The Value of Learning

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Working hard is the industrial era approach to getting ahead. Learning hard is the knowledge economy equivalent. – Michael Simmons

It’s not every day an article motivates and excites me. But I really am blown away by not only the ideas discussed in  “The secret to lifelong success is lifelong learning” on the World Economic Forum website, but more by the language author Michael Simmons  uses. He discusses knowledge as a commodity that is beginning to show signs that it is more valuable than money.  Learning is the generator of future worth and prosperity.

This insight is fundamental to succeeding in our knowledge economy, yet few people realize it. Luckily, once you do understand the value of knowledge, it’s simple to get more of it. Just dedicate yourself to constant learning.

He points to a what Peter Diamandis calls the rapid demonetization of technologies.  The concept is that technological advances are leading to products that have lower and lower costs – some even free.  This means money isn’t as important in the access and use of these tools when compared to the knowledge to use and exploit them.

Simmons provides a number of examples of how future technologies (automated cars) may cause a precipitous drop in the price of commodities (no need for car ownership).

Because, he argues, money is likely to lose its value, knowledge will replace it as what is most valued.  He points out that when you use your money to purchase a good or service, you no longer have that money.  When you use your knowledge, you keep it.  It often times increases!

Constantly pursuing knowledge, through learning, is vital to success in the future:

“People who identify skills needed for future jobs — e.g., data analyst, product designer, physical therapist — and quickly learn them are poised to win.

“Those who work really hard throughout their career but don’t take time out of their schedule to constantly learn will be the new “at-risk” group”

He then outlines 6 skills that will help us to “learn the right knowledge and have it pay off for us”:

  1. Identify valuable knowledge at the right time.  What is every going to want, or better yet need, to know soon.
  2.  Learn and master that knowledge quicklyWhoever knows something first has an advantage. Simmons advocates for knowing multiple mental models in order to process information faster and more effectively.
  3. Communicate the value of your skills to others.  Market yourself. Not everyone does, but those who do so effectively achieve a multiplier effect in the increase of their value.
  4. Convert knowledge into money and results.  Leverage your knowledge and ability to learn to build your reputation, get a raise or a new job, build a business, etc.
  5. Learn how to financially invest in learning to get the highest returnUnderstand the economics of learning – what is the ROI of your learning, risk management, what is your hurdle rate, how can you hedge your investment, and how diverse is your portfolio of knowledge.
  6. Master the skill of learning how to learn.  Just as you might work on your golf swing if you are a golfer or take voice lessons if you sing in a choir, you need to understand how you learn and study how others successfully do it.  Just as a golfer might watch a video on how a professional golfer hits out of a bunker; learners need to study how others go about learning. And work to be efficient in your learning.  Improve your reading skills, find alternate ways to learn content, find a mentor who already knows how to do what you want to be able to do.

I find this knowledge investment model compelling.  Maybe it’s because I was an accounting major or perhaps it’s because of all noise about understanding and reporting the value of learning and development.  It takes the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) mindset to it’s logical, full-tilt expression.

Simmons makes the point that we count our steps and schedule time to go to the gym when wanting to get fit. We count calories and take cooking classes when trying to eat better.  Why shouldn’t we dedicate time to learning and measure how we are doing.

Knowledge is the new money of the future. The time to start investing is now.

What do you think?  Do you carve out time specifically for learning?  Do you have an “investment plan” for building a knowledge “nest egg”?  What do you think of  Simmons’ Knowledge Investment model?  Let me know what you think in the comments section below.

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