I just spent the last 2,5 days in Silicon Valley together with 35 business executives from various industries in Norway. The aim of the trip was to visit some of the pioneers in technology, including large corporations like Microsoft, Google and Facebook, smaller startups, and Stanford University, to learn from what they are thinking about the future, especially the digital transformation that we are now a part of and see how it would apply to our businesses back home.
I have learned a lot on this trip, in terms of technology, leadership, business, knowledge transfer, diversity, and design thinking. But my most important lesson is how important it is for leaders to continue to learn and to have a growth mindset. If you think that because you have been a leader for many years, been part of prior transformations, have extensive experience, you know it all – you are outdated already. The yearn to explore new thing and listen to others, be humble to what other companies do and think, and open for possibilities of change, is the very essence of being a responsible leader. Being so arrogant that you think that you are finished learning, will put you out of business. Maybe not today or next month, but sooner than you think.
One of our speakers this week said it is important to let go of the tradition, because that might be the only thing that is holding you back from succeeding with the future. Letting go of the safe, what you know, your core – to explore the future, is key to getting to the future in the first place. Because potential new customers don’t care about your tradition, they only care about finding the right solution for their problem. Now.
Taking the time out to learn new things should be on every leader’s agenda. Saying that you are so busy that you don’t have time to attend a training, a seminar or a conference, is like saying you don’t have time to stop to fill gas, because you have to get to your destination on time. Eventually you will run out of gas, and then you never made it to your destination anyway.
If you prioritize to learn – from others, from those who believe in other things than you do, from your competition, from those that are outside your industry, from those that have different experiences than you – will give you an advantage. The advantage of seeing the world from a new angle.
You don’t have to travel half way around the world to learn of course – taking a small timeout during the day is sometimes more than enough.
The point is: when you learn, you grow. And you have to continue to grow, for your own sake, and for the sake of your company.