Of course, learning new things is all about exposing yourself to new ideas. So if you want to learn faster, you’ve got to think differently about where new ideas come from. Here are a few ideas I’ve developed over the years about what turns leaders into learners — three “habits of mind” that will help you keep learning as fast as the world is changing.First, the best leaders (and learners) have the widest field of vision. After Steve Jobs died, I, like everyone else, read and watched as much as I could about his life and work. One of my favorite sources of insights was an old PBS documentary called “Triumph of the Nerds,” in which luminaries of Silicon Valley talked about what inspired their innovations. As Jobs talked about the original Macintosh computer, he talked less about semiconductors and software than he did about painting, music, and art. “Ultimately it [creativity] comes down to taste,” he explained. “It comes down to trying to expose yourself to the best things that humans have done and then trying to bring those things in to what you’re doing…I think part of what made the Macintosh great was that the people working on it were musicians and poets and artists and zoologists and historians who also happened to be the best computer scientists in the world.” Translation: You’re not going to learn faster (or deeper) than everyone else if you seek inspiration from the same sources as everyone else. Educators know that we learn the most when we encounter people, experiences, and ideas that are the least like us. And yet, we spend most of our time with people and in places that are the most like us — our old colleagues, our familiar offices, our reassuring neighborhoods. If you want to learn faster, look and live more broadly. Second, and more tactically, the best source of new ideas in your field can be old ideas from unrelated fields. A few months ago, after I gave a talk about innovation to a gathering of executives from the world of food retailing, one frustrated member of the audience asked for some advice about dealing with her boss. “My boss likes to say, ‘I want a totally new idea — and three examples of where that idea has worked before.’” The audience roared in recognition of the oxymoronic absurdity of the boss’s sentiment, as did I. But then I got to thinking…Often, it turns out, a powerful source of “totally new” ideas in one industry can be standard operating procedures from another industry — well-established practices that look downright revolutionary when you simply move them from one place to another. For example, leaders at Lexus identified all sorts of new ideas to reshape the customer experience for luxury cars by searching for clues at brands such as Four Seasons and Apple — companies that were great at what they did, even though what they did had nothing to do with automobiles. Physicians and administrators from London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children redesigned many of their surgical procedures by studying how Ferrari’s Formula One racing team handled pit stops. Sure, there’s always a place for R&D as research & development. But there’s also a place for R&D as rip-off and duplicate. Ideas that are routine in one industry can be revolutionary when they migrate to another industry, especially when they challenge the prevailing assumptions and conventional wisdom that have come to define so many industries. Finally, and most personally, successful learners work hard not to be loners. These days, the most powerful insights often come from the most unexpected places — the hidden genius locked inside your company, the collective genius of customers, suppliers, and other smart people who would be eager to teach you what they know if you simply asked for their insights. But tapping this learning resource requires a new leadership mindset — enough ambition to address tough problems, enough humility to be willing to learn from everyone you encounter. Nobody alone learns as quickly as everybody together.
Lots of things I've read before, but this article lists some simple bue effective "habits" in a few paragraphs rather than having to read an entire book. I have always classed myself as a learner, taking opportunities to see what I can learn from them, even if they aren't immediately obvious as "my kinda thing" (whatever that is) so this all seems relevant to me.