Forever the Student.

“The only thing I know is that I know nothing,” were the words of the famous philosopher Socrates. These words have been synonymous to the aristocratic in our society who seem to have a better understanding of all that pertains to studentship. But I believe we must all  have been students in the formal realms of acquiring knowledge and skills which at the end gives some of us the feeling of monochromy that we know things in all their totality.

I was wondering loudly at the time of this writing why Socrates could have said this words especially at a time when he was held, perhaps, at the helm of mastery of ancient philosophy. Was he in a way trying to mortify some criticism pertaining his mastery of philosophy as a craft or any other fundamental principles regarding the universe? Whatever the reason was, this indeed was a thoughtful quote. It always reminds me of the biblical teaching that the man who thinks is standing should be careful lest he falls.

It thus means that there is no point in this life we can say we have exhausted all that is available to be learnt. It turns out that knowledge is like a black hole void of an end according to mythologies. And as long as we can equate knowledge with such enigmatic analogy, we all become life-long students at every instance of our lives. History serves us right that there is nothing sweeter like being open to continuous learning.

The Japanese term Kaizen which refers to the business practices of undertaking changes aimed at continuous improvement for an increased performance and productivity have become industry authorities in the world of innovation. Unmasking the underlying fundamental belief of the system is the whole idea of being a forever student. Unless you are a student, you cannot approach issues with the receptive attitude. It means then that these folks have given themselves to continuous learning as part of their daily life.

In the book Walmart Inside Out by Ron Loveless, the author depicts the owner of the retail store Sam Walton as an ever student. While reading the book, I closely added the dots in a polynomial form to arrive at a conclusion that the success of the store was as a result of incidental adaptations learnt by Walton from other stores (competition) and even from the lowest of his employees; stock boys.

One time Mr. Sam Walton overturned a company policy he had put in place at the discretion of a chat he had with a stock boy over company drivers taking part in the offloading of merchandise. It turned out to have done a lot of good to the Walmart store employees by making them feel appreciated, being part of the tight knit retail community and that their opinions mattered. On another instance he instructed Mr. Loveless, a District Manager(DM) then, to go into a successful competitor’s store and report what he saw to the ‘old man.’

The DM reported that he saw the competitor store poorly organized and badly stocked in relation to theirs. To his surprise, Mr. Walton wanted to know the strengths of the store and what they sold that Walmart was not selling. This act must have made Mr. Loveless to have an introspection on his life’s motivation, learning, observation skills, even in regards to his sales and marketing tactics. Looking back in retrospect, I see Sam Walton the forever student in his retail industry business.

Life is a classroom
If life is classroom, we are students forever. We better do our homework well. Photo Courtesy of picssr.com

In explaining the aspect of us being students all our lives, to some people it comes out as a caricature or grotesque appeal because a few people were never students literally yet they succeeded. And this is where there is a catch, I mean being a student open to daily learning goes a long way besides reading books, going to school, making simple observations and even listening to lectures. It includes learning from happenings in our lives and extends to how we take even criticism.

I personally receive a lot of criticism from the articles I write and I usually don’t take them personal whatsoever. One, I understand that what I do is opine my thoughts loudly by putting them down on paper. Two, everybody else have their opinions and all we can do is see what to learn from each other. In the writing world, there is nothing like ideology high on the hog, we learn daily and become better with each writing. Ours is the perfect case of the old wine that gets better with age.

To become better we should therefore offer ourselves to continuous learning. We ought to take advantage of the slightest opportunity to learn as much as we can when opportunity arises. In other cases we can trigger the opportunity itself. A perfect example in this is the case of Apple when they were at the fore front of revising their privacy policy. They took the initiative to get the participation of the customers in this and I am sure that the feedback gave them a lot of knowledge and insights on the consumer needs. It simply increased the connection between them and their consumers.

In the absence of data protection litigation, it could have been normal for other players to share their consumer’s data to a third party without ever seeking customer approval and irregardless of the effect that could have on them. There is nothing like we are big and there. Facebook, the multi giant social media platform learnt this the hard way. This seeks to teach us that learning is an everyday and a forever thing.

In business, innovation has taken the center stage in order for enterprises to gain a competitive advantage over the competition. Rigidity and being inflexible is a sure sign for enterprise failure and the most surprising thing is that nobody gives a damn about it. It is expected to be an intra- instinct thing that should develop in us naturally.

So for us to take the ever student mantra to others in our places of work as well as in our social interactions, we have to start being students of our own. We need to be open to a daily continuous learning. It should be engraved in us. At the end of the day it will have two effects on us. One, it will certainly make us successful if we use it maximally well and two, it will impact others a lot. In other words, people learn from observing what we do more than what we tell them to do.

Be the forever student.

End.

Copyright @ 2018.

Geoffrey Ndege

Geoffrey Ndege

Geoffrey Ndege is the Editor and topical contributor for the Daily Focus. He writes in the areas of Science, Manufacturing, Technology, Innovation, Governance, Management and International Emerging Issues. For featuring, promotions or support, reach out to us at info@dailyfocus.co.ke
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