Culture by Design is Now ---- The Leader Factor

Learning: Maintaining Your Competitive Advantage

Tim and Junior discuss what it means to be an agile self­-directed learner, why it's important to learn at or above the speed of change, and how to keep yourself competitive and relevant in an increasingly fast-­paced, changing environment.

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Episode Show Notes

In this episode of Culture by Design, we're entering the second half of our Leading with Character and Competence series with a discussion on the first cornerstone of competence, learning. Tim and Junior discuss what it means to be an agile self­-directed learner, why it's important to learn at or above the speed of change, and how to keep yourself competitive and relevant in an increasingly fast-­paced, changing environment.

Character vs. Competence (0:01:21). If character is the infrastructure, competence is the superstructure. Tim and Junior introduce the next four episodes of this series, all of which will focus on how listeners can develop and improve their levels of competence.

The perishability of knowledge (0:05:08). We live in a different world than it was just a couple of years ago. Things are changing quickly, and the perishability of knowledge and information are accelerating. Tim and Junior discuss how the linear nature of a career has been disrupted.

The desire for stability and job security (0:13:13). Through a story about union negotiation, Tim illustrates the human need for stability, and how our concept of stability has changed over time. We're no longer looking for a role that'll last us decades, we're looking for one that'll grow with us.

The three types of learning (0:15:00). There are three types of learning: permanent, continuous, and agile. Permanent learning is based on permanent qualification, continuous learning is ongoing qualification, and agile learning is rapid, collaborative, self-­directed learning at the moment of need.

Formal vs. informal learning (0:22:03). Eventually, we graduate from opportunities and environments where we learn formally. This means we have to be proactive in creating and seeking out places and times to learn informally. Junior shares four self-reflection questions to help listeners assess their current impact on their learning.

Encouraging learning in leadership (0:24:17). If you're a leader, people are watching you. They're watching how you interact with others, how you perform, and how you learn. If you can lead by example, you'll increase the learning agility of your team because you're creating that prevailing norm on your team.

Reading for curation and pattern recognition (0:39:30). Tim and Junior share their advice on how to maximize what you read, plus a small discussion on Tim's most recent Harvard Business Review article, How to Read a Business Book.

How to Read a Business Book (HBR)

Episode Transcript


0:00:02.4 Producer: Welcome back, Culture by Design listeners. It's Freddy, one of the producers of the podcast. In today's episode, we're entering the second half of our Leading with Character and Competence series with the discussion on the first cornerstone of competence, learning. Previous episodes in this series have been on the four corner stones of character, which in case you aren't with us, are integrity, humility, accountability and courage. If you are just joining this series, you can start here, but I'd love for you to go back and listen to the previous episodes. Today, Tim and Junior will talk about learning, what it means to be an agile self-directed learner, why it's important that we learn at or above the speed of change, and how to improve your own learning to keep yourself competitive and relevant in an increasingly fast-paced changing environment. As always, links to this episode's show notes can be found at Enjoy today's episode on learning.


0:01:06.8 Junior: Welcome back, everyone to Culture by Design. I'm Junior, and I'm here with Dr. Tim Clark. Today we'll be discussing the first cornerstone of competence, learning. Tim, how are you? 

0:01:17.6 Tim: Doing great. Really excited to talk about learning today.

0:01:21.0 Junior: Me too. It's been a good morning. If character is the infrastructure, competence is the super structure. Competence is about skill, adeptness, and mastery. That's the quality or state of being able to do things and do them well. The last four episodes, we've discussed the four cornerstones of character. If you haven't finished that part of the series, you're welcome to go back. The next four episodes, we'll be discussing learning, change, judgment and vision. Tim, how have you felt about the series so far? 

0:01:51.5 Tim: I think it's been excellent. As you say, we began with character as the infrastructure, and then we're gonna build on that with these four cornerstones of competence, the first being learning today. So, I think as we go through, it's all gonna fit together, and our listeners will understand how it does fit together and they'll think through implications for their personal lives. So I'm excited, I hope we can shed some insight.

0:02:16.4 Junior: Me too. That's how it's been for me. The last few episodes I've enjoyed very much and I've caught myself thinking about them after we've recorded them. I found myself listening back and thinking even more, so they've been very provocative for me. Eric Hoffer, author and social philosopher said this, "In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future, the learned, usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists." This quote took a couple of reads for me. What about you? 

0:02:50.1 Tim: Yeah, well, learners versus learned or as we sometimes say, learned. The learned, the literaty. They're educated, right? The educated class. It's past tense, isn't it? 

0:03:04.3 Junior: It's past tense. And as I was reading it, I'm like, "Should I say learn or learned? I don't wanna sound pretentious." Learned is past tense. It's done. Learners, what do we think about when we think about a learner? To me, it's active, it's today, it's ongoing, it's descriptive of what the person is likely going to do in the future, which is continue to learn. So, the crux of the issue as far as this quote is concerned, is the difference between those two words learned, learned, and learner, passive versus active.

0:03:39.7 Tim: There's another term Junior that I was just thinking of as you brought that up, so the cognoscenti, those who are well-informed about a particular topic or issue. Well, even that, there's no such thing as permanent condition of being aware or informed or competent or skilled, certainly there's a base of knowledge in these different areas, but things are changing so much that we can look at these words, we can look at these terms different than we used to.

0:04:12.6 Junior: As I continue, I'm gonna maybe belabor the point a little bit, but the learned. To me, I think about someone who's being filled up with information, that there's a static body of information that you're trying to absorb. That's what I think about when I think about the learned. And so, you absorb all of this information, you leave the learning into a world that no longer exists, it's so fascinating to me. Because, if you take, let's say that you stopped your learning like six months ago, and then... Or let's say you've been in a coma for six months and then you wake up, today, you are not living in a world that's the same as the one you left six months ago, the pace of change has quickened. The world has changed, hasn't it? 

0:05:08.7 Tim: Well, it has, and Eric Hoffer's, quote, is all about the perishability of knowledge, and that's what's happening today more than ever before, we live in a different world than it was just a couple of years ago. That's how fast things are changing, and the perishability of knowledge and information is just accelerating.

0:05:32.3 Junior: So, what specifically has changed, there are a lot of things we can name a few as categories, docile markets are certainly gone, they're more volatile and dynamic than they ever have been, the employer, employee compact is gone. You described it as a compact, and you go on to say, the quote "Learn, earn and burn model of career progression is gone." I thought that that was about as succinctly as I've heard it, so tell me more about learn, earn and burn.

0:06:07.9 Tim: That's a linear conception of career that we've had around for a long time. So, learn means, go to school, get an education. And then earn means go into the workforce, have a career, earn your living, and then retire. And, burn means retirement, so you're going to now live on your retirement, your savings, and that will be the third phase of this tidy linear tucked in life.

0:06:40.3 Tim: Well, it's nostalgic though, isn't a Junior? Kind of takes you back to the 1950s, when you think about learn, earn and burn. But actually a lot of people still think that way, and it really is so obsolete, just think about the concept of retirement and what that means, and how that is changing and evolving. And so, I think this, again, this tidy linear description of career and what it means, we need to re-conceive that concept and we are, the environment is forcing us to do it, but we don't wanna lag behind and be disadvantaged by that. So, we kinda have to put that old linear conception to bed a little bit.

0:07:23.2 Junior: Yeah, when I think about that, I think about gold watches and pensions, you stick around for enough years, we'll buy you your gold watch and that'll be great. We live in a different era.

0:07:37.1 Tim: That's a... Junior I talk to millennials and Gen-Zers, and that's an alien conception, an alien idea to them that you would have some kind of reward or something to mark tenure and seniority and the passage of time. It almost doesn't even make sense. Here's your gold watch for 10 or 20 or 30 years. That's a really strange notion to a lot of folks from these younger cohorts, I think.

0:08:07.7 Junior: Well, and if you'd take a moment and look at that, the gold watch idea, it's pretty interesting because what is achievement relative to the gold watch, it's time in grade.

0:08:20.8 Tim: Time in grade.

0:08:22.6 Junior: That is the measuring stick, is time. But what's inherently valuable about time? Nothing. And so, I don't mean to devalue the way that the world has been for so long, but there's this old guard that I think is turning over, we've been in client calls recently in some organizations where this is still somewhat true, and people go around the table and mention tenure, and it's foreign to even some younger members of our team. I was on a call recently, and going around the room with a client, 20 years, 17 years, 28 years. And people are looking around like, "What, 28 years?" And it's foreign, I think AWS average tenure is like 18 months.

0:09:16.9 Tim: That's right.

0:09:18.2 Junior: And may even be that or less than that when you look at Amazon collectively. So, it's a different world.

0:09:24.5 Tim: The Gen-Zers are saying "What?" they can't even conceive of it, because their concept of career is different.

0:09:32.7 Junior: Yeah, 26 months is long. Let alone 26 years.

0:09:36.5 Tim: Yeah. So, you can't connect with that. And again, it's we acknowledge the way that things were, but we're recognizing the way that things are changing and the environment in which we are working today, and that's very important that we do this.

0:09:51.0 Junior: So, tell us about your grandfather, you have talked about your grandfather who worked for Union Pacific.

0:09:58.6 Tim: Yeah, speaking of gold watches, Junior and I have this, I have his gold ring, it's not a gold watch, but it's a gold ring. And on that ring is the superscription of a train, and he received that after, I think it was 30 years of service with the Union Pacific Railroad. So what... This is my grandfather, what he did is, he was an engineer for the Union Pacific Railroad, he operated the locomotives, and his most, I think is most common run was to go down to LA, he'd go down to drive the trains down to Los Angeles and back. Anyway he spent more than 30 years with Union Pacific and he never... Here's what's interesting, he never went through an obsolescence cycle in his skill set, he would operate these locomotives that were manufactured by General Electric, and yeah, there were some adjustments along the way as new models came out, but fundamentally, he had a skill set that lasted a professional lifetime, so there was a kind of permanent qualification to what he did, and that's just an amazing thing, and it's something that we don't see anymore, it was something that he did, and he had a wonderful career, but it's an anachronism, it's just not as relevant today, pretty interesting example, don't you think.

0:11:30.3 Junior: It is. And one of the... I was having a conversation with someone the other day about this very thing about skill obsolescence, and the person started to argue that, well that obsolescence is really only occurring in knowledge work, and so, if it's more blue collar or you're still running a railroad, then it's not gonna change. But what I have seen even in the trades over the last five years is stunning. If you look at the timeline of Knob-and-tube electrical or old plumbing, those mechanisms would be the same for decades. You might have a 20-year run with a certain type of material and connection pattern with electrical or with plumbing, but I look at just some of the fittings and technology for the trades over the last five years.

0:12:28.3 Tim: And they're pretty stable generally.

0:12:30.8 Junior: And they're relatively stable over time, but the technology is increasing at a pace that's never been this fast, and so even in those trades, even in plumbing, if you look at fittings and tools, those things are progressing at a rate that we've never seen before, and so no one is exempt.

0:12:53.3 Tim: Yeah. That's really true.

0:12:54.5 Junior: You also mentioned a union story, union negotiation and putting together collective bargaining agreements. Tell me about that.

0:13:04.5 Tim: When I was in the steel industry years ago, Junior, we would have to hammer out, negotiate collective bargaining agreements about every three to five years.

0:13:13.5 Tim: And we would sit down to collective bargaining sessions and we would hammer out these agreements. And back then I learned about a concept called, job security, and I found this absolutely fascinating. And so, the idea was that the organization would provide to union members the workers, the production of maintenance workers, job security through the duration of a contract. In other words, your job is secure, and I thought I'm amazed at this. No one, no institution can offer job security, I was just absolutely baffled by this when I first learned about it, because I said, "Well, that's a function of market dynamics, this is a function of supply and demand, who can promise job security? No one has the power to do that. No one." And I just thought that this was so interesting, but that was the conception, that was the understanding, that was the idea that the organization could provide its employees job security as if it has control or power over markets. So, I found that very fascinating, and I also find it fascinating that that term, that idea, that concept has left our vocabulary. We don't talk about that anymore.

0:14:43.5 Junior: Well, you certainly don't negotiate for it at a collective level.

0:14:48.6 Tim: No. We used to talk about it, but isn't it interesting that it has left our conversation, and it's not a term that we use anymore, but we used to use it. I think it's fascinating.

0:15:00.3 Junior: Well, we use it in the sense that we want some stability, so I still hear people talk about job security, but it's on a different timeline, that's for sure. We're not like, "Oh, you know, I'm expecting job security for a number of decades." People are just looking for some semblance of stability, and so I think that the expectations has certainly changed, people want security and stability, but they cannot expect that over a really long time horizon. Okay, so the world has changed, which means that the nature of learning has changed. You described three different types of learning, permanent, continuous and agile. Permanent learning is based on permanent qualification, so we can think about your grandfather, he learned how to run the locomotive, and there may be some very, very slight changes, but it's pretty far away even from continuous learning, continuous learning is ongoing qualification, you re-certify every year or two, you do formal prescribed continuing education, then we move to agile learning. What is it? Rapid, collaborative, self-directed learning at the moment of need. So, permanent learning, what are we saying? It's no longer a thing. There's no such thing as permanent competence, now, there are some baseline requirements, you should probably understand second grade math.

0:16:29.1 Junior: We should all do that. We have to get to that point. We should read. We're not talking about those types of obvious things, we're talking about skills that you take into the professional world for which you are paid day-to-day, it's unlikely that you're going to become permanently qualified. I won't say that it's impossible because there may be some things here and there, there are certainly sectors that are different than others, well, let's put it this way, taking the view and informing your behavior through a lens of permanent qualification is a dangerous thing to do for anyone.

0:17:02.6 Tim: That's right. Yeah it's dangerous.

0:17:03.3 Junior: Albert Einstein said "It is in fact nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry."

0:17:16.3 Tim: Wow.

0:17:17.3 Junior: What do you think about that? 

0:17:19.1 Tim: Well, he's saying that modern methods of instruction are stultifying and they're limiting and they're not empowering, they're not teaching people to be aggressive, self-directed learners. Look at instruction in the passive focused on relearning didn't, Junior? Memorization. What was conspicuously absent was this focus on critical thinking and the transfer of ownership to the individual to do that critical thinking. I think that's what he's getting at.

0:17:55.9 Junior: Yeah, well, I was having a conversation with a few young people just a couple of weeks ago that are in high school, and we were talking about our experience. Now, I'm ahead of them, but not terribly, I'm not 60 years ahead of these people. And we were talking about our experience, some of the differences, I didn't have a phone connected to the internet that I could look up whatever, we had some pretty basic phones, we could text, and if that phone was shown anywhere in the school, that thing's gone, right? That's not allowed in here, and now...

0:18:34.0 Tim: Yeah, flip phone Junior. Didn't you have a flip phone? 

0:18:41.3 Junior: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And now they were describing their experience and phone's pretty much fair game. Any time, anywhere, any answer is at your fingertips, and the reliance on rote memorization is at least less than it was before, but now you have this learning companion with you at all times. Now, whether or not people use their devices for that purpose is another question, especially in a high school, but hey, that's possible in a way that it wasn't before. So, let's talk about education for a moment, 'cause I think it is an interesting vein. WB Yeats said...

0:19:18.0 Junior: I found this quote, "Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire". This, I think, embodies or I guess, reduces some of what we've been talking about, that there's not the static body of knowledge that we fill ourselves with and call it a day, it should be the lighting of a fire. What does a fire need? It needs ignition, it needs fuel. And it needs oxygen. If you get rid of the fuel or of the oxygen, that fire dyes.

0:19:49.0 Junior: And so, I love looking at education this way, I love looking at learning this way, is that fire needs to be fueled, if the fire never goes out, then it needs those things constantly, forever, learning is never done. So, what's the imperative? Why are we talking about all this, Why this set up? We need to learn at or above the speed of change, if you don't learn at or above the speed of change, you'll become obsolete. This is true organizationally. And it's true personally. Do you agree with this? 

0:20:21.4 Tim: Well, Junior, I think this is not an over-statement at all, this is not hyperbole, this is an accurate statement, if you are not learning at or above the speed of change, then you're in a dangerous situation professionally. Now, I would say personally to, but this is no overstatement, this is where we need to be, and so this is an operationalized definition of learning, agility to learn at or about the speed of change. And it gives us the opportunity to do some personal reflection and ask ourselves if we're doing this, right? This is a diagnostic question for us personally, are we learning at or above the speed of change? If not, then we really run the risk of being thrust into an obsolescence cycle. That's what we're talking about.

