Learning as Competitive Advantage


Learning has been my lifelong pursuit — and we could argue successfully that learning to learn is a life-saving skill (even as it is an acquired one when we feel less curious). Because we start at birth and we keep going with varying degrees of deliberate practice throughout our existence.

We learn the most as we teach, we learn when we engage with public speaking, we learn by example, and some of us are extreme learners, taking opportunities to enhance the way we look at thinks both by assimilating new knowledge and doing things differently. 

[Additional resources on how to give a presentation and change the world.]

In business, we mainly learn by doing and many of us take the time to volunteer to build and help community(ies) and to acquire new skills in our own time and on our own dime.

Companies have been scaling back their support of official continuing education and tuition reimbursement programs and training departments. For years, I took vacation days to attend events and conferences that were not considered reimbursable at work. It was a good investment all around.

Not everyone has the opportunity to go on their dime, though. Enlightened executives do understand the value of learning and the halo effect that empowering individuals with the tools and opportunities to learn has on the business.

When someone believes in us and gives us a chance to make something of ourselves, and provides us with a path to choose our own destiny, that just puts a special spring in our step.

Giving employees an A by offering that opportunity is a vote of confidence that comes back in spades.

Starbucks did just that for 135,000 of its employees#:

Starbucks is, in effect, inviting its workers, from the day they join the company, to study whatever they like, and then leave whenever they like — knowing that many of them, degrees in hand, will leave for better-paying jobs.

Even if they did, their experience “would be accreted to our brand, our reputation and our business,” Howard D. Schultz, the company’s chairman and chief executive, said in an interview. “I believe it will lower attrition, it’ll increase performance, it’ll attract and retain better people.”

The most empowering act is when someone believes in you.

That gesture in turn translates into creating a different culture, one where individuals choose how they show up by voting themselves in. A most powerful step toward delivering a different brand experience.

I love going to small coffee shops in Italy, because the barista is typically the owner and if not often a pro who takes to the work with gusto. This move makes total sense to help recharge the brand from the inside.

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Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover the value of promises and its effects on relationships and culture. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. Book her to speak here.

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