Commentary: Learning as a requirement
The world is changing faster than ever. Just 10 years ago, cell phones weren’t that smart—and media wasn’t very social. Now retail sales are quickly shifting from brick-and-mortar to online, while automation is reducing U.S. factory head count quicker than low-wage countries can take away the jobs. Most everything around us is changing faster than ever, which means just to keep up we have to be learning all the time.
The importance of continuous learning—especially maintaining a solid grasp of major world trends—became more acute recently while reading Johan Norberg’s “Progress: 10 Reasons to Look Forward to the Future.” Did you know, despite what we hear, violence worldwide is hovering near the lowest point in recorded history? There has also been huge movement toward greater freedom and equality across the globe.
For starters, consider the impact these three trends may have on your professional life:
Life expectancy: Worldwide it has risen from 31 to 71 in the last 100 years and is growing all the time. Your peers are working longer, which might mean a longer path to that dream job. Or you might wind up hiring 80-year-olds—a thought that may not have crossed your mind a decade ago. How will longer lifetimes impact your particular workplace or industry?
Global literacy: Worldwide 86% of people are now literate, up from just 40% in 1950. That means the work you do may now see competition from around the globe, not just the next town over. What new competition is your profession, company or industry facing today? How will you meet those challenges in the future?
Declining poverty: In 1981, a remarkable 44% of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty; today that number is less than 10%. How can your company capitalize on this positive change? What impact will this socioeconomic advancement have on the products and services your company delivers?
The importance of a learning agenda
These are just a few of macro trends that you should know about to stay current. To excel—and maybe just survive—leaders would be well served by making a proactive “learning agenda.”
Mine includes reading newspapers, magazines and books; going to as many trade and educational events as I can; and, perhaps most importantly, networking with a wide variety of professionals who know more than I do.
As you build your own learning agenda, think hard about how larger cultural shifts may affect your life—and your career.
• How will the products and services you produce and provide change in the future?
• What skills do you need to develop to keep up?
• What else do you need to learn?
Here’s your five-step challenge: 1) Read “Progress.” 2) Examine how trends may impact you personally. 3) Craft a learning agenda. 4) Anticipate your future. 5) Prepare yourself for change.
Joe Scarlett is the retired CEO of Tractor Supply Company. For more on leadership, visit joescarlett.com.
Next Big Thing: A Holoroom How-To
Lowe's Canada is rolling out the latest iteration of the Lowe's Innovation Labs' Holoroom.
The Holoroom How-To is an on-demand virtual reality skills clinic that aims to address the evolution of home improvement learning and skills.
The training tool allows customers to learn DIY on their own terms, immersing them in a DIY project – such as tiling a shower – with step-by-step instructions to complete the task.
Haptic feedback, such as feeling the vibration of a drill through the controller, adds to the life-like experience, without the waste or mess of testing a DIY project in the real world.
The concept is debuting this month at a Burlington, Ontario, Lowe's, and in a few weeks in a RONA store in Beloeil, Québec. The Holoroom How To proof-of-concept made its first appearance at a Lowe's store in Framingham, Massachusetts.
"We are excited to be a partner of Lowe's Innovation Labs and to make the Holoroom How To experience available to our Canadian customers, as it clearly illustrates how innovation can enable us to go one step further in supporting and inspiring our customers in their renovation projects," said Claire Bara , VP strategy and business insights for Lowe's Canada. "The Canadian market represents a great platform for the Lowe's Innovation Labs to test some exciting new projects. With its diverse portfolio of brands and store formats, Lowe's Canada offers many varied opportunities for learning," said Claire Bara.
There's been some initial testing of the technology, which has proven an increase in recall and customer confidence and motivation to take on DIY projects.
Lowe's will be evaluating customer response over the next several months to further determine how it impacts customer learning and confidence.
"During the past three years, we have been exploring real-life applications of augmented and virtual reality experiences to directly help our customers solve everyday problems," said Kyle Nel , executive director of Lowe's Innovation Labs, the company's disruptive innovation hub. "Our experience has shown that customers are embracing AR/VR as part of their home improvement journey, and now, we are using immersive VR to help our customers learn the required skills to complete challenging home improvement projects."