Perhaps, one activity that I have been unwittingly pursuing is to invite seniors, juniors, peers; young and old; men and women towards the habit of reading. This request is adequately backed up with identifying the need to improve skills and polish abilities.
To colleagues at office and too many others, I have coaxed them to spend a certain percentage of their monthly pay packet towards learning and development activities. Buying books (for reading and not for dust to gather upon) regularly on varied subjects, being one of them.
Once any individual becomes responsible for another colleague’s performance, he/she acquires the status of a supervisor/leader. Supervising oneself is itself a difficult task and to be called upon to supervise others requires a different set of skills. These are acquired either by reading or taking short courses in the evenings or on the weekends at universities of repute and prestige.
The cost of buying books or paying fees for attending development programmes must not be treated as an expense item; instead the cost should be debited to an asset account, which is an investment account that is likely to give dividends perpetually. This account like land, does not depreciate; it only increases in terms of value northwards. Books (any reading material) must, if it be so, should be revalued at regular financial intervals. Knowledge is an asset that neither has to be put to an accounting treatment of amortisation, depreciation or depletion. Knowledge is a growing asset, and not a wasting asset.
To the pleadings, I make to the youngsters to improve their learnings, the general response, unfortunately (actually the word here should be disgustingly!) is that we don’t have “enough time”. No time! What! But that’s one resource that our countrymen have in abundance. There is an oversupply of time, because the time for its effective use is very low. Our nation should rank first in the availability of time. If only it was tangible then we would have enough exportable surplus, and the FX earnings would have come in handy, in these difficult economic conditions.
“Nothing is ours except time”. Those who use time find it is short, those who kill time, find it is very long. The worst users of time complain about lack of time. Any pursuit of honesty and nobility to improve oneself will always make for availability of time.
Social media sites are to be used for say gaining knowledge —-evaluate how much you are dedicating your time to plug into social media for acquiring information and how much on non-productive frivolous activities? Your self-examination, to most, will give out embarrassing results. Check out what is social media’s effectiveness in improving one’s own performance. If there is no substantive improvement in your personal traits and characteristics, it is time for evaluation and correction.
People in the age group of 15-30 years believe that knowledge acquired through rote learning will take them places. Untrue. A good degree from any decent university is basic requirement. The information and knowledge acquired from universities can last for a maximum of 2 years. So those who join organisations in their mid-twenties after the completion of their studies must recognise that after about 3 years or so, they would need to learn new methods to handle existing business or for enhancing or creating new business.
There has to be addition of fresh knowledge to the fund of information. A pond that has stagnant water, with no fresh refill starts to stink. The water has to be changed at frequent intervals to allow for the blossoming of the lotus, shrubs and even weeds. Similarly the pond of knowledge with its initial input cannot last for a lifetime. There has to be fresh infusion of updated body of knowledge. Otherwise it will stink, too.
Going back to school requires courage but those who are timid in the acquisition of new skills and abilities are then doomed with stagnation in their careers.
Those on the shop floor, who remark, we have always worked in this manner or pattern, are those who will ruin the institution in the long run. They are change resisters! Anything new, either in process or technology is viewed with suspicion. ‘It will not work here’, is their normal response to any new idea or process or technology platform.
It is a good habit to do an honest introspection at the end of each day to determine, what ‘new’ was acquired. The mundane dreary run of the mill routine, becomes so overwhelming that most fall prey to planning only the routine for the next day. The routine is an addictive medication, the more you do it, the fonder you become of the routine. Routine is the worst enemy of fresh knowledge. You have to create for time to do imaginative thinking.
“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin that you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. ‘Be careful lest you let others spend it for you’ (Carl Sandburg). Regretfully the work stations are monitored to such an extent that no creative activity can happen at any given time.
To do serious reading for seeking improvement in knowledge requires focus. The TikTok attention span of less than three minutes, will not give any chance to improve and progress. Imagine if all the millennials were to be guided with a 3 minute attention span how can there be good business? Or for that how can we expect them to come up with anything which is long-term; the achievements in the short-term have short life too, because the environment of engagement is in dynamic flux.
We all have it in us to improve ourselves - this position unique to each individual once recognised cannot be done to death or thwarted by design. A self-examination for proper allocation of time is imperative.
The only real skill that matters in the world of tomorrow is the ability to learn what you need to know on a regular basis. (John Naisbitt). Learning also begins by unlearning. The antiquated thinking of hitting the road with the same rubber, doesn’t hold any value. A continuous scrutiny must take place for inducement of fresh techniques and knowledge, while simultaneously there should be jettisoning of old practices and outdated knowledge.
Professionals, who wish to remain relevant, need to upscale on a periodic basis their skills, knowledge, and talent by taking inputs from seniors or by passing and attaining certifications. Medical doctors have to regularly take tests to ensure their progress. Airline captains/pilots, have to be on training for X number of days in a calendar year.
The dignity of a professional lies in the ability to remain relevant to their time. Change is dynamic, so how can any handle change, with an education, skill or training that is based on stagnancy. Learning and development activities have to be equally dynamic too.
Rumi says, the heart is the size of the ocean; go find the gem hidden in your depths. The journey of self-discovery starts by understanding that I know, that I know not. The worst cousin of ignorance is arrogance. There can never be mastery over any subject hence to be arrogant with better knowledge is the display of ultimate ignorance on the shop floor. To be a leader of substance one has to indulge into an unending cultivation of oneself towards seeking out fresh inputs.
My response to youngsters is, if someone my age, with the responsibilities attached to me, I am never short of time, how is it that you have a short position on time? I invite and point out to them to do an evaluation of where available time is being spent.
The results can be frightening. Do we not witness, youngsters misusing the facility of cell/mobile technology. Every discovery and invention has its merits and demerits - it is all about how we use the improvements in science and technology to manage people with empathy.
So what’s your excuse? Time. Money.... None!
– The writer is a senior banker