Success in business depends on learning.

It’s simple: it doesn’t matter how successful you are now if you can’t grow, because that means you’ll never be more successful than you are right at this moment.

The problem is that the education systems through which we’ve developed teach us to follow tradition. Whether it be high school, university, or in our work, we are programmed to see a problem and resolve it in the same manner as it has always been resolved.

We get good at it. Damn good at it. That’s what makes us The 8 Percent.

Of course, the more we strive to etch out our place in the world, the more we realise tradition only gets us so far.

Ask yourself who you value more: the person who follows the rules, or the person who sets them?

The key to learning is thinking in new ways, and it’s easier than you might expect.

The first step is alway one of the hardest: acceptance of our capability.

Taught to become so reactive, we often become defensive, or shift the blame, when things don’t work out as we expect. While this might seem like a symptom of inexperience, an article from the Harvard Business Review shows that the more educated a person is, the more they are likely to dismiss their share of responsibility.

Accepting when our traditional mindset has failed us, rather than trying to come up with an excuse as to why it failed us, is vital to our progression.

Once we are willing to embrace these limitations, and can see where they lie, it’s time to turn our attention to our brain.

The brain has two learning modes. In her TEDx talk, Oakland University professor Barbara Oakley refers to them as ‘focus mode’ and ‘diffuse mode’.

Focus mode is our traditional way of thinking. We see a problem, and we recall how we’ve fixed it in the past.

The diffuse mode is what we’re aiming for. In this mode, we use our collective knowledge as a base for fixing the problem, rather than just the limited resolutions we generally turn to.

That may mean procrastinating for a little bit, and that’s fine, so long as you don’t use it as an excuse.

Legendary 80s film writer/director John Huges once said “The hardest thing about being a writer is convincing your wife that lying on the sofa is work”, and he’s right. It may not seem like work, but that’s the entire point. Slow, detailed thought leads to the kind of revelations traditional thought never can.

Finally, discuss your ideas with people who don’t share your mindset or, at least, won’t just humour you for the sake of friendship or because you’re their boss.

Earlier this week, I wrote an article on Innovate Brew, an initiative by the University of Michigan designed to inspire ideas by setting up monthly meetings between two faculty members from different departments. The project is still in its early days, but it already shows signs of success.

If possible, consider a similar system in your business or network, or find a mentor who will gladly call out when your line of thinking needs to be improved.

With time and patience, you will succeed.

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