by Farbood Nivi, CEO of Learnist
Are you a knower or a learner? Knowers solve problems by pulling entirely from their experience, whereas learners take time to study a problem before prescribing a solution.
As a former educator, I understand the importance of a formal education. But learning should not end when you leave school. Letting your curiosity fizzle out and settling into the debilitating knower mindset can put your business at risk of plateauing. You should strive to remain a learner for life.
Learners continually push their successful businesses forward. They’re natural leaders because they’ve either collected the knowledge needed to answer complex questions or are willing to study hard to find the right solutions. And when you continue to pursue new learning and memory challenges, you will make your brain healthier in the long haul.
Continued learning means more than taking an extra course here and there. You should prioritize learning in your everyday life to become a more capable leader and to build up the skills needed to accomplish your goals.
Here are four ways to consciously make learning a part of your life:
1. Surround Yourself With Intelligence.
To capitalize on the successes and failures of others, identify industry experts and leaders you can learn from. For years, I’ve treated Apple as my own personal case study. When I recently read about the way Apple runs its meetings, I started thinking about my organization in a totally different way. By learning what’s worked for Apple, I was able to make positive changes in my own company.
Beyond reading about and applying lessons from world-class companies, I’ve tried to surround myself with smart people. When possible, collaborate with multiple intelligent people to arrive at the best solutions to your toughest problems.
2. Make Connections Inside and Outside of Your Industry.
You might think you can solve any business problem by simply putting your head down and working hard. But by taking this approach, you fail to tap into the brilliance of other people inside and outside of your sector.
I make time to connect with people in my industry, even if I have to sacrifice some of my work time for it. When I get coffee with another entrepreneur, I almost always learn something important about my market or get tips for solving business challenges such as managing employees, organizing work or even fundraising.
You can also pick up new and better practices by connecting with experts in other industries. My head of product and I were able to spend time with the product team at Braun, the manufacturing company known for its shaving products. Even though we come from the software sector, we learned about developing a design language to unify our product design efforts. Studying companies outside your industry can lead to eye-opening perspectives.
3. Question Your Assumptions.
We all make assumptions. Knowers immediately take action on their assumptions, while learners question their assumptions regularly to avoid basing decisions on faulty information.
I try to catch myself before I answer questions or give feedback. I consider the chances that my assumptions about the situation are wrong. If I detect too much self-doubt, I’ll ask for more time to think things through.
Consistently question your own assumptions. This will help you learn and make better-informed decisions. The good thing is that you can actually make this a step in your thinking and eventually you’ll get used to it and do it naturally.
4. Set Aside Time to Learn.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day tasks of running a business that you never take the necessary time to learn and think.
I try to spend a portion of each day in solitude. Avoiding the distractions of work for a period of time can help you re-center. During this alone time, you can take a deep, inward look at what’s going on. Invest in this daily time for thinking, and you’ll be more prepared to take on the rest of your hectic workday.
Adopting the learner mentality in a sea of obstinate knowers won’t be easy, so surround yourself with learners. And keep in mind that knowledge and information are powerful tools in the competitive and face-paced digital age. Stay curious and hungry to learn, and you’ll naturally become a lifelong learner and a more successful entrepreneur.
Farbood Nivi is CEO of Learnist, which allows individuals to read content, review how-to guides, and watch educational videos on virtually any subject. Farbood is a former educator who was named 2001 National Teacher of the Year by the Princeton Review.