Learn to Unlearn

I’ve blogged about this topic before but events from last week prompted me to address it again. I had lunch with another CEO and he mentioned hiring a new COO. To give this some context, the CEO is a founder and has had terrible luck over the past few years hiring senior level executives. So why did he hire this guy? He said to me,”The guy said to me the only thing he had mastered in almost 30 years of experience was the art of learning.” He went on to explain to me how the COO walked him through how he learns, with a respectful disregard to what he had already learned or mastered.

This malignant economy and the election rhetoric has underscored for so many how unprepared we have been to embrace the skills of the new economy. Watching a piece on “60 Minutes” last night showed how so many manufacturing jobs have gone overseas. What is being lost in all these stories is again, how unprepared we, as a professional workforce, are.

Think of the Olympics. Would any athlete show up not knowing who the competition was and what their strengths/weaknesses are? Irrespective of what industry you are in and what you do, your work is now an Olympic sport because it is being done globally. If someone in another part of the world is doing it cheaper or faster, then the onus is you to figure out how to learn how to stay competitive. It is quite dangerous to become a master at your craft with the assumption that your craft will be in demand in the way that you have mastered it.

This week consider what it is that you do very well at your place of work.  Now think about someone else in another company, perhaps in another part of the world, who does exactly what you do–at half your salary. This is a true reality we are all facing. I am arguing this week that your ability to unlearn and learn might singularly capture why your company would not outsource you.

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