Recently, I sat for an hour with a sales representative from Oracle. (One of those chance, accidental encounters). He knows his stuff. He knew things, many things — things that I did not know. We talked about the Cloud, and “adding value,” and the challenges brought by new, unexpected competitors… We talked about a lot. I think he appreciated insights I shared from recent books I’ve read, especially Team of Teams. But, I know I appreciated his tutorial. I learned things — things I did not know. Words and concepts that I’ve read about became understandable. He “explained” things in the course of our conversation, and I was grateful.
Which got me to thinking…
Who do you learn from?
This is not an unimportant question.
Narrow expertise is indeed valuable. But, ever-increasing broader knowledge is also valuable; maybe even more valuable.
Assuming we have acquired some level of basic knowledge, what happens next is that we tend to learn from people:
- in our field
- who think like we think
In other words, what we learn may provide a slight, continual, ongoing expansion of our capabilities and knowledge (this is good), but a failure to expand our horizons; a failure to learn from some one or some ones “outside” our normal viewpoints.
And, to fail to take advantage of that wider world of knowledge is not only a mistake, it could be increasingly a threat to your own future and that of your company. One of my favorite quotes is from Nassim Nicholas Taleb, from his book The Black Swan:
The library (i.e., your personal library) should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real- estate market allow you to put there.
It reminds me that our knowledge is narrow, and the available information out there is so very vast.
And, the more we learn — the more we read and learn from “outside” our normal interests — the better equipped we will be to make sense of this diverse, collaborating, so.many.things.meshing.together world.
So… a simple suggestion. Read something, pretty regularly, from an author you normally would not read, in a field you know little about. And find more “accidental, chance encounters” with people who could teach you about something you know little about. It might be a surprisingly valuable way to spend some of your time.
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis