The Quest for Excellence: It’s Why Learning Never, Ever Ends

“I will be glad when this is all over. I will never have to study anything anymore.”

That was a statement from my daughter during finals week in her senior year of college at Penn State. She sounded worn out. As I listened on the other end of the phone, I looked at my watch and realized it was too late to respond to that. I knew she was not in the mood to be receptive.

Last week, I was in Pittsburgh leading two seminars for the Human Capital Institute (I am a faculty member). As I spoke, I kept emphasizing the need for constant learning.

As I thought of that statement I realized the model for professional learning and development has changed tremendously. There once was a time when I would choose to attend a couple of learning events per year. When I returned from them, the vast majority of the time the courseware would eventually end up in the credenza in my office.

Does your learning become credenzaware?

I even coined a phrase called credenzaware. As I looked at the credenza in my office, I could literally track the learning events over the years. Each title brought back memories and some of the key points about the event. Some of the titles were dog-eared, but the vast majority was in pristine condition.

My intention was to implement as many initiatives as per learning event. Yes, that was my intention in the first place. I will say however, that I did eventually complete a fair number successfully.

One key point that I did make a point of was to give an overview of the key points from each seminar to my department upon return.

With all the negative metrics facing our organizations today, simply attending one or two events per year will not bring you sustainable and innovative change to your workplace skills. The model of learning has to change as well.

The mindset of the new HR leader has to be about change. The only way for that to happen is that we must constantly stay up to date on research and new ways of looking at the same old problems with a new set of eyes.

Learning on demand

Learning is about exposing ourselves to new ideas and today’s new technologies, because technology has changed and leveled the playing field.

On iTunes, they have a feature called iTunes University that allows you to download lectures, discussions from top schools, universities, and other cultural institutions from around the world. The vast majority of them are free. Once you subscribe, every time you sync your iPad, iPhone or iTouch, the information will automatically download.

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There are also thousands of podcasts, both video and audio, with so much rich content in your area of interest. Deloitte, PwC, Wharton School, Harvard Business Review and so many others are there for your listening — and more importantly your learning — experience. Subscribe to your favorite feed and you will never miss an episode. And again, best of all, they’re free.

YouTube is another favorite learning platform for me. Whether it is talent management, human resources management, or other areas in that spectrum, the lectures and discussions are there.

The quest for excellence

Technology, as a platform, has upended our self-development model, because we can now learn on demand.

My daughter is now working for a major advertising firm in New York City and she comes home with work, workplace related magazines, etc. We discuss her industry, what she is learning, what she is reading, and more. She now fully understands that the learning never stops if your quest is for excellence — or as close to it as possible.

The French novelist Marcel Proust said, “The real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands but in seeing with new eyes.”

Learning gives us that new set of eyes.

Hear Ron Thomas as he leads the first-ever TLNT Transform conference in Austin, TX this coming Feb. 26-28, 2012. Click here for more information on attending this event. 

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.