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Learning to Grow

The process of developing and growing a business is one of the most significant learning experiences you can engage in.

Greg Fisher

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Most people learn by doing, and sometimes failing, in the process of developing their business. These lessons are often costly. You can speed up the process of learning and avoid some mistakes if you are more intentional and strategic. Being a busy entrepreneur is no reason to stop learning and you will probably never be the business person you could be if you don’t push yourself to learn. The more you learn, the more successful you are likely to be. There are four simple things that an entrepreneur can do to foster their learning: reading, interacting, researching and experimenting.

1. Reading.

The more you read the more you will bed down the fundamentals of running a sustainable business and feed your mind with creative ways to grow it. The types of books you should read include: “how to” books sharing the fundamentals of business management and growth; entrepreneurial stories and biographies to provide inspiration and anecdotal learning; and macro economicand current affairs books, magazines and newspapers to keep abreast of major trends and economic events. If you just can’t find the time to read, experiment with audio books. These can be purchased and downloaded from the Internet onto an MP3 player so you can turn any car trip or exercise session into a learning experience.

2. Interacting.

The entrepreneurial journey can be a lonely one; many business people slave away all day without any meaningful interaction. It is for this reason that an entrepreneur should: strive to get into a network with fellow business owners in which they can share experiences, get advice and nurture a support base; and develop a relationship with a more experienced business person who will serve as a mentor. Being part of a network and having a mentor can serve as an excellent learning tool because you are forced to reflect on your experiences, share them and extract key insights. It is also valuable to leverage off the experiences and insights of others.

3. Researching.

The Internet has opened up a whole new world to entrepreneurs, making information readily available. Use the Web to uncover industry trends, competitor information, academic research and expert opinions. Recent developments on the Web mean that it is no longer just documents and text that are available as key learning resources; you can now download podcasts or watch videos via the Internet. There is a wealth of valuable information available if you just learn how to search effectively.

4. Experimenting.

The entrepreneurial journey is an opportunity to learn through experimentation and failure. Planned experiments can provide an entrepreneur with wonderful insights into their business, its customers and potential innovations within the business. The key is to limit the cost of failure. Being in control of your own business is an opportunity to experiment with a new sales approach, try a new combination of products or vary your work approach to see the effect it has on your overall business. One of these experiments may create the breakthrough you need to build competitive advantage.

Jonas Ridderstrale and Kjell Nordstrom (Funky Business) said it best: “We control the most critical resource of our times: our own brains. Power is transferred from the capital investors to the competence investors. The uneducated, humble, loyal employee is a thing of the past.” Power now belongs to the educated, insightful entrepreneur.

Greg Fisher, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Management & Entrepreneurship Department at the Kelley School of Business, Indiana University. He teaches courses on Strategy, Entrepreneurship, and Turnaround Management. He has a PhD in Strategy and Entrepreneurship from the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington in Seattle and an MBA from the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS). He is also a visiting lecturer at GIBS.

Company Posts

Rethinking Learning In The 21st Century

The changing world of work has disrupted the three elements of the traditional ‘career’: Expertise, duration, and rewards.

Wits Plus

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Vital Stats

Traditionally the concept of a ‘career’ was considered to include three elements:

  1. A career represented our expertise, our profession, and ultimately our identity.
  2. A career was something that built over time and endured. It gave us the opportunity to progress and advance.
  3. A career gave us financial and psychological rewards. It made life meaningful and paid us enough to live well.

The changing world of work has disrupted all three elements: Expertise, duration, and rewards.

A career can now be as long as 60 years; at the same time, due to rapid advancements in technology and the changes that bring about in the workplace, skill sets can become obsolete in as little as five years.

Increasingly, companies need to rethink the way in which careers are managed and learning opportunities are delivered, and many have already begun to overhaul their career models and L&D (Learning and Development) infrastructure in line with the digital age.

Related: Your Investment In Knowledge

Employees’ learning behaviour is also changing. In the past, employees were able to obtain the skills required for their career early on and as a once-off; now, the career itself is a journey of learning, up-skilling, re-skilling and continuous reinvention to remain relevant and to thrive in the changing world of work.

Older employees who studied at a time where most of one’s learning occurred prior to entering the workplace, find themselves working alongside millennials who place greater value on learning and progression rather than on earning potential as a first priority.

Eighty-three percent of the respondents surveyed in Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends survey say their organisations are shifting to flexible, open career models that offer enriching assignments, projects, and experiences rather than a static career progression.

However, in today’s fast-paced business world, even if companies are restructuring L&D delivery, no one is going to make you engage in a strategy that is essential to your future success – continuous learning. You will have to take the initiative yourself.

Noted self-help expert W. Clement Stone, in his many writings on this topic, recommended that one spends anywhere from a half-hour to two hours a day in study and thinking time. This tireless dedication, combined with an insatiable curiosity, will equip you to excel in the future world of work. What’s more, learning new skills and knowledge can be fun!

The good news for both companies and for employees is that an explosion of high-quality content and digital delivery models offers employees ready access to continuous learning. The Wits DigitalCampus offers a range of accredited and fully online short courses to support your continuous learning.

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Company Posts

Your Investment In Knowledge

When you understand the value of knowledge, in this world where technology is rendering previously expensive products or services much cheaper (and even free), it’s just a matter of getting more of it. Dedicate yourself to constant learning!

Wits Plus

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Vital Stats

Most people spend their lives collecting, spending, and worrying about money — so much so, in fact, that they say they “don’t have time” to learn something new.

However, some of smartest and busiest people in the world — Barack Obama, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates — all spend at least one hour a day on deliberate learning. They see what others don’t: That learning is the single best investment of our time that we can make. As Benjamin Franklin said long ago, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

When you understand the value of knowledge, in this world where technology is rendering previously expensive products or services much cheaper (and even free), it’s just a matter of getting more of it. Dedicate yourself to constant learning!

