Ahead of the Curve: Personalizing Your Path to Knowledge

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Are you steering your own learning journey in today’s fast-paced world, or are you merely a passenger?

In our fast-moving world, where new technologies, social changes, and economic factors intertwine, knowledge is power, but it can also be overwhelming. Because knowledge isn’t just about what we know; it’s also about how we know and who we know that can knows. The problem is, things change so quickly that our usual ways of learning can’t keep up with what we need to know right now. Learning these days is a mix of art and science. It’s about tapping into the constant flow of information and, at the same time, figuring out how to filter and build knowledge that matters in our own areas of work and interest.

To make sure I don’t fall behind in a changing job market, every week I make it a point to learn something new in three steps:

Curating Content: My Journey of Discovery

I have a rule: every newsletter I subscribe to gets deleted at day’s end if I haven’t read it, because there will always be another one tomorrow. I don’t unsubscribe just because I didn’t have time to read; there might be something worthwhile in the next one. But if I’ve checked a few times and found nothing thought-provoking or insightful, I’ll remove myself from the list.

In this era of information overload, smart content curation is key to efficient learning. It’s not just about finding thought leaders, signing up for newsletters and podcasts, or following thought leaders on social media. It’s also about engaging with these resources when we can and stepping back when they stop adding value.

Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t choose the thought leaders I follow based on popular recommendations. I look for the hidden gems, the ones that offer unique insights and analyses, bridge different areas of knowledge and cite diverse sources. They enrich my understanding and consistently introduce me to new ideas. That’s why I prioritize such content.

I read these curated pieces in elevators, waiting for an appointment, or during the time of day when I can no longer engage in work that requires deep thinking. I listen to books and podcasts while driving or working out. And I stick to my rule to delete everything I haven’t gotten to by day’s end to avoid information pile-up and eventual subscription cancellation.  

That’s how I learned: that OpenAI has enhanced ChatGPT, allowing us to tailor an AI that understands our needs and acts accordingly. And that led me down a new learning rabbit hole – learning by doing.

Doing: The Key to 70% of Learning

I’m no tech expert, but in today’s world, you don’t need to be one to use technology. I’ve been using GPT Chat since its launch. When I heard about something new from OpenAI, I sought out videos to quickly understand whether it was just tech buzz or something significant. To my delight, it felt like a geek’s Disneyland.

Here’s why this matters: I discovered that we can now create custom GPTs that learn from us and perform tasks as we define them. The best way to learn this? Dive right in. So, I opened a window and got to work.

What I did: I created digital assistants for myself. I’ve set up an editor (apologies to my newspaper editor) a translator (which allowed me to fire the one I used to translate my columns into English), and even a researcher specializing in future work trends, and a professor to teach me complex concepts. I figured out the best ways to interact with them, how to feed them information, define tasks, and use additional features like file uploads, plugins, and graphic content creation. I also learned when to rely on other tools for more reliable searches.

It was a lengthy and mostly messy process, filled with trial and error, and no one taught me how to do this. But, as we know, learning is 10% formal training, 20% learning from others, and 70% learning by doing. So, I’m learning by doing because we already know AI won’t replace us, but someone using AI might…

Implementing: A Daily, Evolving Practice

This means using new tools daily, even if initially they seem time-consuming, inefficient, or only marginally beneficial. Eventually, they prove their worth. This is where I shift from 70% experiential learning back to 20% learning from others. It’s not about bypassing experimentation or reducing effort, but about gaining insights post-experimentation to see what I missed or where I might be stuck.

To do this, I engage in reverse mentoring, connecting with people the age of my children, who grew up with screens in their hands. They open my eyes to usage models, tools, and concepts that are beyond my grasp. They teach me humility, realizing that while I have three decades of expertise, I’m but an immigrant to this world, in which they are digital natives.

For this, one-off coffee meetings aren’t enough; I’ve cultivated real relationships, meeting weekly and paying for them to ensure mutual commitment to my learning journey. And to ensure I understand the need to embrace change even if it sometimes means letting go of things I’m really good at but no one needs any longer.

What I Implemented: transforming my weekly WorkFutures columns into short video clips, despite my discomfort with the camera. This requires experimenting with tools outside my comfort zone, supported by my young mentor. I’ve also created a video script writer in GPT Chat, teaching it to analyze high-quality, successful video content from the web so that it will help me transform my columns into scripts with shooting directions. Admittedly, I haven’t mustered the courage to film one yet…

Gone are the days when learning was confined to courses with lecturers and textbooks, or solely through degrees. We now live in an era where knowledge and content are democratized, making them more accessible than ever. Consequently, it’s essential to allocate time, budget, and attention to discovering, experimenting, and applying new knowledge. This isn’t a post-crisis strategy; it’s an ongoing necessity. Not tomorrow, but now.

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Nirit Cohen

Nirit Cohen is an expert in the future of work, bridging the gap between emerging trends and practical solutions, providing valuable insights for careers, management, organizations, and broader societal systems.

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