More Alan Webber. This guy is a magnet for interesting business discussions. On learning:
I don’t think all our learning doors are always wide open. We’re more like hearts; sometime we’re diastolic and other time systolic. For the last few years I was probably more giving out that taking in. When Bill [Taylor] and I were starting this magazine we were learning about everything all the time! I think for a while we sort of lived off our accrued intellectual capital. But I’m stepping up my own learning now since we have to be constantly reinventing the magazine.
How do I learn? I’m a great believer in multimedia. Yes, I read magazines and look at the competition and pay attention to what they’re doing, but I am also a TV channel flipper, radio surfer in the car, and newspaper scanner in the morning. It’s environmental scanning, checking for the signals of what’s happening, how is the game changing? Bill and I scan the environment and ask the questions that people are asking in lots of places but they aren’t asking in a focused way.
We both also spend a lot of time out in the field, as the anthropologists say. Go out to a company and spend time listening to people. Conversation is still a key tool for busy business people, and is indeed a fundamental way we all learn. More than ever, we don’t have enough time to read, we don’t have enough time to reflect. We learn by having an interesting group of people or bumping into interesting people and listening to what they are telling us. Then, we need filters or screens that reflect how people are working so that we can sort the information into useful categories.
I also tend to read books more than I read magazines now—because I want sustained rather than spot insights. It’s a sort of corrective to all the channel flipping I do. I will pick a personal theme, sometimes even by accident, and just pursue it. It may not have anything to do with business or management. But inevitably something interesting I read helps me think about those subjects freshly. There are some real insights in the history of World War II, for example, about globalization and competition. The challenge is always to take what you’ve been learning and use it to re-examine the stuff of your day to day questions.