Learning never stops and as the saying goes ‘it is never too late to learn’. New challenges appear every day and we are forced to deal with them. If the same problem crops up every time we will know how to deal with it but that is not what usually happens. We live in an environment that is rapidly changing which throws up new challenges and we always need new knowledge and skills to effectively deal with them. It is therefore important not to remain static but to keep improving.
It is natural for us to stay in the comfort of the world we know. We may, at many times keep doing the same thing day in and day out and feel like an expert in the area. We then flaunt our experience to claim superiority over those who have spent less time. Once when one of our seniors proudly proclaimed that he had 20 years of experience, my boss quietly whispered into my ears saying ’20 years of experience or one year of experience 20 times’. That was quite a loaded comment and that little expression stayed with me for long. Experience has very little meaning if it is not rich with knowledge gained over this period.
CIOs shouldn’t miss out the opportunity
While learning is essential for everyone, I will specifically speak about the learning culture that CIOs need to adopt in order to stay relevant. There are many a chances that CIOs miss out. Take for example interaction with vendors – they hand out hardware or software specifications to vendors and ask for the price quote. Selection is often based on superficial comparison of features and commercials. However if CIOs define their requirement and let vendors suggest solutions, they may get new ideas and if they raise queries on technology, the vendor would educate them for free. CIOs again would do well to attend external events like seminars, symposiums, user group meets etc. which could accord a great opportunity to understand the current trends and new solutions. I have also seen a lot of CIOs being shy of networking with fellow professionals from other companies where they could share ideas and also experience of dealing with various situations. Nothing could be better than hearing from users who have done it themselves.
Learning cannot be in vacuum as all the knowledge we gain is based on interaction with others. It is a good practice to involve our team in an act of discovery. If we involve our team members and throw up a challenge asking them to work out solutions, you may see innovation at work. The interaction that ensues creates a learning environment where each of the stakeholders benefits. While we can learn on our own, a collective effort makes learning faster and well grounded. A well informed and an intelligent team carries much more weight than stray individual brilliance.
Putting learning into practice
Knowledge gained remains incomplete till it is applied in the real world. So here is the catch. New ideas, new technologies learnt and new solutions evolved have to be put into practice. The CIO has to overcome the challenges of budget, approvals and getting users on board. New initiatives always come with a risk element and it is important for the CIO to muster courage and be ready to put his neck on the block. Great leaps take place when there is a will to win and a desire to go where we have not been before.
Learning should not be a forced activity or a routine to be prescribed and followed. It is the hunger to evolve and get better, a desire to break new grounds and a commitment to excel that gets us into a continuous learning mode. It is a habit that does not require extra effort but sets us on the path of excellence.