0:21:15.6 Junior: Yeah, the essence of this is progression, its movement forward. Horace Greeley said of Lincoln, he, quote, "Gladly profited by the teaching of events and circumstances, no matter how adverse or unwelcome, there was probably no year of his life that he was not a wiser, cooler better man than he had been the year preceding".

0:21:38.0 Tim: I love that.

0:21:39.3 Junior: I love that quote, because that's the aspiration, it's to get better, it's to see where we are with our open eyes and then close the gap between that and who we could be across a week, a year and the lifetime. And if you use that speed of change as your measuring stick, and you see that and you try and stay above it, and you do that over a really long time, you're gonna get pretty good.

0:22:03.7 Tim: I think what I it also says, Junior, is that most learning comes in formally, it's not when you're in a structured learning environment, when you're in the classroom, when you're completing your formal education, most of the learning is going to come outside of that environment. What Greely is saying about Lincoln is that he realized that there was a curriculum all around him in the events and the circumstances of life, and so what do you need to do? Pay attention, pay attention. Observe, watch, listen, perceive. And then try to understand patterns. Try to understand cause and effect relationships. This is what Lincoln did. He was paying attention, he was learning informally, because there was a curriculum around him, that's a choice that we all have, but there's a curriculum around all of us in day-to-day life.

0:23:03.3 Junior: And what a curriculum he was exposed to in this... So, let's talk about self-reflection for a moment, how do we know where we are? There are a few questions that we can ask ourselves that will help uncover our current learning disposition, here for, do you see knowledge and skills as perishable? Do you believe that learning is where advantage comes from, that it represents the highest form of enterprise risk management, and that the biggest risk an individual or organization can take is to cease to learn? Do you possess deep patterns of aggressive and self-directed learning? And four, do you lead by the way you learn? The answers to those four questions should be illuminating, they should shed some light on some of the things we might need to work on. Do you see knowledge and skills as perishable? Hopefully, is the answer to that question. Yes, you need to. Do you believe that learning is where advantage comes from? You need to. Do you possess deep patterns of aggressive and self-directed learning? You need to. And do you lead by the way, you learn? This is something that we haven't talked about yet. So, we've been talking about individual learning, and we haven't yet talked about the way we help others learn, why is this question in here, Tim, why should we be asking this? 

0:24:17.7 Tim: I love this question. Well, if you're leading... By the way, you learn then you're demonstrating curiosity, you're enthusiastic about learning. You're collaborating with others, you're asking questions, you're in a mode of inquiry, you are excited, it's a contagious type of learning that you engage in with others, and you're leading this way, and others are going to pick up on that, and they're going to see your modeling behavior and they're going to want to imitate that. So, we need to think about leadership in a different way, leadership by the way we learn, and that's not something that we emphasize or stress enough, but I would suggest that increasingly, this is the way that we influence others when we're leading. They're watching us. And if we embody, if we exemplify, if we model this kind of learning disposition, then what does that do? It increases the learning agility of the team because what are you doing, you are creating that prevailing norm on your team, you're modeling that and others are going to follow that example.

0:25:34.7 Junior: In order for them to follow the example, they need to see it. And I think that this is an interesting piece of the equation here, because you could be learning, but if you do that only behind closed doors and in private, you're not giving people the opportunity to see the way that you're learning and you're not leading by the way, you learn. So, there needs to be this public, available, transparent element to your learning, you need to learn publicly, so what does that mean? That can be risky, especially for a leader to admit their own ignorance to say, I don't know, to show the team had hand.

0:26:15.7 Junior: There's a knowledge gap here, I'm not sure I'm gonna go close it, but being willing to do the ad and taking a little bit of a risk, showing a little bit of vulnerability in your learning, I think is one of the most effective ways to lead through your own learning, but I think that that distinction is important, people need to be able to see that, and what they're looking at is not someone who has the answers all the time they need to, someone who doesn't have the answers and some of the time.

0:26:44.3 Junior: And who admits that and then goes to work to learn the answers, either through collaboration or self-direct and to learning. Right? 

0:26:53.2 Tim: I think for a lot of people, Junior to be able to do that, to be able to lead by the way you learn, requires that they unlearn the way our conceptions of leadership that they were taught.

