Learning and Adapting

The Importance of Continuous Improvement and Development

2020 has probably felt like an entire decade crammed into a single year. And in some ways it has been. We’ve seen some trends (like remote work) that were progressing slowly get accelerated forward by years.

The pace of change continues to move swiftly. When we think of Moore’s Law, we think of computer chips, and the doubling of transistors every two years. It is a good example of how quickly change happens. But it isn’t isolated to computers. It is happening all around us. And we have to continuously learn and adapt in order to stay relevant and prepared. 2020 has certainly shown us that. The future will undoubtedly show it to us again and again.

Learning For Teams

If you’re a manager or leader, the importance of creating learning and development opportunities for your teams is more important than ever.

According to the LinkedIn Learning Report, 94% of employees would stay longer at a company if it invested in their learning and development. That is massive! Do you want to see fewer of your employees leaving? How much are you investing in their ongoing development?

This is important, as skills are changing rapidly. It is unlikely that the most important skills for the roles on your teams will stay stagnant for the next few years. Are you helping your team level up now to prepare for what is coming? Why not invest in them and what you know you might need in the future?

It is also especially important as we battle with employee engagement in remote working environments. Employee engagement is (or should be) a hot topic with leaders. And providing learning opportunities is one of the best ways to increase engagement. According to a study by Udemy, 80% of employees would feel more engaged through learning new skills.

As leaders, it is critical we create opportunities for our teams to learn and develop their skills. Now is the time to be thinking about it.

Creating Your Learning

Of course, as employees, we shouldn’t wait for anyone to create opportunities for us. The world is constantly changing and we should plan on transforming with it. So begin to chart out your plan now for learning and development. I’ve included some of my favorite ways to do that below. We also did a podcast episode Continuing Development as Product Managers and Designers, which you can check out for some good ideas as well.

Podcasts

I wrote about this earlier, and included some of my favorite podcasts and ways to leverage this medium to learn. I won’t rehash it too much here, but link to it here.

Newsletters & Publications

First off, thanks for subscribing to this newsletter. I’m probably preaching to the choir a little. But newsletters and publications are a great way to get information, see new perspectives, and learn new things from others. Here are a few others:

Prioritised: Prioritised is a weekly newsletter full of great links and articles put together by the great folks at Mind the Product. It is part of their membership program, so it’s not free, but it is solid and worth paying for (or having or job pay for).

Benedict Evans: This is a weekly email that can be paid or free, and has tons of technology related articles and commentary from a solid thinker in the space. I enjoy reading it each week.

Stratechery: You’re probably familiar with this one. It is also paid for the daily update, or free for the summary publication. But one of the best technology/strategy publications on the web.

Product by Design: Again, shameless self promotion here for my Medium publication with articles on product management and design.

Books

“Books! The best weapons in the world!” - The Doctor

If you’re not actively reading the best books, you’re missing out on some of the most distilled wisdom you can get. Imagine someone taking several years of their life, editing down their experiences to the most important things, and then selling it to you for $15. You should take that deal every time, multiple times over. Here are some to choose from.

My Top 5 Reads for Product Managers - I wrote this article a little while ago and may have a few updates, but it is still a great list. You can’t go wrong with these five books.

My Top Books of 2019 - 2019 was a solid reading year for me (2020 has been even better, so look for my 2020 update coming soon). But I wanted to include this list with some solid books across multiple topic areas.

Conferences

There are many great product conferences. They are a splendid chance to meet other people in the industry, hear the latest thinking, and hang out (in-person or virtually) as a team away from the day-to-day. I’ve included some below.

Mind The Product - One of the most well-known and most popular conferences for product managers in the world.

Front Utah - This one is local, but always attracts product managers and designers from around the world. It is both product management and UX, so it’s unique in that way, and is one of my personal favorites.

Industry - Since we’ve gone virtual, this conference has the benefit of being very affordable and still very good. So there is no excuse not to take a few days and have your team attend.

Product Led Alliance - A newer conference series, but I’ve attended a few virtually and they are very good. You can try them out for free and upgrade for better access.

Training

I’m a fan of narrowing in on specific skills you want to develop individually. Whether that is public speaking, presentations, writing, drawing, coding, or whatever else you can think of.

Take time to think about what you can benefit from learning. And then find places or people who can help you develop those skills. Through classes, one-on-one teaching, webinars, etc.

Mentoring and Teaching

As practitioners, one of the best ways of developing skills is to teach those skills to others. So mentoring and teaching others will be a great way to learn and develop this coming year. That can be through formal mentoring and teaching programs, or finding things you’re passionate about and teaching them informally to colleagues or online. Just start doing it.


As we prepare to enter the new year, it is the perfect time to be thinking about ways to learn and develop ourselves and our teams. While it can often feel like an HR box to check off, we should really take time to think about how to get the most out of our development and prepare to level up. Learn, apply, teach.


Good Reads and Listens

Grow, Adapt, and Reinvent Yourself Through Ultralearning (podcast) - I think that every five years or so you should plan on reinventing yourself. Whether that means reimagining your skill-set or adding significantly to your skills, just plan on it. And ultralearning is a good way of doing it.

7 Statistics That Highlight the Value of Continuous Learning (article) - This article has some good statistics on continuous learning and the importance of team development.

15 Gift Ideas for Product Managers and Product Designers (podcast) - Since it’s that season, check out our latest podcast with gift ideas for the product managers and designers in your life.

Quick note: Product Thinking will now be coming out every 2 weeks for everyone. I will be pausing the monthly summary as well as the paid tier.

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