Continuous Learning Is the Best Way for CEOs to Stay Ahead of Change

February 18, 2017

12:45 pm

Every day, the biggest challenge for CEOs is staying ahead of change. It effects every aspect of business and without a handle on what’s happening, you could be left in the dust.

The speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent,” wrote Klaus Schwab, the chairman of the World Economic Forum in his groundbreaking report, The Fourth Industrial Revolution. This Fourth revolution “…is disrupting almost every industry in every country. And the breadth and depth of these changes herald the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance.”

Every day, CEOs looks for a way to hedge against this uncertain future. If they don’t, massive numbers of jobs — and possibly companies themselves — will simply cease to exist.

How can a CEO hedge against an uncertain future? By becoming smarter. On every level of a company, inside the mind of every employee, create a culture of continuous learning. This will arm the business with the most resilient and innovative force that exists: the agility and potential of the team.  

The New Metric: Learning  

You’re already familiar with the continuous education (CE) that doctors, lawyers, certified public accountants, investment advisors, and insurance agents undertake. For decades, professions like these have required people to engage in a minimum of 20-50 hours of continual education (CE) or continuous learning (CL) per year — the amount of time often dependent on the state.

In recent years, associations for these industries have started to accept non-formal learning, such as micro-learning, into the fold. Take, for example, the American Institute of CPAs, which is doing brilliant things with its Future of Learning initiative.

Today, it’s not only accountants who need to be one step ahead of the rate of change. The speed and complexity of change in business and technology is growing at such a curve that business and engineering professionals need CE/CL as much, if not more, than their CPA, doctor, or lawyer counterparts.

So in order to future-proof their business, CEOs need to arm their people with the knowledge and skills to rapidly build the next innovation in their industry and enter new markets. They do this by making CE/CL mandatory. They weave in an expectation for learning into the very fabric of the culture.

An Emerging Trend for Visionary CEOs

We’re already seeing this emerge in Corporate America. IBM has introduced a mandatory 40 hours a year for all employees. GE, and its visionary CIO Jim Fowler, has instituted a necessary 20 hours of technical learning for all IT and tech employees. AT&T’s CEO Randall Stephenson has set up the expectation that all employees learn new skills, as reported by the New York Times.

Consider initiating a mandatory 50 hours per year of continuing education for your team. This works out to four hours per month, one hour per week, or 10-15 minutes per day. Require that 50 percent of the learning be related to their role and skills/competency that will keep them as an A+ player. The other 50 percent can be aspirational: anything that takes someone a step further in their career. By investing in the collective learning of our people, we are investing in an agile and innovative future.

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Karl Mehta is a serial entrepreneur, author, investor, engineer, and civil servant with over 20 years of experience in founding, building, and funding technology companies in the U.S. and international markets. He is currently Founder & CEO of EdCast Inc., a next-generation knowledge platform company and former venture partner at Menlo Ventures, a leading VC firm of Silicon Valley with over $4B under management.

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