So I decided to take a good long hard look at myself this week. What was the reason for this sudden burst of introspection? Well, I attended a two-day event covering all the virtues of digital learning.
I came away with a single overriding view; successful implementation of self-directed digital learning is less about the accessibility and richness of the content, and far more about the self-awareness of the individual. I love the idea of having access to all the knowledge and skills I will ever need to succeed in my career. That all of this information could be available 24/7 and accessible from any device in any location is surely a dream come true for someone who strives to be the best they can be in their chosen career.
But then came the introspection and I found myself asking these questions:
Do I know what I need to know to do my job as well as I possibly can today?
Do I know what I don’t know, but should? What are those critical skills I am missing that make me less effective than I could be?
Do I know what I need to know to move on to the next stage of my career?
At a push, I think I could answer yes to all of these questions. Maybe not every detail of every aspect of my role but certainly enough to bring me to where I am today and some ambition of where to go next.
But here is the killer question:
Do I know what I don’t know in order to take that next big step?
By definition, there will be some parts of my skill set that I will need to improve but I simply can’t see what they are because I lack the self-awareness showing me what I need to be. Not through my own fault but because human beings are not perfect and we lack this type of insight. Sure, I could take a look at a senior colleague and try to model myself on them but what if that person doesn’t exist and I am trying to break new ground or forge a new role in my business? In the last 15 years, I have started five new roles and in every single case, the job didn’t exist before I started doing it. Where do I turn to find the ‘template’ skill set I need? The harsh truth is that often, it doesn’t exist.
In other words, who do I turn to provide me with insight, guidance and experience when I lack the self-awareness to decide what skills I need to pick up. Is this where artificial intelligence and adaptive learning engines come into the equation. Well yes, that could be the answer but only if the inputs into that engine are valid and that brings us back to the same dilemma of self-awareness.
Step up the expert! Seeking out an experienced mentor or coach who could understand the challenges you face as you progress your career can help you to shape the knowledge and skills you will need to develop as you progress. They could help you plan and strategise against some of the digital content and curate it down to those explicit skills that you need to pick up. Heck, if that experienced mentor is also a trainer they could help you practice those new skills in a safe environment so you have the confidence to be as effective as you possibly could be back in the workplace.
The arrival of digital learning libraries with rich resources and content is a very welcome evolution in the learning landscape and should be an integral part of any learning strategy. But it doesn't take away the need for a human element which is such a key part of self-awareness and self-development. Allow the expert to shape the content that your teams will see, then build some activity and validation along the way and you could start to have the best of all worlds.
How do you keep your learning journey on the right path? Do you have tactics to make yourself more aware? Share your thoughts in the comments below.