When speaking with clients and running training sessions or engaging in strategic dialogue, I’ll often hear “How do you get to know all this stuff?”.
It’s a natural question to ask when faced with unknown information about emerging trends, “the future”, or technology. And my answer is always the same: it isn’t about being smarter or being born with the information. You need to be seeking out great sources of information all the time because the pace of change is ever-increasing and it’s really hard to keep up. For those who put in some effort, there are amazing rewards.
With that in mind, here are some recommendations for how to go about continually learning to stay ahead of the curve.
Use an RSS reader app and follow great news sites
Just about all news websites & sources online will publish using a method known as “RSS”, which stands for “Really Simple Syndication”. Everything from a blog site, to a podcast, to a Twitter feed works with this basic infrastructure running underneath it. This mechanism makes it possible for you to “subscribe” to a site using an RSS app (I’ve used Feedly for years), and whenever they publish something, those posts will show up in your app’s inbox/feed for you to read.
So using one of those apps, you can subscribe to all of the news sources that you rely on for information and read them in one central place without having to visit them all independently or wait for them to show up in your social media feed. This also makes it really easy to follow the activity of individual companies or individuals as you choose.
Subscribe to email newsletters
Once again, let the information that you want flow to you. As most of us know, if you need to actively go out and do something, it can be really hard for the habit to stick and it’s easy to not keep up. But if the information flows right to you, you’re more likely to see it and act upon it.
Email is a big issue for a lot of us, and clutter or just “too much mail” is certainly an issue, so be picky about what you choose to subscribe to. But the ability to get high-quality news and information right in your inbox can be invaluable.
An emerging trend is the use of Substack by journalists and content creators to go direct-to-consumer with their content, bypassing traditional publication mechanisms. This subscription model is growing rapidly in popularity and will likely become a more common way for people to engage directly with their preferred creators.
Follow thought leaders
Twitter is often maligned, as much of social media deserves to be these days, for being full of junk or nonsense conversations. The key to having it work for you and getting value out of it is entirely down to who you follow.
If you follow 50-100 accounts, all of which are of high-value and are people who are thoughtful and post and engage in ways which are constructive and are a value-add to your life and/or business, that is worth the 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes in the evening that you might spend scrolling through your feed. It doesn’t need to take over your life or your precious time. (If it is, then you’re doing it wrong.)
Listen to corporate earnings calls
Take 1 hour per day (or as often as your schedule allows) and replace time that you currently spend listening to podcasts, watching Netflix/YouTube videos, etc. with listening to corporate earnings calls. (I recommend the “Borsa” app.)
Time that you’re currently throwing away on mindless recreation & entertainment while exercising, driving, multitasking, etc. can be spent soaking up interesting thoughts from the folks running powerful, successful businesses that you can draw inspiration from.
- What trends are they pursuing or hedging against?
- What areas of innovation are they observing?
- What are the global macro storylines playing out over the coming year/decade that are worth paying attention to?
Share what you’re learning with your colleagues
On some of the regular team Zoom calls that I’m a part of as a member of boards or group projects, we start by going around the horn and letting everyone share something. With one board, everyone shares their “happy note”, something exciting or good about their world lately, personal or professional. With another organization, we all share “Wins, wows, and woo-hoo’s”. Again, a really nice way of opening a conversation, getting to know everyone a bit better and during COVID that’s certainly something that we all need.
When conducting these icebreakers and team-builders, also look for ways to share what everyone is learning and how they are learning. Not only to share information, but to reinforce the processes that everyone is using to get those results.
There is a wealth of knowledge out there for you to tap into that’s freely available. Once you get connected and make it part of your routine you’ll find that you’re much more in tune with where some of the trends are heading, why, and how to prepare yourself and your business for what’s next. And once you start finding success, share your methods and ideas with your colleagues to foster a culture of innovation in your organization.