Learn-It-All Trumps Know-It-All

Jul 11 / Julie Jones
Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, has said, “Ultimately, the learn-it-all will always do better than the know-it-all." Bradley Staats uses this quote in his book, Never Stop Learning: Stay Relevant, Reinvent Yourself, and Thrive to demonstrate the need for lifelong learning as a critical element of success for those who thrive. His research shows that people who pursue continuous learning keep improving and fare better than those who don’t. According to Adam Grant, in his book, Think Again, The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, Viking 2021, the half-life of knowledge today is very short, and what we know may need to be unlearned.  

Expertise accumulates as you develop in your career. This expertise is necessary for peak job performance. However, this expertise can narrow your perspectives and weaken your ability to respond and learn in changing environments. Given the rate of change in your workplaces, it is more important to be able to learn new concepts and skills than remain comfortable in what you already know. Frequently, you don’t dig deeper to learn new perspectives or challenge yourself to think differently, going beyond “right” or “wrong” answers.  

Staats notes that people need to be authentic and be themselves to learn successfully. This helps reshape positive emotions, which leads to better learning. Additionally, embrace what makes you unique and special. Instead of focusing on what to fix in yourself, find ways to leverage where you shine. Be more selective as you consider new job roles -- Is it a good fit for your strengths? It’s easy to chase titles in your career journey. Chasing job skills, functions, and new learning usually provides a stronger foundation for growth and development.

Staats also notes the importance of learning with others and the importance of building relationships for learning. Teams that learn together perform better over time. One popular learning model is the 70:20:10 model developed by the Center for Creative Leadership in the 1990s, which transformed adult learning for business. Their model notes that:

  • 70% of learning is experiential gained through challenging assignments or stretch goals, and on the job training
  • 20% of learning comes from social learning – learning interpreted through peers, mentors, or others
  • 10% from coursework or training.   

Learning with others allows you to -  connect with other learners; hear different points of view; receive added direction from a coworker, mentor, or teacher; clarify content; ask questions in real-time; make meaning; and receive feedback.  

Embrace the benefits of learning with others and make learning a team sport.  

This month, enjoy the second part of the interactive review of Bradley Staats’ book, Never Stop Learning: Stay Relevant, Reinvent Yourself, and Thrive, which includes being yourself; playing to your strengths; specializing today, seeking variety tomorrow, and learning from others. Share the link with a coworker and start a discussion to ensure you stay relevant, can reinvent yourself, and thrive.  

A French philosopher, Emile Chartier, said, “Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it’s the only one you have.” Use learning to feed your curiosity, creativity, and thinking.    

Here’s to your learning!  
Don't hesitate - Check out our free interactive book review

Bradley Staats', Never Stop Learning: Stay Relevant, Reinvent Yourself, and Thrive