Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
August 5, 2009 2:43 PM

Time To Learn

Sadly, most people stop reading books after they graduate from university. They don't really learn anything new unless they take a course or attend some kind of industry conference. Learning is something they have to plan for.

It's a big mistake.

A couple of days ago, I wrote a Blog post about the value of comments on Blogs (you can read it here: Getting Rid Of Comments) that garnered a lot of attention. The irony is that a lot of the learning takes place in the comment section of that Blog post. It's something I would have never been able to learn had the comments on my Blog not been enabled. But, there's more to the story. Everyone was able to learn. It was not just about the publisher of the content (me) and those that were passionately defending their own positions, but anybody and everyone interested in learning a little bit more about the culture of Social Media and how all of these amazing platforms connect and change who we are as Marketers could take part. The learning also pushed out into places like Facebook and Twitter where those who did not leave comments on the Blog still took the time to question, argue, debate and converse about the core principal idea. That learning would never have been possible had it not been for technology. That group of people could never have formed around a text book, newspaper article or television special on-the-fly like they did.

Not engaging also means that you are not learning.

It's hard to imagine that there are still Marketers who question the validity of the digital channels, but there are. At best, they'll pick up a book like Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky or What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis, read it, pass it on to their team and get back to "business as usual," at worst, they'll watch someone like Seth Godin or Don Tapscott deliver a keynote address at an industry conference, and tear the content apart in the corridor with their peers. If you take home one thing about Social Media and what it means to do business today, let it be this: it is a place to constantly learn, share and grow. It is organic, it is constant, and it is powerful.

What makes it scary?

Size and access. There is a ton of great content out there, and even those who are highly engaged simply can't get around to all of the meaty-goodness. Plus, on top of that, you don't have to pay a penny for it. Some of the most brilliant people in the world are sharing their insights on Blogs, Podcasts (audio and video), on Twitter or happy to connect in online social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn for free. It's easy to duck your head in the sand and pretend like all of this great content is not being published or that you'll get to it when you have a break or during your vacation, but it is happening. And, you're never going to catch up, because what's happening right now will be gone very soon and there will be something else that is just as interesting taking its place. It's going to take a shift in how you have worked and developed your skills to date to take advantage of all of this learning.

Make yourself a promise. 

Promise yourself that you will keep an open mind. Promise yourself that you will listen and follow how the conversation flows (even when it meanders from the ridiculous to the sublime). But, ultimately, promise yourself that you are going to shift away from how you used to learn (setting up a date, time and place) into a more organic state of constantly learning. We can all look around our offices and see business books or industry magazines that we have every good intention of devouring (but rarely do). Promise yourself that you will change now and open yourself up to the idea that learning is happening inside all of these channels - all of the time - and that all you're going to do is learn a little (or a lot) minute by minute.

Now is the perfect time to learn.

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Greg O'Brien
    Mitch Joel

    You're right Mitch. Everybody has to engage. Period. The value of Twitter, for example, for me, isn't so much about pushing my two cents and my brand out there, it's been more about what I've learned by following the links and conversations I've engaged in - or simply watched unfold. Thanks.

    Reply
  • Posted by Karen
    Mitch Joel

    This may not relate to what you were saying Mitch, but your post on comments (and the comments on that) made me start to think that we have come full circle in how we learn but with many major improvements. Let me explain.
    I can't say for sure (because I wasn't there), but it often seems to me that the internet has returned us to a time where the learning was in the conversation. In ancient times, learning was mostly through debate and discussion. (Think of how we imagine ancient philosophers would sit and debate) and their students would watch, participate and learn. In the last 100 years (we'll call it that for convenience) we moved to a one-way channel of schools and universities with 'experts' teaching and while there was some conversation, it wasn't necessarily the main way to learn.
    Now we have this amazing amount of free content AND a way to discuss it. The learning is once more in the conversation. The conversation may be in person "hey did you read Seth's blgo post on ..." or it may be in the comments on one of your posts or it may be in a Facebook group for the purpose; but we can all teach and learn at the same time. In addition, we find books, TED talks, blogs, etc. and we get more inspired to learn more.
    Your point is very valid - we'll never get caught up on everything we want to read or watch, but simply by participating, we can learn.

    Reply
  • Posted by Zach Everson
    Mitch Joel

    Please don't forsake fiction though!

    Reply
  • Posted by Scott Stawarz
    Mitch Joel

    Love this post!

    I aspire and act as a life-long learner. Your thoughts on social media and learning are spot on. In fact, we could apply these thoughts to plain old analog social living.

    Every interaction with everyone is an opportunity to give and learn.

    Reply
  • Posted by Georgia Mouka
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch, I love how you think! I live to learn and I learn to live. I was chatting with a friend last week that said "I don't read. I don't want to know. I'm not interested." Hello. Wake Up! If you aren't learning, you're not growing. If you're not growing, you're not making a difference. We have an obligation to learn freely, to express ourselves and share our thoughts. We can learn from eachother and make a difference, change ourselves and change the world. We can make it a better place for us and the next generation. I've learned so much from digging deeper, clicking on links, watching videos and reading blogs. I'm grateful that people are generous with their words and their thoughts. It gives me a new perspective. It challenges my thinking. It refreshes my spirit. So thank you for sharing. Thank you for teaching me new things. And I can do it all from the comforts of my home whatever time I please! What a wonderful world we live in today. Mitch, thanks for sharing and stimulating "the conversation" every day.

    Reply
  • Posted by Chris Simmons
    Mitch Joel

    Great blog Mitch.

    Planning when to stop learning is a challenge. Information is 'pushed' by social media sites and I use aggregate software to bring all that data into once place.

    I could spend all day following the threads of blogs on the latest trends, technology and high level IT concepts. Unfortunately I have to set a cut off point to complete my tasks.


    Reply
  • Posted by Mansi
    Mitch Joel

    Well said, Mitch. I agree that a lot of learning happens in the comments section and it is equally important as the blog post itself.
    It is interesting to see that when people post comments on various online publication posts, they use that space as a more self-promotion tool than anything else.

    Also, I wish there was a way to make the comments section more social than it already is. I don't comment as much unless I have a pressing need to voice my thoughts.

    I couldn't agree more on the learning part. We live in the world of 'free' for lack of a better term. Our sources and channels are FILLED with information. Such an exciting place to be! How can we not salivate to knowledge?

    I'd love to hear your thoughts on the WSJ's Communication Manifesto...on communicating less or slowly: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB20001424052970203550604574358643117407778.html#mod=todays_us_weekend_journal

    Oh, and great post!

    Reply
  • Posted by Roy Peter
    Mitch Joel

    Yes lots of people dont know the value of comments on blogs. Hope your post will make people realize the importance of posting comments on the blogs.
    Thanks,
    Roy Peter - Marketing

    Reply
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