0:27:05.2 Tim: So, there's some unlearning that needs to receive their ability to lead by the way, that they learn. And what do they need to unlearn? Well, what if they subscribe to a leadership model that says, Well, I need to be the oracle, I need to have the answers, I need to be the expert. This flies in the face of that, you've gotta let go of that. You've got to be in discovery mode publicly with your team, and they have to see that, they have to see the inquiry and the curiosity. They have to see that you are struggling and wrestling with an issue, they have to see that you make mistakes, they have to see that you have questions without answers. They have to see that you are searching. So, you're in discovery mode and you're doing it in public, and this is how you lead leave. This is a very different disposition, a very different posture from perhaps the model of leadership that you are socialized to follow, so there may be some unlearning that has to take place.

0:28:11.0 Junior: Part of the way that this has affected me is by letting an idea fly before I fully come all the way through it and make it neat and tidy and wrap it with a bow. I think that that's part of the unlearning that I've had to do at a personal level, is I've been rewarded in the past for coming with something fully put together, polished, ready to go.

0:28:38.2 Tim: Yeah.

0:28:39.6 Junior: And so, because that's what I've been rewarded for, for years and years and years, that's what I've learned to do. What does that mean? It means don't come until all of those things are true, you've thought about it every which way, it's perfectly defensible, and the risk that you're wrong is as close to zero as you can get it.

0:28:58.1 Tim: Junior Lemme, you, that drives me crazy because that's not the way that innovation happens, it's just not. You don't come with crystallized thinking and fully formed and refined solutions that's just not reality, you come with raggedy ideas and half-baked solutions, and you come with instincts and ideas that are flawed, they may not work. If the expectation is that you come with the refined idea, the finished idea that the... Think about the old conventional wisdom. Don't come to me with questions. Come to me with solutions. That is ridiculous.

0:29:43.5 Junior: Well, I think...

0:29:44.0 Tim: That's not how we solve problems.

0:29:46.4 Junior: No it's not how we solve problems, but it's how we tell people to solve problems in formal educational settings, because think about the model, what's the model. And at least my experience in western education was, I'm going to teach you this thing, and then one of two things, You're going to memorize this thing, and then we're going to have a test and the answer... Your submission is binary. It's right, or it's wrong. Number two, you submit something to me, a paper, a presentation, do you submit? Are you graded on drafts most of the time, no, you're graded on final product, so that thing better be done... Dialed in and ready to go at the very end. So I think about even my formal educational training as a lot of case method, right? 

0:30:44.4 Tim: Yeah.

0:30:46.1 Junior: That case has to be done. This is the solution that I'm putting forward. And so, there's no back and forth, there's no half-baked idea that should already be done by the time you tell me what your plan is, and so you go toil in isolation over in the corner for a few weeks and then come to me once you've figured it out, that's the mom.

0:31:07.3 Junior: At least that's been my experience. And so how has that translated into my professional life, first of all, I'm thinking that that's how the world works, so I'm not gonna say anything before it's done, and then two, what does that have to do with my expectation of other people? Well, it better be done, before you come and bring it to me, and so I've absolutely been guilty of bring me answers, not questions, for sure. And I think that there's an element of that you need to take responsibility for what you're doing, and you need to be deliberate. We're not saying that you don't think about anything and you just throw things at the wall, but there is this delicate balance between being very intentional, being methodical, thinking critically, but also taking some risks, letting things fly a little early, and so for me, that's risky business for me personally, is letting something fly before it's fully done because, hey, you know what, if I had 10 minutes to think about this, maybe I would have tweaked the idea or of hair, maybe there's something in there that's wrong, inevitably there is if you're letting it go a little early. Right? 

0:32:12.7 Tim: That's a really good point, Junior. So you go from the classroom where you're working that way, and then you come into the real world of work and organizations, and how does it work? How does it work? You ideate, so you generate ideas and then you iterate, so you keep going around and around and around, then you pick one, you prioritize, you try to assess the quality and the potential and the viability of your ideas, you pick one and then what do you do? You build a prototype? And then you go test it and you see what happens, and then you refine it. This is the real world. It's messy.

