be, in your networking efforts it is vital to seek out partners who are your skill-set opposites and who you don’t naturally click with.”

Choosing a Partner for Education

Who you learn with is as important, and indeed will affect what you learn, so choosing the right education partner is critical. Whether you are selecting a bricks-and-mortar institution, an online education academy, a business coach or a networking group, look for the following:

  • An established reputation: Organisations of quality have a solid reputation for a reason. Beware of fly-by-night organisations and remember that education doesn’t come cheap, so you usually get what you pay for.
  • Recognised accreditation: Relevant to formal qualifications, accreditation is an external stamp of approval, providing assurance that the education you are getting meets a particular standard.
  • Endorsement from others: If other people in your field have found the institute, society or association helpful and valuable there’s a good chance you will too.
  • Depth of learning: The educators and courses on offer should provide you with a depth of learning.
  • Practical and theoretical skills: Business is about implementation so a quality institution will provide you with real-life and theoretical business knowledge.

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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Ongoing Learning

15 Great TED Talks For Sparking Creativity (Infographic)

From graphic designers to painters to writers, these TED Talks are bound to give your creativity a boost.

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Need a creative booster? One of your best resources is just a click away. TED Talks provides a variety of inspirational and creative videos from some of today’s most successful people.

Whether you’re bursting with ideas or experiencing a creative block, these talks will help provide you with new approaches and perspectives on creativity. In author Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED Talk, “Your Elusive Creative Genius,” she pushes people to find their own “creative genius” and to avoid getting discouraged from reaching their maximum potential. Internationally recognised sculptor Janet Echelman’s “Taking Imagination Seriously” TED Talk is about finding your true voice and letting your imagination do the work.

Through TED Talks, artists, business people, entrepreneurs, scientists and more share their different perspectives and experiences on various subjects. While there’s no one way of doing something, each seek to inspire and help cultivate the traits you need to be successful.

Related: 8 TED Talks To Help You Overcome Your Fear Of Failure

To get your creative juices flowing, here are 15 of the best TED Talks for sparking creativity, according to online auction site Invaluable.

1504278153_ted-talk-infographic

Related: 4 TED Talks To Help You Deal With Stress And Anxiety

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Improve Your Study Skills For Maximum Results

There are many reasons why you might have a need to improve your qualifications upgrade your skills.

Wits Plus

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There are many reasons why you might have a need to improve your qualifications upgrade your skills: You may want to qualify for promotion, consider making a career change, or maybe you just want to be sure that you stay abreast of new developments in your industry.

Whatever your reasons for wanting to improve your qualifications, part-time study will always be challenging. Developing efficient study skills, or learning strategies, become very important. ‘Study skills’ are the strategies and methods to manage learning efficiently and also make up an important set of transferable life skills.

Related: Employers Are Paying Freelancers Big Bucks For These 25 In-Demand Skills

Retrieving what you know

One of the often overlooked strategies is retrieval practice. This is a strategy in which calling information to mind subsequently enhances and boosts our learning. Deliberately recalling information forces us to pull knowledge “out” and examine what we already know.

We often think we’ve learned a piece of information, only to realise that we struggle when we try to recall the answer.

It’s precisely this “struggle” or challenge that improves our memory and learning – by trying to recall information, we exercise and strengthen our memory, and we can also identify gaps in our learning.

Most of us are probably already using retrieval practice. For example, you might ask questions aloud or use flashcards and complete quizzes and exams as a way to “practice” what was learned – these are all examples of retrieval practice. The difference, however, is that retrieval should be used as an active learning strategy, not just as an assessment tool.

How does it work?

When we think about learning, we typically focus on getting information into our heads. And it does feel like these methods work: if I cram, and reread, and study my notes, I feel fairly confident that I know the information.

The problem is that these methods only lead to short-term learning. Have you ever thought about material covered earlier in the semester, only to find that you’ve forgotten most everything? We assume that when information comes to mind easily we’ve learned successfully!

Related: 11 Skills That Will Make You Super Successful

However, memory researchers have demonstrated that the opposite is true: when information comes to mind easily and feels fluent, it’s easy to forget. In other words, just because we learn something quickly and easily does not guarantee we’ll remember it.

Challenging learning, on the other hand, leads to long-term learning. Retrieval practice makes learning effortful and challenging. Because retrieving information requires mental effort, we often think we are doing poorly if we cannot remember something. It feels like progress is slow, but that’s when our best learning takes place. The more difficult the retrieval practice, the better it is for long-term learning!

Are you ready to take on the challenge of combining work and study in 2018, and practice new learning strategies?

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Company Posts

Finance For Non-Financial Managers

Are you looking to demystify financial jargon, participate in financial discussions and play an active role in the achievement of your organisation’s financial objectives?

Wits Business School

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Logistical details:

  • Venue: Wits Business School, 2 St David’s Place, Parktown
  • Course dates: 13 – 16 November 2017
  • To Apply click here.

Wits Business School Executive Education presents a four day course on: Finance For Non-Financial Managers.

Who is it for?

Professionals such as lawyers, architects and quantity surveyors; and executives or senior managers with non-financial portfolios who seek exposure to financial analysis and decision making.

How will you benefit?

You will be exposed to the intricacies of the balance sheet and income statement, and how to assess an organisation’s financial health, which will enable you to perform efficient financial planning.

Read: 15 Free Online Courses That Are Actually Worth Your Time

How will your organisation benefit?

By having managers, executives and professionals able to discuss financial matters effectively with financial specialists will ensure that the organisation improves its returns.

What will you learn?

Beyond the analysis of financial statements and the assessment of financial risk you will learn about:

  • The impact of different methods of costing
  • The meanings of the various financial ratios
  • Evaluating investments
  • Assessing cash flow
  • Among many other exciting topics.

Read next: An MBA for Free?

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