Technology has transformed how we view intelligence, says University of Virginia Professor Edward Hess. To earn a reputation of being “smart” in the modern workplace, you need to upgrade your capabilities by embracing 21st-century learning skills.
“What matters is being an adaptive learner—someone who knows what he or she doesn’t know and how to learn the answers by asking the right questions, someone who can think critically and innovatively, and someone who can listen with an open mind and collaborate well with others,” says Hess, author of “Learn or Die: Using Science to Build a Leading-Edge Learning Organization.”
Follow these six tips from Hess to become an active learner:
1. Get comfortable with “not knowing.” You’re never as smart as you think you are. To learn, you need to know what you don’t know—and not get defensive. Actively develop your critical thinking and innovative thinking skills.
2. Quiet your ego to embrace open-mindedness. Learn to stress-test your beliefs and preconceived notions, not constantly seek to confirm them. Separate your ideas from your self-worth.
“Changing a previously held belief doesn’t mean you’re a bad person,” Hess says. “It simply means you’ve learned to adapt your thinking based on new information or facts you’ve received.”
3. Be a self-motivated learner. Too often, people are driven primarily by external rewards. Seeing learning solely as a way to obtain more money or respect can lead you to pass on transformative opportunities because of the fear of failure.
“You’ll need to see learning as its own reward,” Hess says.
4. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Rather than viewing mistakes as something you’ve done wrong, learn from them. That process drives innovation.
The faster and better you are at turning mistakes into learning, the more valuable you’ll become, Hess says.
5. Develop your emotional intelligence. Effective collaboration is an essential skill, the foundation for successful organizations. Build relationships by authentically relating to another person and creating trust.
“If you can’t manage your own emotions, read others’ emotions, or connect with the people around you on more than a superficial level, then you won’t be a successful collaborator,” Hess says.
6. Seek constructive feedback. To become the best in your field you must train yourself to absorb the potentially valuable information contained in negative feedback, rather than automatically defending yourself, deflecting criticism, or denying a shortcoming exists.
This article first appeared in Credit Union Front Line Newsletter, the monthly sales and service newsletter for branch staff and their managers. Subscribe now to the print edition or PDF version.