Keep Learning: Beginner’s Mind Is Key in R&D
There are a number of ways to continually grow as a business person. If you do it right, you may grow your business, along with your mind. The reason for this is simple: much of what we think of when we hear the term R&D (research and development) is the development side of things. We tend to forget about the ‘research’ component of R&D. As a result, our bottom lines suffer.
What are some best practices, then, to incorporate more research into our daily lives at work? Here are a few easy, actionable strategies to implement in order to return a sense of wonder, play, and curiosity to your daily routine.
Learn Something New Every Day
I already know what you’re probably thinking: “How am I supposed to do that? I have no time.” However, there are a number of ways to engage with the financial world: whether you’re a financial analyst or an entrepreneur, a CFO or a content marketer: it’s crucial to educate yourself on the state of the economy in order to gain a valuable understanding of others’ perspectives.
One excellent way to do this is to become an autodidact of sorts: read policy magazines at your local book store or magazine stand; subscribe to at least one newspaper or journal of import—such as The New York Times or the Wall Street Journal—and check out the dialogue around topics such as investment, entrepreneurship, mergers & acquisitions, and so on.
- Another approach is via engaging with others in the business world directly via Twitter and other forms of networking.
- Conferences are also invaluable, as well as webinars and live Twitter chats discussing a particular topic or the given issue chosen by the moderators.
- There are a number of platforms for social engagement around news stories and economic and business-related issues: from Reddit forums to following or writing for blogs of interest to you.
Ideally, you want to work up to the point that you’re being followed on a regular basis by people in the industry who want you to write about them.
A few sites and finance blogs that are a must-see, so to speak, in terms of their authority and expertise on business-related topics, include:-
- The Economist’s Free Exchange ,
- The NY Times’ Paul Krugman,
- NPR’s Planet Money,
- and Fast Company.
For example, though The Economist requires online registration in order to access three articles a month, it’s possible to access the journal via your local library or bookstore; moreover, its articles are authoritative and well-written, with an excellent scope demonstrating both depth and breadth.
It’s also important to get a sense of ‘the big picture,’ so to speak, via a combination of news-based sources, finance-specific journals, and other online resources. Remember to seek out information from authoritative sources yourself, rather than relying on your network of friends and family. This brings me to my next point: the importance of libraries.
Libraries and Information Management
Another way to prevent the stagnation of keeping abreast of industry knowledge is by seeking out the expertise of your company librarian. (If you don’t have one, maybe you should find one!) Corporate librarians and digital archivists do actually exist!
Consider this: the graduate degree name traditionally associated with library science, the MLS, is now being replaced by a ‘Master of Information’ or MIS degree; moreover, the field is projected to grow by an average of 7 percent from 2012 to 2022. That, in and of itself, demonstrates the extent to which libraries are shifting many of their informational resources and reference materials to an online platform: databases, e-books, electronic archives, and audio-visual materials all have the ability to reside primarily online.
However, opportunities for advancement with a private company, as opposed to a government entity, are better than average, since the private sector is generally stronger than the government sector (in the current economy). Take Leslie Howerton Hicks, a corporate librarian for Nike: she didn’t start out intending to be a corporate librarian, but because the opportunity presented itself, she eventually became Nike’s Footwear Materials Librarian. She gets to archive and catalog all their materials, basically, as well as maintain vast amounts of information and knowledge about production and material-related sources related to the footwear industry in general, and Nike, in particular.
Whether it’s via maintaining, disseminating, and development an internal collection of physical and digital resources or compiling all a company’s evergreen resources and linkable assets into one place, information specialists and digital archivists have their place at the table and can work in conjunction with in-house trainers and educational specialists. Ideally, your company has someone to maintain the company’s physical assets, materials, white papers, in-house publications, etc., but if not, this is likely what the in-house development trainer is there for.
Use your research library
The world of online information is substantially larger than you may have realized. If you’re interested in tapping into the potential wealth of knowledge out there, but you can’t afford hiring an in-house librarian or information specialist, consider giving your local public or state-funded research library a call and making an appointment to go over resources and reference material relevant to your industry. Librarians today are equipped to facilitate a wide variety of information: if they don’t personally know the answer, themselves, they’ll know who they should contact in order to obtain the answer to your question.
Share the information
One last way to share and disseminate newly acquired information is to present your findings to your colleagues during business meetings. There are a number of ways to do this: via classroom; via the blog and Twitter-sphere; via social media; around the proverbial water cooler.
You may have heard about the phenomenon of teaching a subject or concept in order to solidify your understanding of it, but if not, try it sometime: it works! As with a seminar-style class, one person teaches a concept to their peers in order to solidify a concept, as a team. Specialized subject classes may be offered throughout the year, on a rolling basis, or at particular intervals, such as just after the holidays or after the end of the fiscal year.
That’s it for the research side of R&D, for now. Share your experiences with company learning and development classes, in-house libraries or digital archives and information specialization in the comments section, below.
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