The Exponential Era
In 1965, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore noted that the number of transistors on a microprocessor tended to double every two years. Proven to be a highly accurate predictor of technological growth for over 50 years, this postulation has since then been coined “Moore’s Law.”
The speed at which technology is growing can have a dizzying effect on companies and its employees who often struggle to keep up and adapt to a new, constantly shifting landscape. With the rise of machine learning and artificial intelligence, technological growth may soon outpace human knowledge itself.
Traditional forms of attaining knowledge such as competing a degree-granting program or vocational school are quickly proving to be inadequate at providing the workforce with the schools necessary to keep up with this new disruptive environment. The only way for workers to keep up is to use technology to augment their learning capabilities. Learning is no longer a 4 year program with perhaps a few years of graduate school. Learning is now a lifelong process and must be attained through multiple streams.
Five Learning Streams
Rather than information coming from human-to-human interactions, young professionals can significantly augment their learning capabilities by having information come to them through the same processes used for many product platforms: automation and acceleration. Below are five learning streams that will help you automate and accelerate your professional growth rated from least time-intensive to most time-intensive:
1. Social Media: Twitter
At a first glance, with its 140 character limit, twitter seems like a poor source of information for acquiring content-rich information. However, I consider twitter to be the best source of information for learning because of two reasons: (a) following highly-qualified thought leaders and (b) exposing yourself to people completely outside of your comfort zone.
Research has shown that individuals with highly-diverse twitter networks tend to be more innovative within their companies. Use facebook as the primary social network for friends and family, but keep those users off your twitter account. Follow people you don’t know at all and are experts in your discipline and also in other disciplines. To organize all the tweets, its important to use the “list” feature to add people to subjects of your choosing.
Browse twitter during your downtime, such as when you’re sitting on the metro or waiting in-line at the grocery store. A few minutes of browsing twitter each day will expose you to a cross-sectional, information heavy network, bringing you up to speed on breaking news, the latest trends, and established research.
The biggest disadvantage of using twitter is that it is a lot of information at a very fast rate. Consider supplementing it with a bookmarking tool such as Pocket to save the content and organize it effectively.
2. Email: Smart Briefs, Industry Thought Leaders
In contrast to the “hunter” approach to learning, there is the “gatherer” approach. Rather than actively searching or browsing for information, information can come to you in the form of email. Subscribing to websites from industry leaders such as McKinsey or discipline related such as Smart Brief allows you to keep an eye on the big picture and see what’s happening at the macro-level. It also is a great avenue for you to find relevant content that you can curate to your own distribution lists and clients.
The biggest disadvantage of this is that your inbox will get inundated with many emails. Make sure to use disciplined habits such as “Inbox Zero” to properly manage your emails otherwise things can spiral out of control quickly.
3. Podcasts: Soundcloud
The challenge with reading is that you can’t always do it. When you’re driving or at the gym, the better option is to listen to content. Soundcloud is a great source of listening to podcasts. It allows you to find podcasts, subscribe to them, and recommends you similar types of content. Find podcasts that are tied to more general subjects rather than those that are too technical as they will be harder to follow along when you’re doing another activity.
4. Mobile Apps: Kindle, Pulse, Pocket
Given that the majority of the population has smartphone, mobile apps can be a great source of accelerating your learning. Research has shown that reading has a positive effect on preserving the neuroplasticity of the brain. As such, reading and writing is essential to one’s learning growth. Whereas one can use twitter for browsing and soundcloud for when you’re unable to read, the Amazon Kindle app allows you to take a book wherever you are. You’re able to purchase a book and read it on a desktop, mobile, or tablet device. It also has a nifty feature that will automatically alert the user whenever they open the book on a different device to continue where they left off. You can now read wherever and whenever you want. Additionally, you can highlight text from the book and copy it, allowing outlining and note-taking as well.
Two other apps have honorable mention here: Pulse and Pocket. Pulse allows you to receive content from thought leaders that you “follow.” Pocket is an app that allows you to save content and bookmark it, regardless if its something on a desktop or mobile browser. The tagging feature allows you to organize you bookmarks in a simple and streamlined way.
The biggest disadvantage of using mobile apps for learning is that it will eat up your battery life. If you use your smartphone for other activities, you will need to manage your usage properly.
5. MOOCs: Udemy, Udacity, Coursera, EdX, Code Academy
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are proving to be vital in filling in the gaps between the formal education system and the skills needed to thrive in the workforce. While 90% of people don’t complete a MOOC, they are hands down the best source of learning. One can learn by watching videos, engaging in coding exercises, asking questions to peers, and also reading articles.
MOOCs to definitely try out are Udemy, Udacity, Coursera, EdX, and Code Academy. While each MOOC has its own advantages and disadvantages in terms of the content, UX, and mobility, I’d recommend trying each of them out and seeing which one is the best fit for your needs.
Bonus: Offline: Meetups
In addition to learning online, make sure to supplement your learning growth by meeting people and exposing yourself to disparate ideas by meeting people in your discipline and also outside of it. One great way to do this is by signing up for Meetups which allow you to find events based on a set of topics you are interested in. Users sign up, add it to their calendar, and spread the word to their friends. In addition to learning subjects, meeting new people, one can also become a speaker and teach others about areas of expertise they know about.
By using learning streams such as the ones listed above, one can automate and accelerate their professional growth. By being in a constant state of exposure to new information, our minds become like sponges and are constantly processing data, making connections at exponential rate. Such habits are fundamental to keeping the human mind at pace with technological growth.