One of the very benefits of ongoing technological advances is that it empowers an accelerated and personalised learning experience that puts the learner in the driver’s seat. Modern learning harnesses the speed, power and ubiquity of digital capability. Online platforms, software and mobile devices means that the traditional hurdles to learning — such as income, status and location — have just about disappeared. Knowledge can now be gained by anyone with the passion to pursue it and the commitment to stick with it.

Related: Building Customer Relationships

We are only at the tipping point of what future learning technology can deliver. Artificial intelligence (AI) will transform all aspects of human capital management, including learning. Technology-enabled learning will be immediate and directly relevant to the task, for example:

  • personally tailored learning content and experiences delivered to you as and when you want or need them
  • chatbots and virtual assistants can source and categorise the information that you need for optimal decision-making
  • augmented and virtual reality simulations can provide a multi-sensory experience to speed up and embed learning.

Additionally, social connectivity already enables user-generated content to outpace and outstrip what traditional education and learning institutions can deliver.

Knowledge may be the new money but, unlike money, you don’t lose it when you use knowledge or give it away. Transferring knowledge anywhere in the world is free and instant. It’s fun to acquire and it makes your brain work better. It helps you think bigger and beyond your circumstances. It puts your life in perspective by essentially helping you live many lives in one life through other people’s experiences and wisdom.

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Entrepreneur Today

How Are South Africans Feeling About The Work Environment?

A new study reveals individual fear that their skills will outdate and a growing need for lifelong learning.

Andrew Johnston

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A research report by MasterStart has found that just 23.8% of working South Africans believe their current skills will keep them employed in ten years’ time. With the burgeoning Fourth Industrial Revolution accelerating the pace of change in the world of work, most South Africans are looking to ‘future-proof’ their careers. And for 95%, lifelong learning is the key to retaining relevancy.

Related: 15 Of The Best And Most Unusual Online Courses For Entrepreneurs

Based on a survey with a sample group of over 1000 people across varying demographics and industries, the MasterStart South African Workforce Barometer uncovered that – while artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA) are on the radar – other factors are currently seen as more immediate factors impacting job retention.

Andrew Johnston, CEO of MasterStart says, “Our workforce is clearly concerned, but positively, our research revealed that people are aware that frequent upskilling and reskilling will aid them in remaining relevant and employable.

In a country where unemployment is an ongoing issue, it’s imperative that we empower people to future-proof their careers by making lifelong learning opportunities continuously accessible in order to bridge critical capability gaps and compete with global standards.”

Some pivotal findings in the report included:

  1. It’s tough out there: 80% of the sample believed the job market to be tougher now than it was ten years ago. People in media and marketing especially agreed with this (92.9%), along with those in the manufacturing (87.9%) and financial services (87%) industries.
  2. Why’s it perceived as so tough? Both macro and micro factors were listed, including the political and economic climate, increased competition, fewer employment opportunities and rapid change.
  3. Age and lack of skills are the biggest barriers: While age was referenced most frequently as a barrier to future employment – especially for those over 50 – in the 18-24 and 25-34 year old brackets, lack of skills was seen as the most prohibiting factor.
  4. People in IT and tech felt most secure about their skills: Collectively, just under half the sample felt they’d been held back by lack of skills. 30% of participants in IT and tech were completely confident their skills would survive the ten year test. Those in other industries were noticeably less secure.
  5. We’re not yet comfortable sharing our workloads with robots: Close to a quarter of respondents felt AI had already impacted their industry, but just under 20% said they were completely comfortable sharing their workload with robots or processes automated by AI. Surprisingly, 18-24 year-olds had the highest level of unease about this.

Lifelong learning is the best way to remain relevant

Whilst the Barometer found a workforce in a somewhat sombre mood, positively, people were putting plans in place to learn further to acquire the skills they need.

It was good to see that 80% of respondents were planning to study in the future, with self-enrichment being the primary motivator (66%), followed by the aspiration to get further and be promoted (54%) and the desire to keep abreast with industry-related changes (41%). 58% of people favoured online learning, and a number had already completed courses.

Johnston says, “This shows a workforce that’s committed to continuously learning the new hard and soft skills that’ll entrench the adaptability required to survive the breakneck pace of the workplace.”

Those that had already studied listed the ‘big gains’ as being:

  • Tangible results: like a salary increase, promotion, skills (to be more marketable), more experience and more opportunities.
  • Higher performance: like better knowledge, keeping up-to-date, better understanding of the way the workplace works, faster completion of tasks, and having to employ fewer people as they had the skills themselves.
  • Better motivation and soft skills: like being better at dealing with people, the ability to explain concepts to clients, and overall improved communication skills.

Johnston concludes, “Given the competitiveness of the market – which will only increase with the rise of automation – having a sought-after skillset is the best way to guarantee ongoing job retention.  This means using learning to get to grips with AI and RPA in order to build efficiencies and one’s overall value-add.”

He says we also need to consider providing alternate adult education programmes to give young people the best chance of gainful employment, “It’s important we make ongoing online learning materials easily accessible in ‘snackable’, bite-sized pieces to make learning easier.”

Lastly, he believes a lot of learning is up to corporates, “Providing ongoing executive-level education grooms great leaders and provides turn-key or customised solutions to bridge big capability gaps to foster greater efficiency, productivity and profitability. Our research shows that South Africans are hungry to learn – so companies that provide this opportunity will have a greater chance of talent retention, and attraction.”

To find out more, access the MasterStart South African Workforce Barometer report here.

 Related: 6 Free Courses That Can Help You Become A Successful Entrepreneur

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