Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Never Stop Learning

As I was skimming the Wall Street Journal, I noticed an article that had not caught my attention last week.  The article talked about not letting your education end at graduation.  This is a familiar them to me as I had mentioned to numerous groups of students in the orientation process that this is a key to a dynamic and exciting career in which many new doors will open as the career proceeds.

I can speak from experience on this one with several cases that point directly to the value of continuing to learn after I exited from formal education and how that has benefited me.  

First, in my health economics training we had minimal exposure to the concepts of cost-benefit and even less exposure to the concepts of cost-effectiveness analysis.  Yet, cost-effectiveness research became a key part of what I was known for as I proceeded through my career as I took the time to learn the methods and the nuances and then shared that with others.

Second, while my training was in research and not in teaching, as my career continued on, I learned more and more about best practices for teaching.  That helped me to make the case for my expertise in this area and that opened up new opportunities when I was promoted to full professor.

Third, I had not taken a course in management and organizations since I was an undergraduate.  But was time went on, it became ever more clear that I was interested in having a larger administrative role.  I spent a year in a leadership development class.  Even after I was given a much larger administrative role, I have continued to take the time to learn more about managing and administration.  There is as much to study in this area as there is in any other field of study.

Fourth, since moving from the Bloomberg School of Public Health to the Carey Business School within Johns Hopkins University, I have had the opportunity to continue to learn about business.  How it is conducted.  How things are negotiated.  How to maintain the delicate balance that needs to be maintained between collaboration with peers, answering to research funders, leading those on the organizational chart, and answering up.  How to lead committees from a position of authority rather than only from a peer position.  

Fifth, I have continued to learn about myself.  Just this morning, I was discussing with a colleague I had not seen in ages the concept of whether Myers-Briggs category is a state or trait.  We both think it is more state than trait and that it evolves over time.  Assessing how what I learn about myself informs and is informed by what I am learning and need to learn in other situations is key.

All of this is to say that what one of the faculty at Michigan told me on my last day there is true.  The PhD education was complete but my education was not.  If the dissertation work was the best I ever did there would be a serious problem.  The remainder of my career is a time in which I continue to learn and continue to improve.

The same goes for our MBA and MS students.  By the third time I delivered my welcoming comments, I had them honed to talk about the education being like a puzzle that students put together and our approach at Carey making the finished puzzle look different for our students than for other business school students.  The key that I will add next year is that the rest of life is like finding out that there is an even larger superstructure into which the first puzzle fits.  Sort of like the first puzzle was just designed to fill the donut hole and the rest of life is the donut around it.Continuing to learn gives me options for what I want the donut to look like.  Stopping learning leaves the the donut either incomplete or with a much more limited set of outcomes.  It is forced to be glazed when I really wanted chocolate with sprinkles.  I can have the chocolate with sprinkles--or at least do my best to attain the chocolate with sprinkles--if I continue to work and learn and produce and improve.  

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