Joe’s Journal: On Learning How to Learn

“Managing oneself is a REVOLUTION in human affairs. It requires new and unprecedented things from the individual, and especially from the knowledge worker. For, in effect, it demands that each knowledge worker think and behave as a chief executive officer. It also requires an almost 180-degree change in the knowledge workers’ thoughts and actions from what most of us still take for granted as the way to think and the way to act.”

–Peter F. Drucker

Peter Drucker recognized that we are living in a time characterized by rapid change, the likes of which we have never seen before. The lessons are clear: Keep up on your field or face obsolescence. Success in this era of a global knowledge society requires that one create his or her future rather than becoming a victim of change.

A good way to ensure that is to learn how to learn. As knowledge itself is becoming obsolete very rapidly, it is essential for knowledge workers to build on their capacity for learning through useful aids such as reading synoptically, which I have discussed before. This will help you trace a topic through multiple books by getting the questions clear and by imposing those questions on various authors.

Second, become an expert in using information technology to improve the effectiveness of using your time. Understand where to look for the information you need and how to gather the elements for fully understanding a subject. For example, to understand Drucker on social responsibility you must read all of his books dealing with the topic and see where he ended up, which in my opinion is defining “Good Capitalism” versus “Bad Capitalism”; recognizing the limits of government; and encouraging professional management in the social sector.

Next, stretch yourself to learn a subject you did not know before and by which you were intimidated.

Then finally, you will need to ask yourself essential questions such as, “Where am I likely to make my best and most satisfying contribution?” Seek areas outside your current organization to act on the answers. Try to achieve work-life balance when all of the pressures are running the other way.

Remember, wealthy people are not always happy people. So, be sure that you know the answer to “How much is enough?” Then try to fulfill the deepest longings of your nature.

All of this means that we should think like effective executives as we manage ourselves, and not limit that thinking only to how we manage our organizations.

—Joe Maciariello