The Knowledge Gap: Part 1 – Productive learning
“Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”
Today, I'm starting a 3-part series of posts all about learning. I'm going to examine how acquiring new skills, and the way in which we do it, can be a both a good and a bad idea!
Don't get me wrong, as a consummate learner I can wile away hours on blogs, YouTube, reading books, and indulging myself in online courses in the vain hope that the knowledge I gain will improve my work and personal life. I enjoy it. For me a day without learning something new is a missed opportunity.
But when it comes to running your own business when you wear so many hats, there are just so many things you could learn: accounting, marketing, graphic design, website development, copywriting, manufacturing, ecommerce – the list goes on. Where do you begin and where does it end? Undoubtedly there are things you should be learning even though they take you away from your core business.
To clarify, I'd like to talk about two ideas: Just-enough learning and Just-in-time learning, which may help you put the whole topic into focus.
Just-enough learning is a phrase I have coined to describe the situation where you learn just enough of a skill to get a job done. For example:
- Capturing video for social media using a smartphone as opposed to a digital video camera
- Using the Yoast plugin to optimise the copy on your website for your most important keywords as opposed to appointing an agency
- Designing and sending newsletters using an email service such as MailChimp or ConvertKit.
- Packaging and sending out physical goods rather than using a fulfillment service.
Learning just enough will get you a very long way down the path of tackling a new business activity and in the process you will discover exactly what is involved and where to draw the line and call in the experts.
When comes to certain tasks I have to put the brakes on learning. For instance, I haven’t learnt how to use Photoshop – I could have done and would probably enjoy it immensely but there are others who I can employ to edit photos in a fraction of the time it would take me to and at minimal cost. Fortunately we now have Canva which makes creating graphics for social media and websites a whole lot easier.
I have learned how to use WordPress to create my website and a small amount of CSS to ‘fiddle’ with the styling but in the main I leave all the technical stuff to the experts. I do most of my own bookkeeping allowing my accountant to tackle the tricky things like VAT, dividends, and directors’ loans. Video creation and editing is something I have really enjoyed learning and whilst I'm no expert as least I have mastered enough to be confident. I'm not producing a film just some social media videos so I don’t need to be Steven Spielberg.
Knowing when the marginal gains of learning are outweighed by the time to get to the next level is important, otherwise you’ll waste an awful lot of time and energy.
I first learnt about the benefits of just-in-time learning from Jeremy Frandsen and Jason van Orden creators of the Internet Business Mastery online training programme. Simply put it means only learning the essential skills to undertake the next step in a project.
For example, if you were looking to learn how use WordPress you might decide to buy a course covering the following topics:
- Setting up a home page
- Creating a blog
- Adding new pages
- Setting the header
- Adding categories and tags to blog posts
- Completing your sidebar
- Creating menus
- Designing a footer
- Adding images
- Dividing pages into column
- Adding dropdowns
The list goes on (and on)
Progress without pressure
But what did you need to do to get your website up and running? Yes – just a few of these steps. I would say at a minimum the first four. If you launch in and learn the whole syllabus, by the time you have completed the first 10 topics, likely as not, you will have forgotten the first one. It's simply not the most efficient way of learning most many business processes.
Just-in-time learning requires that you would simply complete the first lesson, practice it and then implement it before moving on to the next lesson. That way you are making progress without pressure.
Once you have completed your website to your liking (and remember the 80:20 rule https://www.homepreneur.co/pareto-principle-and-efficiency/ – if it's 80% complete move on) As with most things unless it's directly critical to your product or service, 80% is good enough for the first pass. Perfection is frequently at the root of all procrastination. Ensuring you are using the knowledge you have gained ensures you aren't overwhelming your brain and that time isn't running away with itself!