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By David Harder on April, 14, 2017

Why Active Learners Own Our Future

We used to derive our security from a job. Today we find our security from growth.


If that’s true (and it is), consider what a vast change in consciousness and outlook this represents for most of us. In my upcoming book The Workplace Engagement Solution (Career Press), I have interviewed some of America’s most respected leaders and hiring managers. It has become clear the active learners is today’s single most sought after candidate. Without that trait, the probability of having a long and effective future with any up and coming organization is practically nil.


According to Cathy Sandeen, the Chancellor from The University of Wisconsin, today’s average college graduate will change careers (not jobs) four to six times. There are other futurists who predict even more frequent transformation. The new era of work is turning generations of rote cultural behaviors upside down. For example, for hundreds of years, we went through the educational factory culminating in a degree. Once that happened, the education stopped. Now, static education is obsolete before the ink is dry. Learning content needs to be updated almost as quickly as it is written.


Today, higher education isn’t an endgame, it is another opportunity to learn how to learn. Developing muscle in that practice is key for remaining competitive in our rapidly changing environments. Those of us who understand this dynamic are changing as quickly as the world around us. There are numerous payoffs from embracing constant learning. We grow in unimaginable ways. We are renewed. We develop confidence in finding the opportunities in the waves of change rather than being swallowed whole as we look to the past. We change our outlook. Instead of stagnating we are renewed.


God help anyone with a decided lack of curiosity. The world’s most successful people read an average of 2-3 hours per day. They go to learning programs, conventions and watch Ted Talks. They pursue any session that could increase their awareness and knowledge. They cruise the Internet and read articles. I have a personal belief that reading Harvard Business Review and Atlantic Monthly increases my IQ by at least a perceived 30 points.


Right now, our politicians (on both sides of the fence) are doing more harm by promising jobs rather than telling America to get off its butt and reinvent, learn, explore, take courses and, become aware of what is actually happening in the world. We make a lot of noise about lowering unemployment but little is said about underemployment, which is a far greater scourge in our country. Most of these individuals are mired in place waiting for things to get back to normal. As candidates, they are impeached within a few minutes because if the organization has any savvy will ask questions like:


  • What have you learned about our market recently?
  • What are you currently reading?
  • Please tell me the most impactful thing you learned this past year?
  • Where do you go to get information?
  • How is learning impacting you today?


In 2011, I sent out an e-mail to several hundred readers we knew were looking for work and asked which employer was hiring more people in new jobs than any other organization in Los Angeles? We asked for a 24-hour turnaround to verify or give the right answer. One came back with the correct answer: Google. The rest didn’t know the tech giant had arrived in LA. In fact, Google was leasing huge blocks of commercial space in Beverly Hills, taken the Binocular Building in Venice, purchased three blocks of land behind that iconic building including Gold’s Gym and built a state-of-the-art post production complex in Playa del Rey. I found out by looking.


My colleagues send articles, books, websites, e-learning opportunities to me all of the time. They read them. At a time when some of my peers are starting to retire or slow down, we are excitedly looking at how to use virtual learning, sophisticated digital platforms and welcome the future into our business. Candidly, I don’t think we are doing anything special because this behavior ought to be the norm for most everyone.


Here are my favorite recent reads. Each one offers a learning experience unlike others:

  • The Inevitable – Understanding the 12 technological forces that will shape our future, Kevin Kelly (Viking)
  • Defenseless Under the Night: The Roosevelt Years and the Origins of Homeland Security, Matthew Dallek (Oxford)
  • How to Raise an Adult, Julie Lythcott-Haims, (Henry Holt & Company)
  • The Geography of Genius: A Search for the World’s Most Creative Places from Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley, Eric Weiner (Simon & Schuster)


This summer, look for The Workplace Engagement Solution (Career Press) from yours truly.


Brought to you by David Harder, President – Inspired Work, Inc.,


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