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Can you learn like a scientist in your business?


Lately, I’ve been reading Yuval Noah Harari’s book Sapiens. Which is simply a book about the history of humankind.

Which can sound pretty heady, but it is actually written in a very accessible manner.

What caught my attention this morning was the section on the conceits of modern scientific research:

  1. We don’t know everything.
  2. The aim to gain new knowledge.
  3. Taking this new knowledge and applying it to find new ways of approaching the world.

What caught my attention most about this is that this same group of ideas should be at the heart of our modern business world as well, but in far too many instances, it isn’t.

That got me to thinking about how we could apply these ideas to our work. Here are a few ideas:

We don’t know everything:

We’ve reached an era, especially in America, where we want certainty from everyone.

We’ve somehow made it seem like not knowing the answer to a question is just a sign that you are stupid, unqualified, or what have you.

The truth is that we are all operating with a certain amount of ignorance.

Take me for example, I’m pretty much a non-starter with most things technology. I can power on my Mac. I can update my iPhone, but that’s about it for me.

I will freely admit that.

But when I travel around to organizations and people, I often get some variation of the feedback meant to convey that they have all the solutions.

It takes shape in the form of business processes that aren’t keeping up with modern technologies or buyers.

It can take the form of organizations not selling themselves in a way that best reflects their mission because that’s the way they have always done it.

It happens regularly in the form of micromanaging because an old-school type manager equates knowledge with control.

Whatever form you see it take in your organization, what would happen if you didn’t know everything?

Would you change the way you message your organization to the world?

Would you change the way that your organization sells?

Would you bring in more people into the decision-making process based on their expertise?

How can we gain new knowledge?

If you can recognize that you don’t know everything, it makes learning what you don’t know easier.

One of the key piece’s of advice I’ve heard from some people I respect is that “I’m very good at knowing what I don’t know.”

By understanding what they don’t know, it makes it much simpler to search out the sources of information that you do need to learn what you want to learn.

But what does advancing to new learning look like?

  1. You have to identify what you are trying to learn or what you want to achieve by learning something new.
  2. Figure out what new learning will look like? Do you need to be expert level? Or, what level of learning do you need?
  3. Set a plan for taking action on the learning, make it manageable.

I mean that’s pretty simplistic, but some of the really great apps that teach us meditation or language ask us to commit 10 or 15 minutes to a lesson each day. You can do more, but if you take small consistent steps on your learning…you’ll make strides.

To apply this to our businesses, think about it like this:

I wanted to learn more about email prospecting.

Where did I start?

By figuring out why I wanted to learn about it.

I wanted to learn about email prospecting because I know that email can be a powerful way to open new sales conversations and relationships.

From there, I realized that I could continue covering this topic forever, but what I really wanted to do was to be able to use email as a tool to open sales conversations. So if I had a good grasp of the core concepts, I figured that might writing skills would take over.

Finally, I set a plan for action. Breaking down email prospecting into about 10 steps that would allow me to succeed or fail.

Then I set out to learn a little bit every day in one of those core areas.

Take what you know and apply it:

This is always the step we want to jump to. Or, that we avoid doing at all.

But when we have gained new knowledge, we need to take action.

If you have followed along here so far, you know we need to figure out what we don’t know, what we need to know and how we are going to learn it.

But the action is where the real difference is made.

How can you take action?

If you buy the logic in my example above about prospecting, you will see that I have a natural jumping off point to trying to apply my new knowledge.

I do it by running my own outreach campaign.

I create a list of people that I want to connect with and I start reaching out.

For any of us, we need to figure out how to apply our knowledge.

Is it reaching out?

If you want to write better, maybe you start by blogging once a week.

If you want to speak better, maybe you go to Toastmasters so you are forced to speak in front of people regularly.

If you want to make more sales, you likely need to break down the process into the different steps along the way like opening the conversation, presentation, closing, and on and on.

Whatever your goal, make sure you are taking action on it.

This is just how I saw the application of the modern scientific thinking, but your mileage may vary.

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