I once knew a guy who was an expert in his field. Every conference I would attend would have him lecturing the audience. You would sit there and hang on every word. You made it a point to attend any of the workshops and sessions he was conducting because you were sure to walk away with some insight he had recently come across.
He had a slew of certifications, served on numerous Boards, and came across as very prominent and regal. He garnered the respect and admiration of those he came across and always seemed to have an answer for everything.
Then a funny thing happened. The company I was working for at the time hired this guy. They too were enamored by his wisdom, charm, and expertise. As one would expect, he came into the company to fill a large and influential position.
To my surprise…The guy was an idiot! He didn’t have a clue! He was making it up as he was going along just like the rest of us. However, he did have the ability to make it up as he went along faster than the rest of us!
He coupled this speed of figuring things out with the ability to speak with much credibility. It was this combination that allowed him to set himself apart as an expert in his field.
I worked with another fellow that operated in a similar fashion.
Typically, when someone learns something new they go through the experience of “watch one, do one, teach one” as the normal progression of learning something new. Not this guy. He would “teach one, do one, watch one.”
If he stumbled across some new idea or concept, he couldn’t wait to tell others about it before he even knew how it worked, himself. He would do this with eloquence and authority and people loved it!
What did both of these people have in common? They both learned incredibly fast. Let’s face it, things change much too fast in today’s business environment for anyone to think they are going to stand still and not have to learn anything new. This is especially true if you work in any type of field that employs technology.
What, then, are some of the things that you can do as a project manager to learn incredibly fast?
Below is a Project Manager Program for Instant Learning
WARNING…it will require some time and effort to gain this instant learning, but the payoff is worth the time and effort.
#1. Read: Yes, I know you are saying, “Really? This is your secret to instant learning? Reading?” Sure, it’s obvious. But, what we’re talking about here is not the casual reading that occurs from reading a blog post here and there (good job reading this post, by the way), but an incessant and voracious appetite for reading. You should be reading multiple books at the same time.
These books can and should be directly related to your field or help you solve a particular problem you have encountered. These books can and should be related to nothing about your field or area of expertise. It’s amazing the cross pollination that can occur from one discipline to the next if you open your mind to different influences from different bodies of knowledge.
#2. Research: The second part of the project management program for instant learning is to become a good researcher. Here’s the scenario…
You are sitting in a meeting and a new term or TLA (three letter acronym) is thrown out there. Everyone else in the room nods their head in agreement as if they know what the speaker is saying. You, on the other hand, have no idea what the speaker is saying. You have two choices. Nod your head in agreement as if you know exactly what the speaker is saying, or discretely write the term or TLA down for later research.
Once you get back to your desk do a quick Google search and you’ll be all set. It doesn’t take long to dig deep into a subject, thanks to Google. Now, the next time you hear that expression or TLA, you too can nod your head in knowing agreement.
#3. Explain: Another aspect of the project management program for instant learning is to take what you have just learned and explained it to others.Start with your colleague over lunch. They can be your guinea pig. Explain to them what you just learned and see if your explanation is clear enough to understand.
It’s one thing to think you’ve got it straight in your own mind and an entirely different thing to have to explain it to someone else and get it straight in their mind. This will allow you to shore up any gaps, answer any questions, and reinforce the information to yourself. Then, try it out with small groups and meetings, and the next thing you know you’ll be introduced as the expert at the next large conference you attend.
#4. Question: The project management program for learning requires that you question as many people as possible. There is a wealth of knowledge at your disposal to every person that you meet. Take advantage of the opportunity you have when you are with them to ask them what they do.
One question I always like to ask is “in all of your years of education, what is the one most mind-blowing thing you learned?” The person will take a moment to reflect and then always come up with something that you will treasure for years to come.
What most of us like to do is dominate the conversation with what we already know. What’s the value of that? We already know what we already know. Take the time to get to know what we don’t know.
#5. Triangulate: Just like a GPS uses 3 satellites to pinpoint your exact location, you can do the same when it comes to pinpointing precise information. The project management program for instant learning is based upon the “trust but verify” credo. Take someone or something at face value, but then try to find something else that backs up what they say for a fuller measure of confidence. As a matter of fact, it never hurts to “quadrate” or even “octagon-late” for that matter. The more people and sources you hear the same information from the more you can believe it to be true and present it that way.
#6. Fail: Yes, failure is, of course, the greatest project manager program for instant learning. Is failure painful? Yes. But, the lessons learned from small to catastrophic failures will flood back into your mind the next time you are presented with a similar situation.
Volumes will be spoken in a split second which allows you to make the best decision possible to move forward. There is nothing like having done something the wrong way to afford you the conviction to speak about why you need to do it the right way! Feel bad for yourself for about one minute when you fail and then pick yourself up again and move forward.
Make a conscious effort to apply the process of reading, researching, explaining, questioning, triangulating, and even failing and you’ll be on your way to becoming an expert (and not an idiot) in your field in no time at all!