The importance of lifelong learning for today’s leaders
By SANDY CLARKE
In today’s fast-paced world, where everything seems to be changing before our eyes, it can feel almost impossible for some to develop their capability in making use of new technologies, or to learn beyond their current skillset.
Actually, has there ever been a time when people didn’t see the world as fast-paced and constantly evolving?
While this may provide a convenient excuse to avoid stepping out of our comfort zones (particularly for ‘established’ leaders), the reality for those of us in business is that we have to stay sharp nowadays just to keep up with the game, let alone get ahead of it.
A prime example of our tendency to keep our heads buried in the “way things have always been done” hole lies in game-based learning.
I would wager that more than a few senior managers and chief executive officers (CEOs) will either be thinking something along the lines of, “Game-based learning? What can I learn from video games?’’ or wondering, “What on earth is this game-based learning nonsense? I have a business to run!”
In reality, video games arguably produce better results than can be nurtured in traditional classroom settings.
Playing the game
In the spirit of research, I decided to put to the test the idea that game-based learning inspires and motivates people to learn. And so I downloaded a puzzle game to my phone. It looked like it would be a headache – I predicted it wouldn’t last more than two days before I deleted it.
Indeed, one of the reasons I decided to become a journalist was because I knew I was fairly hopeless with numbers and problem-solving.
It wasn’t because I couldn’t solve the problems (I performed very well in physics class, but was very poor in math class) – it was because I got bored too easily. Like a number of my classmates – some of whom now own businesses – if something didn’t hold my attention, I just wasn’t interested.
I’ve been playing the puzzle game now for more than two weeks and have downloaded more. In fact, I spend a half-hour most nights trying to reach subsequent levels as a way to unwind – I actually look forward to solving each new problem. Fifteen-year-old me would be horrified.
Nevertheless, from my own experience, the findings on game-based learning seem to ring true: it overcomes the problem of boredom in learning, it ignites the desire to learn, and it equips us with new insights and abilities in our approach to solving problems, which can then be used and applied in the workplace.
Step out the comfort zone
Human beings love stability through patterns and routines. Who among CEOs hasn’t been aware of someone who has been left scratching their head, wondering why their business model that worked well for a team of 10 no longer works for a team of 100? “We did it this way before and got results – why not now?”
As one 19th century geologist observed, animals who are best able to adapt to changes in their environment are those who are most likely to thrive in their new environment.
Darwinian Theory can be loosely applied to business: in order to get the best from your workforce – and from yourself – the ability to adapt to new ways of doing things is vital if you want to ensure an enduring reign of success for your business.
New concepts such as e-learning and learning through games (e.g. flight simulators) may render senior managers apprehensive and skeptical – but these concepts are the future of learning, and will become more refined as time rolls on.
It’s important as leaders that we constantly seek to expand our knowledge and skills – who can say they know and can do even a fraction of what they are capable?
In stepping outside our comfort zones, we not only practise what we preach, but we are provided with the benefit of knowing just how valuable concepts like game-based learning are to our own progress, which in turn enhances the progress of our business.
There are a number of benefits to game-based learning, but it’s only by taking a courageous leap forward that we can realise those benefits and remain among the fittest of our cohorts who keenly take advantage of new technologies and methods to thrive and survive in today’s business world.
Indeed, it’s only by stepping outside our comfort zones at all that we learn to grow and cultivate successes, each greater than the last.
There are a number of examples that show how CEOs have embraced new ways to the betterment of their company – the best leaders know that they have to lead by example, which sometimes includes burying fears and putting aside outmoded practices in order to make way for new ones.
Game-based learning is beginning to lead the way in providing us with the kind of education that sticks.
Whether someone is looking to improve on their problem-solving skills, learn to fly a plane, learn a new language, or develop new business techniques, the chances are that game-based learning has it covered.
We all have our preferred forms of learning and views on how things should be done, but leaders should be proactive in adapting to the new world as it constantly unfolds and presents new challenges, as well as the tools to best overcome those challenges.
In addition to using game-based learning in order to improve the bottom line for business, we are being given an invaluable opportunity to make use of advances in technology that harness our innate desire to learn, and channel that desire in the most productive ways that enhance our own learning, skillset, and capabilities.
Sandy is a reformed technophobe who has benefitted greatly from game-based learning, particularly in learning new languages (he can now say “eggs” and “horse” in Spanish). While he sometimes wishes he was born in Shakespeare’s time, where people learned by rote, he has come to accept that the old ways of doing things are not necessarily always the best ways of doing things. For more Be a Leader articles, click here.
Sandy is a freelance writer based in Malaysia, and previously enjoyed 10 years as a journalist and broadcaster in the UK. He has been fortunate to gain valuable insights into what makes us tick, which has deepened his interests in leadership, emotions, mindfulness, and human behaviour.