0:32:51.7 Junior: But there are institutions that are set up the same way that my education was and that were still in that old model, we've translated that model from education to business, and there are leaders and institutions and parts of organizations that still operate on that model. Now, whether or not that's gonna work in the marketplace is another question, eventually you'll get punished if you do that for too long. But, here's what I think is so fascinating, and it speaks back to why... Part of the world has changed. There have been markets that have been stable for so long that there have been, "Right answers". And there have been right methods and processes that should not have deviation or variability, that if you put in A, you get out B, and you wanna stay as close to that as possible, but there are very few areas of the world to work that way, and so we need to be very careful about subscribing to that method, that frame. So, what do we do? After all this, what do we do? Here's a list, and we're gonna go through these. There's nine of them, own your own learning, that's the first thing you need to do, take responsibility. Two, identify your learning gaps before the organization does. Three, assume that your current skill set will become obsolete, view your skills as technology, rekindle your curiosity, ask more questions, engage in deliberate practice, don't earn your living, learn your living and support other learners.

0:34:35.7 Junior: Are there any of these ten that you wanna go into and unpack, which ones strike you? 

0:34:40.7 Tim: Well, I like all of them, but number four, view, your skills is technology, that gives us a frame where we see the temporary nature of our skills, now we have certain fundamental skills, such as being able to communicate, being able to analyze things, certain base of knowledge and a neural network that we've developed over time... Okay, I get that, but there's a whole layer of skills above that, that are changing, and if we view those skills as technology, I think that's really helpful, because our expectation is that we have to refresh and refresh and refresh. I really like that.

0:35:25.7 Junior: Yeah, I like that too. It makes me think, What... Am I taking Windows '95 into 2023? If I am, we're gonna have some issues.

0:35:37.2 Tim: Right.

0:35:37.2 Junior: And then we have at the end support other learners. I think that that one is particularly interesting. I wanna spend a few minutes talking about what you do, Tim, how do you learn? What are you doing personally, to make sure that you're owning your learning, that it's self-directed, that it's relevant and applicable, maybe you could give us just a few things that are top of mind for you or practices that you engage in to do that.

0:36:06.8 Tim: Well, let's see, what do I do? So I read. My pattern of reading is probably different than a lot of people, so I read widely, but I skim a lot more than I read because I'm interested in making connections, I'm interested in synthesizing information, I'm interested in pattern recognition, I'm interested in trends and inflection points. When are things changing? Why are they changing? And so, I give myself kind of an informal curriculum when it comes to reading, but it goes beyond that now, because now video has become a massively important medium, and also audio with podcasts, so I will listen selectively to podcasts, I will watch a video. And so, that's what I do in terms of reading, watching and listening, and then I think the other thing, Junior, that I try to do is engage people in rigorous conversation. I'm trying to become a better questioner. I'm trying to ask better questions, I think this is a life-long pursuit to ask better questions, to spend time wisely with people. A lot of times we don't do that. So that's another thing that I try to do as I do have the opportunity, this is one of the blessings that I have in my career, of being able to talk to very interesting, accomplished, competent, insightful people.

0:37:48.1 Tim: Well, if you have that opportunity to take advantage of that opportunity, you can't come away from an interaction with someone in that category, having not asked them some penetrating interesting questions, if you didn't do that, you missed a rare opportunity. So, I try to do that as much as I can. Those are some of the things that I try to do, how about you? 

0:38:12.1 Junior: I love it. I know, for those listening to him as a desk, that's like a current reading book desk, and this thing has like 27 books on it at all times, and they're constantly rotating. So, when he says that he has a different method of reading...

0:38:28.2 Tim: I do.

0:38:29.7 Junior: He's not lying, he also recently published in the Harvard Business Review, an article that went front page, got a lot of traction called How to Read a Business Book. So, we'll put that in the show notes. If you haven't read that, I highly recommend it because that's something that, to your question, I do something that a lot of people do, but I think most of our listeners probably do, is read books, and...

0:38:52.8 Junior: To me, there was a period of time, and I still fight this, where I almost felt like it was a moral obligation to finish a book, if I started it. Yeah, I was a quitter if I put it down after half way through, and so that article gave me... It chastised me and helped me better frame the way that I approach reading. I think that it's important to cover different disciplines, and so I try to vary the categories of my learning and do a little bit of technology, a little bit of philosophy, a little bit of politics, a little bit of finance, and keep things coming in.

