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.