If Lifelong Learning is a Necessity, Why is Execution So Difficult?

Lifelong learning vs. laziness

While lazy habits are on the rise, continuing education and learning is on the decline.

These days, technology is evolving incredibly fast – and humans are enjoying the ride. Plain and simple: as technology booms, people get lazy. But shouldn’t humans want to keep up?

The world will continue to change at a pace we have never seen before, which means our drive to learn must keep up. Lifelong learning is no longer an option of the rich and famous but a necessity for everyone. The serious question though, is whether the challenge of adopting that practice is too great to overcome?

In 1965, Gordan Moore, the co-founder of Intel, wrote a paper describing the doubling of components of integrated circuits every year (which has since been revised to every two years) [1]. Because of Moore’s law, adoption of technology has advanced at an exponential rate.  As an example, smart phone adoption took just 5 years to reach the same market penetration that standard phones had after 50 years. It took tablets a third of the time as smart phones to reach the same market penetration.

The only thing that is constant is the pace of change continuing to increase.

‘Learning is becoming a lifelong endeavor’ is a popular phrase I often hear at conferences while speaking to the “intellectuals” of the world. No longer is your degree enough to survive in today’s job marketplace. At 1st blush I have no disagreement with this statement, given the pace of advancement and innovation in the world of technology. I now believe a 4-year degree that is not highly specialized is rendered useless upon leaving a college campus and heading into the “real world”.

How can one rely on a degree earned in their late teens to early twenty’s to thrive for the long run if the information is obsolete almost before it can be applied?

My logical response to L&D professionals is to ask whether we really have the capability to make this happen? Do we possess the skills, mindset, and tools to lead others down a path we know is best for them and the community they serve? In my humble opinion, while we can provide learners with the opportunity, we can’t force them to drink the water from our fountain of knowledge.

Let me tell you why:

The simple truth is that people are inherently lazy. I am not the first and won’t be the last to say it, but people in today’s world expect everything to be handed to them on a silver platter. With more resources at our disposal, there are even more opportunities to get ahold of the lazy persons’ trick book and take advantage of all their strategies.

It’s kind of sad but even the simple things in life like opening the door or walking a flight of stairs are too great a challenge for our “lazy” society.  I know this because I see it every day when I come to work…

mLevel’s headquarters are in a building that has been made accessible for those who are handicapped or suffer from disabilities. We have ramps and elevators and even a button that opens the door for you electronically instead of having to do it for yourself manually.  I am sure when the building added these features it was to comply with code and likely avoid a lawsuit and not to enable laziness but I’ll let you in on a secret; that is not the whole picture.

Every day I park my car and head towards the office doors only to slow down and watch what I have now deemed the “human experiment”. I purposely wait and see how people open the big glass doors in front of our building.  I want to see if they will use their original God given equipment i.e their hands or if they will it hit that button.

I am not saying it is 100% of the time but at least 8 out of 10 people, regardless of physical capability, come to that door each day and hit the button to open it instead of simply using their hands and exercising a few muscles. This truly dumbfounds me!

I get the practical applications of automation for those who need it, but there is a handicapped symbol on the button not a “push me to open because I’m lazy” symbol. Come to think of it, an “I’m lazy so I’m pushing this button to open the door” symbol would gamify the process and probably solve the issue altogether, but I digress…

Society wonders why we struggle with epidemics like obesity (in fact, 36.5% of Americans are obese [2]) yet we as parents don’t push our children to go outside or personally push ourselves to walk up a couple of flights of stairs. Heck I’ve even seen people who are trying to get healthier, fight for the closest parking spot at the gym and I often felt like screaming, ”You are going to work out – who cares how far you have to walk!”

We seem to be always looking for the easy way out instead of putting in any work to reach our destination or goals.

So how on earth are we going to get people to sign up for lifelong learning which requires continual personal investment?

mLevel easy button

We can look to other industries like fitness and weight loss for best practices, but I question whether companies and educational institutions are ready to provide personalized services like trainers and nutritionists. mLevel is the closest thing there is to an “Easy Button” to facilitate lifelong agile learning but companies and individuals still must adopt the philosophy to make it a reality.

What should our role as L&D professionals and business leaders be and how do we execute? These are questions that need to be answered. I welcome your ideas and dialogue on the best ways to motivate today’s learner.

[1] “Fueling Innovation We Love and Depend On.” Intel. https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/silicon-innovations/moores-law-technology.html

[2] “Adult Obesity Facts.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html