It’s all about output

It's all about outputWe are usually encouraged to learn and learning is, without doubt, a great thing. However, there could be much more attention paid to what we do with that learning and the things we learn. Often, learning is seen as an end in itself (which is okay to some extent, I suppose) but we could be thinking much more about how we can apply the learning we do.

Even in school we are only really encouraged to demonstrate that we have learned our course material with tests, examinations and written assignments. There is too little importance placed on our getting on with things ourselves, producing some output without worrying about whether anyone has asked us to do it or even given permission.

To really excel we need to be able to produce some output. This output can be based on formal or experiential learning but it is important that we do it. Look at people who work in Universities, for example. You would think that these people have learned more than most and that might be enough, but their success depends not on how much they know but how much output they produce in terms of articles and papers.

In business we can be faced with a similar situation. We can plan and study the market and perfect our product, but until we actually produce some output we aren’t really doing anything. In business we need to get away from this analysis paralysis and get a product out there in the marketplace.

There is a fairly new (to me, anyway) idea of the “minimum viable product”. This can sound like you are trying to get away with doing the absolute minimum, which some might consider unacceptable, but what you are doing with this approach is giving your customers what they want, even though it may not be perfect yet. Huge companies, such as Oracle, started off with a product that was, by all accounts, pretty ropey, but it did a lot of what their customers wanted so they built customer loyalty and made it very difficult for their competitors to catch up. We can do this too.

There is a tendency for us to think that if we can just learn a little bit more before we start acting then things will go perfectly. However, problems will still arise no matter how much we learn and plan. We should take the plunge and start now, because one of the most valuable types of learning is what we gain from experience. With experience we find it easier to do things and they don’t take as long; we become more efficient.

The benefit of interacting with other people while you are taking action should not be underestimated. I read an interview with Joe Satriani, virtuoso electric guitarist, a few years ago in which he was talking about how much he practised to be as good as he is. He said practising on your own is valuable but it is also important to play with other people. According to Joe, you can practise as much as you like, but if you don’t play with other people “you’re still gonna suck”.

So be brave and take action. Start today and continue your learning on the journey.

Walter March 8, 2010 at 07:17

Perhaps people should learn more about taking actions that being passive with what they learn. What you have elaborated here is extremely important in achieving our goals. Without application, our knowing are not worth anything. :-)

Just Not Last March 9, 2010 at 11:57

I like the way you put it here – part of learning should be about what we can do with what we learn. We can really only benefit other people with our learning if we apply it or pass it on.

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