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The world is your classroom: Build your 2019 learning plan in minutes

IdeaPicture it: A knockerupper and a powdermonkey walk into a packed bar. To their surprise, there’s only one barstool left. The knockerupper looks over at the powdermonkey and says, ‘Are you gunning for that seat?’ to which the powdermonkey responds, ‘Don’t look so alarmed.’

Okay. Admittedly, the punchline would probably make more sense if knockeruppers and powdermonkeys were still relevant professions today. But that’s kind of my point. Because this joke illustrates an imperative, timeless truth:

Lifelong learning is no joke.

If we expect to remain not only relevant but also indispensable to those we serve, we must keep curious, keep learning and keep adapting. After all, technologies and other outside forces are vastly altering consumer expectations and the ways we work – and they’re not waiting idly by for us to catch up.

But does the thought of carving out learning time from your already-over-booked calendar cause you anxiety? That may be because you have a conventional concept of learning. Let me guess: You’re thinking classrooms that smell of chalk, webcast Q&As, squinting at a slide deck from the back row of a conference lecture hall. 

Make no mistake. These learning environments are essential to your ongoing professional education and development, but, in reality, they only account for about 10% of your entire annual learning curriculum. With a little shift in perspective, you may discover you’re already partially fulfilling the remaining 90% you need to stay ahead.

70% of your learning opportunities should be experiential

Remember that stretch assignment you were given? You know the one. Where you ended up accomplishing things you never thought you could do? That was experiential learning.

And maybe you taught yourself how to create infographics. Now, you’re the go-to when your organization or firm needs a visualization to share with clients. Also experiential.

Or remember that time you were on the train. Or waiting for the elevator? Or you were at your desk, waiting for your coffee to kick in and you began scanning your inbox for your weekly digest? Wherever or however you’ve linked to this article, you’re already chipping away at the learning you need to outpace the pace of disruption.

That’s right. Articles such as these. Or self-development eBooks. Podcasts such as the Go beyond disruption or Small Firm Philosophy. Getting daily news briefings from your smart assistant. Watching Facebook live interviews that keep you updated on professional advocacy efforts. Many things you’ve likely baked into your daily routines already apply as experiential. Just make sure you’re putting what you learn to good use.

20% of learning opportunities should be social

The AICPA recently launched an online mentoring program. It encourages members from across the profession with varying experiences both to mentor and be mentored. Promotions for the program astutely read: What will you learn from each other? I say astutely because invariably a mentoring relationship is a two-way street, with mentors often learning as much if not more than their mentees. That’s social learning at its best.

Then, there’s all those times you’ve given a presentation. You learned the ins and outs of blockchain for supply chain, and you shared your new expertise at a lunch ‘n’ learn. You heard about a cost-saving technology called robotic process automation, and you pitched implementing it to a partner.

You guessed it. These are examples of social learning, too.

10% of learning opportunities should be formal

You know this all too well. That time you attended AICPA ENGAGE. All those times you feverishly clicked participation markers during webcasts. And all the hard work you put into completing all of the AICPA’s cybersecurity certifications. Formal learning experiences are essential albeit time-consuming, but you persisted and persevered. Congrats!

Putting it all together

In Muriel Sparks’s 1961 novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, the titular teacher Miss Brodie points out that education is a word that comes from the Latin. The root, ex, means out, and duco means I lead. In other words, education literally means a leading out of what’s already there. If you’re like me – and I hope to some extent you are – there’s a genuine will and desire to learn. Because, let’s face it: In the 4th industrial revolution, continuing learning and development isn’t a luxury – it’s a necessity. That’s one of the AICPA’s many functions. We’re here to help you formalize a learning plan that makes you competitive and irreplaceable.

Download this document. It’s designed to help you plan, visualize and seize the learning opportunities all around you.

Complete it. Put it somewhere easily visible. And start learning. Because, in the year 2080, you don’t want to be the punchline of a joke no one gets.

Brock Faucette, Corporate Communications Manager, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

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