0:39:30.2 Junior: I also think that most of what is important in life and business has already been said, and so there's a tendency to look for the new and the shiny. But humans have been around so long, and life and business has been a thing for so long, there are some smart people that have lived before that have said most of what already needs to be said, and so what does that mean? It means that what is new and often shiny is just another way to say something that was put probably even simpler earlier. Now, this isn't true about cutting edge technology, but if you're looking to learn core principles, I think that there are classics, not just in the novel sense, but older material that's often really, really good, so don't just dismiss something because it's old, maybe that's why it's good, if it's with stead listed the test of time for me, podcasts, I listen a lot of podcasts and I skip around. That's one thing that I've been pretty good at, different than books is skipping around newsletters. That's another thing that I think is important. I don't stay apprised of what's going on in the day-to-day news, like the bleeding edge of what's going on in the world, but the basics enough to be informed and to be able to carry on a conversation and make some decisions, but you'll lose your mind if you try to stay up-to-date on every last little thing that's going on, so you have to be careful there.

0:40:56.8 Tim: Well, and there are a lot of sources of curated and synthesized news, right? Junior that helps us now.

0:41:04.0 Junior: Yeah.

0:41:04.2 Producer: So that the... Its just the curation that's going on is so helpful. Now.

0:41:07.9 Junior: The last thing that I'll mention along the point of curation as to what I do, and you mentioned this, is talk to people and talk to people that have skills in different disciplines that are focused on different things, because then I benefit from all of their synthesis. So, their funnel started really wide inside a particular domain, and then they did all the synthesis and figured out what was important, at least for them, and so talking to a technologist and saying, "Hey, as a layman, can you help me understand for the next 10 minutes what I should know that's happened in the last few weeks thing, then bang, and someone who's super into politics, same thing, "Hey, is there anything relevant for me, the average human that's gone on in the last couple of weeks, what should I know?" And those types of questions have been really engaging to me, I know that there's a quote, I think that it's Eleanor Roosevelt that talks about the difference between having conversations about people and having conversations about ideas.

0:42:11.8 Tim: Right.

0:42:13.6 Junior: One of the things that I try to do deliberately is have more conversations with other people about ideas, not people.

0:42:22.2 Tim: Yeah.

0:42:22.3 Junior: I find that I learn a lot more when I do that. It's more engaging conversation. I come away feeling better than if I just talk about people, so there's a little hot take.

0:42:33.7 Tim: That's a good insight.

0:42:33.8 Junior: Okay. So to summarize, in a time of drastic change, it's the learners who inherit the future, the world has changed, the nature of learning has changed, and the pace of change has changed. So, take responsibility for your learning, ensure that it's self-directed doing so we'll keep you competitive and it will keep you engaged. Tim, any final thoughts? 

0:42:56.0 Tim: Yeah, I just wanna share the frame that I used in the recent HBR article that I think can be helpful for a lot of people, because one of the challenges is that we're overwhelmed with information, and so where do we start? I'm excited about learning, but what do I do? And how do I do it? And so, there's a three-step process that I use, step one is compression, you've got to take some knowledge in some area and you've got to compress it, then you go to stage two, which is absorption, so compression comes first, then absorption, and then stage three is application. I think that's a framework that can be helpful to a lot of people as they think about learning, which can be overwhelming in today's world, so again, compression and then absorption and then application.

0:43:46.9 Junior: Love it, very succinct, Corea, the article. Well, thank you everyone for your time and attention. We appreciate your listenership. We're thankful for the work you do in the world, and we are here to support you if you found today's episode valuable, please share it, leave us a like and a review. We'll see you next time, everybody bye bye.


0:44:14.0 Producer: Hey, Culture by Design listeners, this is the end of today's episode. You can find all the important links from today's episode at And if you found today's episode helpful and useful in any way, please share it with a friend and leave a review. If you'd like to learn more about leader factor and what we do, then please visit us at Lastly if you'd like to give any feedback to the Culture by Design podcast or even request a topic from Tim and Junior and reach out to us at or find and tag us on LinkedIn. Thanks again for listening and making culture or something you do by design not by default.


Show Notes

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Episode Transcript

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

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How to customize formatting for each rich text

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