Lifelong Learning: Everyone's Responsibility!

This is the last of three blogs addressing meetings industry education.

The first, "Industry Education: 1 of 3 Steps to Improvement" addressed how we can improve education delivered at industry meetings; the second "Will Industry Associations Survive?" resulted in a lively discussion about alternatives to traditional industry associations.

In this, I hope to spur our industry to provide resources and methods to create and nourish lifelong learners because I’ve always described myself as a lifelong learner.

What that meant to me was:

  • Searching out or stumbling across and reading a variety of topics including those that may not be applicable to my work or life.
  • Observing the world around me and making connections to what I do or might do.
  • Listening to opinions and insights of many and taking that information in to use now or one day or maybe never—just learning.  
  • Reading books and articles about disparate subjects.
  • Teaching others and learning from them.
  • Questioning everything.
  • And saying “tell me more” to delve deeper.

I wondered how lifelong learning was defined by others. It was cool to discover who coined the term and when (thanks, Wikipedia!). And then two other sources, the Lifelong Learning Council and The University of Utah, gave me more insights into what lifelong learning is.

What’s puzzled me for years is why, when people achieve credentials (diplomas, degrees, certificates, certification, etc.), they often believe they are done learning. More, in this electronic age when access to information is literally at the fingertips of many—certainly of those reading this—why more people don’t want to learn all the time!

Look, I know time is a factor. I can get lost in links to more and more information, taking me away from "real work." And I want to talk about what I’ve learned so I post on social media what I’ve read and hope others will join in a discussion which leads to more learning.

On long flights, I want, after reading, to stand up and lead a discussion (I fear it’s against the FAA rules!).

Our industry’s meetings, conferences and webinars—whether sponsored by CIC member associations or new organizations or for-profit companies providing education—could do so much more to foster lifelong learning. Though we know it’s a best practice, we don’t provide time and space for learners, after face-to-face sessions, to engage in discussing their questions about what they learned and how to apply that knowledge. Through various social media outlets we sometimes try to engage those who attended sessions in post-meeting discussions but these aren’t as successful as they could be with more nurturing of discussions.

We seem to think—and we definitely act—as if learning stops when one leaves a session or conference just as many think that once the degree is achieved, they are done with learning!

PCMA is doing one of the better jobs of encouraging learning by providing aggregated news in their daily News Junkie. Through Carolyn Clark’s crack of dawn efforts, links to news stories are offered in hopes we learn from those stories and dig deeper and take what we read to the discussion boards.

Here’s what some of us do and what the industry could require:

  1. Pre-reading lists in the description of each session: books, links to articles, journals online discussions.
  2. Provide at least three suggested additional resources of books, articles, etc. furnished by all speakers—main stage and workshops, webinars or other delivery methods.
  3. Make available space and time and encourage people to gather formally or informally to talk about what they just learned.
  4. Create an electronic, paper or physical board where people can post their suggested resources for more learning on a topic.
  5. In every journal, a list of on and off topic reading and listening and watching one can do to expand one’s horizons.

As individuals, we can start with these "Fifteen Steps to Cultivate Lifelong Learning."

This Mark Twain quote in “Fifteen Steps”—“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education”—has been one of my mottos and a quote I use often in training.

No matter how much or how little formal learning we have, being a lifelong learner opens new avenues. Start now!

P.S. Don't miss my related book review covering Daniel Pink's "A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future." An essential read for planners!

The views expressed in this blog and in other writing are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Meetings Today.

Posted by Joan L. Eisenstodt

Follow Joan on Twitter: @joaneisenstodt

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