Learning to Learn—and then Continually Learning

I think I better understand why it is important—imperative—to have a true learning society.

I’ve just read the first chapters of the book Creating a Learning Society: A New Approach to Growth, Development, and Social Progress by Joseph E. Stiglitz and Bruce C. Greenwald. It is one of those “academic, to-the-point” writings. And it is excellent.

First, read these excerpts from the book:

Not only Creating a Learning Societyis the pace of learning (innovation) the most important determinant of increases in standards of living, the pace itself is almost surely partially, if not largely, endogenous.
Development entails learning how to learn.
In reality, more firms operate well below their production possibilities curve.
There are large gaps between “best practices” and “average practices.”
Most firms are forever “catching up.”
America seems to have learned how to learn.
How do we move economies to the frontier, and how do we move the frontier out.
There is always a knowledge gap.

(Note: endogenous means having an internal cause or origin; growing or originating from within an organism).

Here’s what I think the book is saying:

  1. There is a current “best” in any and every field. Call this the “frontier.”
  2. The vast majority are not operating at that current best.
    “Most firms operate well below their production possibilities curve.”
  3. This gap between best and less-than-best is true for individuals, companies (and specific departments within companies), and entire countries.
  4. The person/firm/country that is behind the “best” will inevitably fall further behind the best.
  5. The “out-in-front” are “moving the frontiers out,” while all others are simply trying to get closer to the frontier that the leader has already reached.
  6. Even those at the frontier, the best, are not the best in every single portion of their operation.
  7. Thus, the need is to learn to learn, to keep learning, and as you learn, keep moving toward the frontier or arriving at the new frontier (which will not remain the frontier for all that long).

The book has much to say about how governments can help empower such learning, or can in fact clamp down and make it harder to practice such learning processes.

In other words, learning to learn, and continuing to learn, is now the survival skill of the age – for individuals, for companies, and for entire countries and societies.

Randy Mayeux
Contributed by:
Randy Mayeux
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis

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