Everybody, Keep Learning

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 healthy food and exercise hand weights

Snackable learning for life

Everything we teach should be different from machines.
If we do not change the way we teach, thirty years from now we will be in trouble
– Jack Ma

You might have seen Jack Ma’s (founder and executive chairman at Alibaba Group) appearance at World Economic Forum in Davos on YouTube. If not, I highly recommend it. There is both a full hour-long session and some snackable 2-minute pieces.

Jack Ma rightfully points to two challenges, that I can recognise from the business world too: We must change WHAT and HOW we teach. Or rather learn.

The need to stay relevant

    1. In the fall I gave a line of key notes in financial organisations to both middle managers and financial advisors. They were very quiet.


  1. It is said, that 40% of our tasks can be automated today with technology that already exists. And this does not only apply to blue-collar workers or knowledge workers along. Over 20% of the tasks that a manager or leader performs, can be automated. According to Deloitte, half-life of a learned skill is now as low as 5 years, that is, we need to constantly learn new things, approaches, and technologies.


  1. These financial workers saw a changing world, that they were not a part of. Their jobs were being automated, the technologies that they mastered were being outdated or replaced with something new. They needed to learn a whole line of new skills, if they were to stay relevant to their organisations and to the customers. They were very quiet.


We live in a time, where the digital revolution is both paving the way for new inventions and solutions to our problems and is major a challenge for staying relevant for organisations and for customers. Things change fast!

Clearly, the need to stay relevant has grown, and has changed face. As Jack Ma says, “everything we teach should be different from machines”. We should naturally see that with a grain of salt, but I understand where he comes from. Both schools and organisations should shift their point of gravity and focus on teamwork, problem solving, pattern matching, emotional intelligence, and communication, just as much as on math, science, programming. It’s the constant education of the holistic person, that I’m advocating for.

If you want to stay relevant in the future of work, you need a set of skills, that not only is about mastery of specialist’s functions. You also need to know teamwork, feedback, relationships, social skills, and empathy. MIT and the Technical University of Denmark documented, that teams that were formed based on relationships outperformed those based on skills alone.

The modern hiring processes consist of a combination of looking at CV’s and skills, social footprint e.g. on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and on practical group work. It’s far more holistic and focused on attitude rather than skills alone.


The updated learning approach in the business world

The modern managers have seen this need and have started revolutionising the support for their colleagues’ development.

In the old days, you had the annual development conversation, where you gave feedback on the past year and laid plans for the next. This included mapping your strengths and weaknesses, and making plans for actions for improvements, including what training you were to take. The challenge with that kind of planning is, that it does not take into consideration when things change fast.

Instead, the modern managers design their development mechanisms around continuity:

  • Weekly meetings to talk about the well-being and the development of the employees, not just annually
  • A mechanism of ‘just-in-time learning’, not just-in-case, that is, learn a skill when you need it
  • An encouragement to seek “snackable learning”, that is, small continuous bits of learning, e.g. via YouTube or podcasts
  • A mechanism of peer-to-peer learning, that is, on-the-job learning from a colleague or a subject matter expert


This approach and mindset has a tremendous impact on the employee’s engagement and on the productivity of the organisation, and most of all, on how you can stay relevant in the future.


Changing WHAT and HOW we learn

The same night I gave one of the key notes to the financial workers, I got a long enthusiastic mail from one of the participants. She had been really moved and had immediately planned her own learning path; wanting to understand how to build a website, make a blog, and make YouTube videos. For her, as a financial worker with 25 years tenure, this was a major energy boost.

If we want to stay relevant to our organisations, and to our customers, we need to change WHAT we learn, and HOW we learn it. I do believe in “snackable” learning, that is, small chunks of inspiration as a part of a continuous just-in-time approach. Also, creating a culture of shared learning, allocating time and space for the team to learn, experiment, and produce new things.

These four pieces of advice to the future worker stand out:

  1. 1. Seek diversity. Someone with a different background, cognitive mind, or age.
  2. 2. Be curious. Seek inspiration and knowledge yourself.
  3. 3. Be brave. Make bold goals for your learning.
  4. 4. Create something. Make sure that you use the skill to create something.


The future of leadership clearly has a human approach to business. “People first” is the number one guiding principle for the successful modern leader. This also means taking shared responsibility for the employee’s success, well-being and continuous learning.

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