Never Stop Learning: A book review by Bob Morris

Never Stop Learning: Stay Relevant, Reinvent Yourself, and Thrive
Bradley R. Staats
Harvard Business Review Press (June 2018)

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”  Alvin Toffler (1984)

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The best business books are driven by research and this one is no exception, as indicated by its 23 pages of annotated Notes. Insights and their implications emerge from real-world situations with which most readers can readily identify. Bradley Staats observes, “Careers today usually involve multiple employers and often multiple industries. Data that track individuals over time is sparse, but a Bureau of Labor of Statistics report that followed workers aged eighteen to forty-eight over the years 1978 to 2012 found that that on average, workers held twelve different jobs. At the end of that period, only 3.3 percent were holding the same job they’d held from age twenty-five to twenty-nine, and only 5.4 percent were holding the same job they’d held from age thirty to thirty-four. For most people, the only constant is change.”

Staats identifies these drivers of change in employment: productivity improvement, specialization, and globalization. “The implication is clear: as individuals consider their career paths, they must recognizer that staying relevant means outlearning not only those immediately around them but also from around the world. It is easier than ever for companies to contract with employees from anywhere in the world.”

As the Toffler observations clearly indicate, literacy in months and years to come will be achieved by what Staats characterizes as “dynamic learning.” These are among its key elements:

o Valuing failure
o Process rather than outcome
o Asking questions rather than rushing to answers
o Reflexion and relaxation
o Being yourself
o Playing to strengths

o Specialization and variety
o Learning from others

Bradley Staats devotes a separate chapter top each of these key elements.

I agree with him that to thrive in a “learning economy,” people must develop four separate but interdependent mindsets: focused, fast, frequent, and flexible. That is, select and then focus intently on what to learn, accelerate the process, be open-minded (without allowing the brain to fall out), and sufficiently flexible to redirect (shift) focus to new learning opportunities. Decades of research on peak performance by Anders Ericsson and his colleagues at Florida State University reveal the essential importance of the four separate but interdependent mindsets. Dynamic learning must be a never-ending process rather than an ultimate destination. Like a garden, it must be nourished but also pruned, protected but also unrestrained.

Never stop learning, indeed, and never stop helping others to learn.



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