Continuous Learning for Continuing Innovation

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The job of acquiring new skills in the next normal. Sometimes this feels like one more hat to juggle. Some of us are self-professed lifelong learners; so this job of skills acquisition seems to come easy. For others, it can be a chore. What if one of the most important skills is the simple task of harnessing innate values you already possess?

There is a famous book that advocates something like this – everything I needed to learn to be successful in business I learned in Kindergarten. As a mom of a Kindergartner, I was trying to connect the dots to see if this was the case by stringing together some of the things my son has been taught and juxtaposing their relevance to business learning. For those of us not as closely aligned with Kindergarten home school, here is a quick refresher – apart from the core subjects of reading and math, the key themes seem to be kindness, sharing, listening (aka not talking over the top of each other during a class zoom meeting) and responsibility. Or in two words: soft skills. Hmmm…. In my experience it almost seems like these softs skills that we learn in Kindergarten need to be sometimes unlearned to survive in corporate America! Perhaps, that’s a tad harsh? But at the risk of us all being honest, how many meetings do you recall where people consistently listen and take turns talking, accept responsibility for their actions and are mostly “kind”? Sadly, even if you do, these soft skills and emotive gestures that make one a successful kindergartner, are often associated with weakness. As Covid-19 helps us all rethink what’s important, the good news is that it seems like kindness is staging a comeback. Case in point, the creativity around kindness rocks – where kids paint messages of hope and leave them on public trails or exchange them with neighbors. This is also seeping into corporate message boards and meetings.

So the point to ponder: does it have to be a pendulum swing from one extreme to another? I believe we can relearn those soft skills we learnt or always practiced (and have been required to forget!). And you will agree it is important that we do. Because it is these skills that are indeed the bedrock not just for collaboration but for the prerequisite to collaboration; the risk taking, infamous in innovation, that comes with owning up to not knowing something or making way for others that do, to help. And in this way, we would all move on to bigger, better things and hopefully rediscover our creative personas again.

Kristen Alexander has a unique perspective that can help us all take stock. Tune in to episode 2 in our series on Innovation Hacks to find out how.

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