Everyone is a lifelong learner. We all get new input every day, and it becomes part of our blueprint for making sense of the world.
But for creatives, lifelong learning is (or should be) a more intentional effort. Absorbing new knowledge and skills helps creatives mold the raw material of experience and education into art, literature, code, music, and design.
Creative leaders apply that same energy to guide their teams in collaborative, inventive work. So if you want to be a creative leader, lifelong learning is essential.
Below, we’ll examine the many benefits of lifelong learning and consider the best things to learn to grow creative leadership skills.
Benefits of Lifelong Learning for Creative Leadership
Exploring new subjects and skills broadens your horizons and provides new insights that spark creativity. Some of the many benefits of lifelong learning include:
The more you learn, the more you expose yourself to new ideas and ways of thinking. Studying historical periods offers perspective on leadership and the needs of society. Learning languages, with their idiomatic expressions, untranslatable words, and astonishingly different structures, provides insight into how different peoples organize their worldviews. Discovering scientific facts reminds us that we are only part of a very big world, and offers us the chance to choose the impact we make.
Learning a creative skill other than the one(s) you use in your job can help you tap into and stimulate your imagination. Try a musical instrument or take a workshop in art, writing, or design to create new neural pathways and discover new ways of expressing yourself.
When you’re tasked with finding new solutions to complex challenges, expanding critical thinking skills and problem-solving abilities is crucial. One strength of creative leadership is the tendency to approach problems from multiple angles and generate ingenious ideas to tackle them.
Lifelong learning is the only way to stay up-to-date with advancements and trends in your field. Armed with knowledge of new technologies and techniques, you can stay competitive, bringing new and innovative ideas to the table. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author Thomas Friedman says, “When the pace of change gets this fast, the only way to retain a lifelong working capacity is to engage in lifelong learning.”
Lifelong learning provides a sense of personal fulfillment and increased confidence. When you feel confident and empowered, you are more likely to take risks, embrace new ideas, and explore new possibilities. These attitude shifts lead to greater creativity and innovation.
Just as knowledge builds your self-confidence, it also builds your team’s trust in you. The more you know, the more your knowledge inspires others’ confidence in your abilities. (As long as you don’t get all Sheldon Cooper-y about it.)
Also, as you set the example in lifelong learning, you can encourage your team to follow your lead and foster creative collaboration. Each person on your team who pursues the benefits of learning new things multiplies the positive effects in your business.
One of the greatest benefits of lifelong learning is that it boosts creativity. Steve Jobs said, “Creativity is just connecting things,” and neuroscience proves that out. The more fodder your brain has to work with, the more neurons there are to connect to each other. Innovation often begins with totally unrelated ideas that either inspire something new, or that suddenly make sense when a new connection is made between them.
One example is when, in the early 2000s Apple combined a music player and a cellphone. Before that time people carried two different devices. Once the two were combined, it opened up all sorts of possibilities for what else businesses could integrate into cellphones.
What To Learn and How To Learn It
Guess what? What you learn and how you learn it are irrelevant, as long as it works for you. If you’re learning, you’re increasing your capacity for creative leadership. So:
Set Specific Goals for Learning … and Don’t
Setting a specific goal is one great way to approach learning a new skill. For example, “learning a language” is a goal, but “pass unit 10 of Spanish in Duolingo” is a specific goal. If you’re going to set goals, specific and measurable ones are better.
On the other hand, don’t miss opportunities to learn just because they aren’t on your plan. Learn about everything, whether it’s “relevant” to your work or not. Sea turtles, Roman history, black holes, education theory - anything that catches your attention is good stuff. A visiting exhibition of … well, anything … is worth seeing, because you never know what will spark a great idea, and the more well-rounded knowledge you have, the more raw material your creative mind has to work with over time.
Get Formal Education … and Informal
Formal, traditional education in the form of university courses and certifications can be extremely valuable. So can less formal options like conferences, workshops, seminars, online courses, and community center offerings.
If teacher- or leader-directed courses aren’t for you, (or just to mix things ups), try self-directed options like visiting museums, reading books, attending local events, and using educational apps. Or try mentor- or coach-directed sessions that can help you move forward in whatever way you target.
Read … and Listen … and Watch … and Try
How do you like to learn? Learn that way.
There is knowledge and inspiration to be had in any format. If you like to read, read. If you prefer to listen, pop in an audiobook or a podcast. If you’re a visual learner, try a webinar, TED Talk, or documentary. If you need to do a thing to understand it, take a pottery workshop or undertake a DIY project.
Better yet, partake of a mix of all kinds of input to stimulate different parts of your mind and create a hodgepodge of knowledge that you can draw on to create something wonderful. Try everything.
The importance of lifelong learning for creative leaders cannot be overstated. Trying new things and absorbing new information expands your perspective, boosts your imagination, helps promote strong decision-making, equips you to navigate the rapidly changing business landscape, increases your confidence, and inspires your team. Choose whatever topics and systems that work for you, and embrace the benefits and opportunities that lifelong learning has to offer.
There are some cool resources below to start you off. If you’re interested in networking with creatives, see if you qualify to connect with other creative leaders in Rolling Stone Culture Council, the exclusive community for influential leaders on the cutting edge of culture. Members share top-quality advice on many creative leadership topics.
Start Learning Something New Today
- Coursera, Udemy, or EdX - Explore online courses on creativity, innovation, and every other subject you can think of.
- Duolingo, Babbel, Memrise - Try a language-learning app.
- TED Talks - Hear experts deliver “ideas worth spreading” in talks no longer than 18 minutes.
- Museums - Visit any museum, from worldwide sensations like the MET and the Louvre to local town archives.
- Universities, colleges - Take a course. On anything.
- Blogs - Try The Marginalian (or any other blog that piques your interest).
- Podcasts - Try some of these podcasts for creatives to get the juices flowing.
- Books - All the books. Maybe start with Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull; it’s a fascinating reflection on creativity and leadership at Pixar.
|Join the fastest-growing professional arts and culture organization, full of industry-disrupting founders, Rolling Stone Culture Council.
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