Lifelong learning vital to surviving change in any industry

If you feel like change happens faster than ever before, you aren’t imagining things. Up until about 1995, changes moved at a slow pace and society had the opportunity to adapt. From about 1995 to 2005, the pace of change sped up considerably, but change was still gradual.

Since then, change is happening at more than double the rate and I’m convinced that the rate of change will double from that in the next decade. How do you plan to stay successful? Here are my recommendations.

Be a lifelong learner

It used to be easy to keep up with change, but now you must become a student of your craft or your business will die. Sound drastic? I’d venture to say that might not be stating it strongly enough. You can’t sit still anymore and expect to stay in business. Whether you call it continuous education, lifelong learning, or simply keeping up, you must stay abreast of changes in your industry, in technology, and in the economy at large.

Be ‘rigidly flexible’

If you are doing business the same ways you were two years ago, be assured that your competition is hacking away at your business. If you’re doing business the same way you were doing it five years ago, you’re lucky to still be in business. If you’re doing business the same way you were doing it 10 years ago, you are pretty much obsolete.

When you’re adapting to change in your company and even in your industry at large, it’s important to remember to be in constant learning mode, but it’s also important to never forget your company’s core values. These guiding principles should remain at the foundation of your business and you should use these principles to change how you adapt to meet the customers’ needs.

Be communicative with customers and employees

As your company moves through industry and internal changes, you have two audiences you must keep in the loop: your customers and your employees.

As you change, your customers need to be kept aware of your changes including the details of the change and the why behind the decisions. This will help them adapt and they will continue to be loyal to your brand.

Your employees must also be kept aware of changes in your business and industry. I find that too many companies fail to recognize that change is even happening until it nearly smacks them upside the head. This is in part because they fail to pay attention, but more importantly that they fail to have the attitude of a lifelong learner and therefore are not as aware of the more gradual changes.

This is incredibly unfair to the employees and is unwise business management. You need your employees to buy in to your business mission and methods, especially when your company is going through change. If you keep your employees in the dark, fear of the unknown will just discourage them.

I know of companies of various sizes that are going through this very thing. Upper and middle management failed to communicate changes effectively and now their workforce is so paralyzed with fear of their future that they are losing productivity.

It’s an old but true saying that “the only constant is change.” How are you and your company adapting to change? Are you as a manager or owner facilitating lifelong learning? As an employee are you making the effort to learn?

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