The Keys to Deliberate Learning for Business Agility

small business learning

Three steps business leaders need to make a conscious and concerted effort to learn.


Staying afloat and staying ahead are concerns faced by many business leaders and owners.

As a business leader it is imperative to find ways to weather the many social, economic and political storms that batter the economy.  One way to stay ahead is to look ahead at the skills you and your employees will need in the future.

According to the World Economic Forum’s “The Future of Jobs” the skills and abilities you and your employees will need will look at least 30% different in a few years. According to the authors of the report “On average, by 2020, more than a third of the desired core skill sets of most occupations will be comprised of skills that are not yet considered crucial to the job today.

If you look at the table below you will see the completed list of the skills and abilities projected as needed for almost all workers across jobs and industries.

While you may recognize many of the skills on the list as the skills you already have in your repertoire today the chances are the name may look the same but the skill may be subtly or vastly different down the road.  If you look at the first column, the first skill on this list is cognitive flexibility.

Although many of the skills on the list look and sound familiar as the demography of your workforce and market place change and technology continues to evolve you and your employees will need cognitive flexibility to adjust all of these skills meet the changing world around you.

Here is a list of the core work related skills identified in the report:

Core Work-Related Skills

Core Work-Related Skills

Change needs are not only fuelled by changing technology but by much more including the changing political, social, and demographic shift underway.

Technologies like AI and big data and IoT will impact most jobs and not just within high tech. Additionally, as the world population ages, the employable workforce will shrink you and your employees will have to learn a wider array of new skills to manage the changes ahead.

To stay ahead of shift in needed skills, the World Economic Forum suggested a couple of ways to stay ahead of the skills development curve:

1.   Take personal responsibility for your own learning.

This requires you to take time to repeatedly ask yourself what your learning plan is.

On a weekly basis you may want to begin identifying what you learned and if you did not learn anything new then you might want to rethink your learning strategy. It may be time for you to take a course, consult a counsellor or meet with a coach to discuss your learning needs and strategies.
2.   Help your company/employees take responsibility for their learning.

Look for opportunities to up-skill yourself and your workforce. Learn and teach your employees to learn.  Offer or enable access to re-training, educational incentives and other learning and development initiatives.

Think you are too busy to add something else to your plate? If you don’t approach your learning as a deliberate choice you will find it very difficult to just ‘fit in’ learning when you find time.

Carving out time from your schedule to prepare for the future usually saves you time and often sooner than you thing. Many of the top business leaders in the world carve out time to learn each week.

Here are 3 steps you can take to continue to learn and develop new skills:

1. Deliberate Learning

Participate in learning opportunities on your own or in a group with others.

Reading remains one way to learn and you can do it at anytime and almost any location. According to an HBR article “Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Oprah Winfrey All Use the 5-Hour Rule” these top business leaders indicate they often spend five hours per week doing deliberate learning.

Oprah Winfrey credits books with much of her success: “Books were my pass to personal freedom.” She has shared her reading habit with the world via her book club.

Consider the extreme reading habits of other billionaire entrepreneurs:

  • Mark Cuban reads more than three hours every day.
  • Billionaire entrepreneur David Rubenstein reads six books a week.
  • Dan Gilbert, self-made billionaire and owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, reads one to two hours a day.

2. Reflection

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner schedules two hours of thinking time per day.

AOL CEO Tim Armstrong makes his senior team spend four hours per week just thinking. Meditation, Yoga, a vacation can all provide opportunities for deliberate learning.

3. Trial and Error

Google was well known for allowing employees to experiment with new projects during 20 percent of their work time and Facebook encourages experimentation through Hack-a-Months.

It is important that you find ways to experiment new and different ways of doing you business and learning both from the successes and the failures. Find places to challenge your own comfort zone and try something new.

Encourage your employees to work with you and bring to the table new ideas and ways of doing things.

Think of deliberate learning like eating well and exercising to stay healthy, the more you do it the healthier you could be.  

If you want to enable your organization to change be prepared for the changes by leading the way.

Related articles:

Learning for Work? If So, What Type of Work?

Make Learning a Key Priority of Your Small Business


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