In October, I began a blog series about the characteristics of a professional; you can read the introduction to the series here. This post is the 2nd in a series of 10 that will be posted over the coming weeks.
Participate in Community Learning
When I look at a 100-story building, I think, “How smart was the person who knew how to build that so that it does not fall over.” However, one person did not do it by himself or herself. The process of constructing a 100-story building started centuries ago when someone first built a 2-story building, and then a 3-story building, and so on and so on until we reached 100 floors or more.
The Wright brothers did not build the first airplane in isolation. Their efforts were greatly helped by every unsuccessful attempt at flying that occurred before them. They learned from their own failures and the failures of others in order to build an airplane. After the Wright brothers, there were thousands and thousands of people who helped us get to the Space Shuttle to the Airbus A380 to the satellites that we send into the far reaches of the universe.
These are both examples of community learning, which I define as learning with and from others. Individually, we do not know very much and there are few original thoughts or ideas anymore. Therefore, we do not move forward individually, but rather we move forward as a community.
The community learning should not be just about our personal lives, but professionally as well. Maybe it is only the department that we work in that we can move forward, but we want the group knowledge in that little part of the world to be greater when we leave than it was when we came. We should strive to increase the body of knowledge in our life, in our company, and in the world just a little bit. As everyone contributes to the common body of knowledge then step by step, piece-by-piece, large leaps forward will be made.
One way that we see community learning in action is through teams in a company. A team, like a quality team, usually has members from different departments because each department has a different perspective, a different skill set, and perhaps a different approach to solve the problem. To get the best solution, companies want to bring all of these different people together and let them collaborate.
Just as your company needs to continuously move forward, so do you! Your profession is always changing. Just because you knew everything you needed to know when you were in school or passed the exam does not mean that you know everything you need to know now. A very good example of the need to continuous education is in the tax profession. How many people want to hear their tax advisor say, “When I passed the CPA Exam 17 years ago, the tax law was…” In your career you cannot afford to stand still because others are moving forward and if you do not move forward too, you will be passed.
Brian Hock, CMA, CIA