by Chuck Chapman, Content Strategy Coordinator
Are we there yet? This anxious question from the impatient child doesn’t really go away once we grow up. Instead of the family vacation and wondering whether you’ve reached Disney World, as adults we apply this question to our careers.
We want to know if we’ve arrived, if it’s time to relax.
Maybe once upon a time workers could safely believe that. In older times when the wheels of commerce turned a bit more slowly, there were places where individuals could settle in to one career or even one workplace and live out their lives repeating one learned skillset. After a period of time, they would either collect their gold watch or pass on from this earth doing the same thing they’d always done.
We can debate the existential value of that way of living some other day. The important thing to note for today’s workers is this: that world no longer exists!
The work world of 40 years and a gold watch is pretty much gone. In its place is an environment that’s increasingly global and constantly changing. That can be unsettling to many, unless you adopt the mindset of being a continual learner.
The scope and pace of technological changes alone should cause everyone to understand the need for continual learning. Just last night I was watching a television show set in the 1990s. One of the characters was taking notes on his Apple Newton PDA. Remember those? Remember when we all had to learn how to use the stylus and write using the “shorthand” characters programmed into the device? That wasn’t 100 years ago. For most of us, it’s something we experienced during our professional careers.
How long did that skillset last? It was a necessity for some for a little while, but along came the smartphone. And while we’re all now adapting to utilizing the latest version of the iPhone or Samsung Galaxy, what will be the next revolution. Will it be five year from now, or will it come sooner? What will we have to learn then?
Processes and Best Practices Change
The changes in technology don’t occur in a vacuum. They produce downstream effects in how businesses establish their processes and what becomes “best practices.” That’s where having the mindset of a continual learner really pays off.
When processes change, people respond one of two ways: they either adapt and improve or they dig in their heels and grow stagnant. It doesn’t require an MBA in organizational leadership to guess which people will remain viable for the organization and which ones will self-select as those who can be eliminated or down-sized.
One of the side benefits of that static work culture I mentioned at the outset was we got to work with the same people over a long period of time. There’s a lot of good that comes with that in terms of comfort level and trust.
Because the work force is increasingly remote, it’s also increasingly mobile. Not only are companies not employing people for decades any more, the reciprocal is true. People are choosing not to remain with the same company or on the same team for long periods of time.
So not only do we have to have a learner’s mindset about processes and practices, we have to be able to learn and adapt to new co-workers and bosses as well.
To some, this view of the new work culture might seem like a dystopian novel come to life, but I’d like to offer a different viewpoint. It’s highly likely that the degree of change we’re experiencing today isn’t all that different than in the past. The pace might be faster, but workers have always had to adapt and adjust to change.
Henry Ford, arguably the biggest innovator of the 20th century, said this about learning in his day: “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”
Having a mindset of continually learning not only keeps us young, it keeps us viable and productive. It also allows us to view the challenges that come with change with an attitude of excitement.
Are we there yet? No, and we probably won’t be; but with the right mindset, the ride can be every bit as enjoyable as the destination.
If you’re looking to start your learning process as a remote worker, consider 12 Weeks to Being a Great Remote Teammate. Go beyond just being a member of the team.