What is this thing; lifelong learning? David Brooks called it the ‘question-driven life’, and the late diplomat Richard Holbrooke delivered one of the best defining quotes: “Know something about something. Don’t just present your wonderful self to the world. Constantly amass knowledge and offer it around.”
Lifelong learning = Curiosity
Recently, in a response to a consultant survey, Michael Dell, the chief executive of Dell, Inc. identified curiosity as the one attribute a leader will need to succeed in the future.
“Dell was responding to a 2015 PwC survey of more than a thousand CEOs, a number of whom cited “curiosity” and “open-mindedness” as leadership traits that are becoming increasingly critical in challenging times. Another of the respondents, McCormick & Company CEO Alan D. Wilson, noted that business leaders who “are always expanding their perspective and what they know—and have that natural curiosity—are the people that are going to be successful.
“These days, a leader’s primary occupation must be to discover the future,” Panera Bread CEO Ron Shaich told me. It’s “a continual search,” Shaich says, requiring that today’s leader keep exploring new ideas—including ideas from other industries or even from outside the business world.”
OK, you’re not the head of a multi-national corporation, but you have questions, and not just about the technical aspects of work. It’s the human stuff that’s a bit more difficult to unbundle.
There have been continuing education and extension programs catering to adult learning for a hundred years. Most are connected to an academic institution and offer ‘lite’ versions of curricula taught to college students.
In the summer of 2008, ‘philosopher of life’ Alain deBotton founded ‘The School of Life’ in London a few blocks walk from the Russell Square Underground Station. Since then it has evolved into the new model for lifelong learning, employing non-traditional faculty to deliver programing focused on “developing emotional intelligence through the help of culture. We address such issues as how to find fulfilling work, how to master the art of relationships, how to understand one’s past, how to achieve calm and how better to understand, and where necessary change, the world.”
In the Marchmont Street location, and recently opened global sites, professionals come together to learn, share and evolve in a safe space of respectful interaction. This past weekend, SOL offered a ‘pop-up’ sampling of programs in Los Angeles. I attended three of the five sessions led by philosopher and trust consultant, Brennan Jacoby.
On a beautiful California Saturday morning, a diverse group of students arrived at the Design Matters Gallery to begin a day of three, 90 minute sessions. The content informed, inspired and provoked lively discussion.
The School of Life model works because talented faculty deliver contemporary topics, using an instructional technique that allows for the right balance of introspection, sharing and networking. Sessions seemed to end too soon, with attendees lingering to continue conversations.
For the Los Angeles weekend the topics included: How to Find A Job You Love, How to Be Creative, How to Think Like an Entrepreneur, How to be Confident and How to Have Better Conversations.
The School of Life is a catalyst for the question-driven life. If you’ve decided your ‘wonderful self’ is not quite perfect yet, and you’re “ready to amass knowledge and offer it around”, set you lifelong learning GPS on London, or visit the website to begin your quest.