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I had been asked to speak to a new batch of management graduates who had just joined the company. Watching the young batch gathered in the meeting room reminded me of the time when I, like them, was beginning my career. There were many differences between those days and now. One of the most significant is the emphasis on learning.

In those days it was felt that teaching was the responsibility of the organisation. These days it is well recognized that learning is the responsibility of the individual employee. Organisations can give you opportunities to learn but it is up to you to make the most of it.

No one teaches you to learn. It is something we gain by observing others. Research indicates that as much as 70 % of development takes place on the job.

“ We learn by example and by direct experience because there are real limits to the adequacy of verbal instruction” wrote Malcolm Gladwell in “ Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking”.

As a new manager, you will come across different types of people. A few will go out of their way to help you settle in and guide you to become more competent. They may have had a mentor in the past and realize the value of helping others.

Some will go out of their way to make things more difficult for you. They have their own reasons for doing so. “Over smart fellows with fancy degrees being overpaid. Let me see how they manage on the job” is a typical refrain from such people.

Let’s face it -the vast majority of people will not help you because they are too busy with their own work, their own problems and their own goals. As the old saying goes “learning is caught, not taught”!

Those who learn most are those who are observant, alert, quick to see connections, eager to experiment and not afraid to try things on their own. They are not afraid to ask questions if they don’t understand. They like to understand the basic concepts well before trying to apply them. They prefer application of concept rather than stay with bookish knowledge got from their text books.

Mistakes are a part of learning. You can’t learn without making some mistakes. If you don’t try, you don’t learn at all.

Those who learn the least are those who wait for someone to teach them. They may keep waiting.

“ Learning is not compulsory… neither is survival” wrote quality guru, W. Edwards Deming, the person perhaps most responsible for Japan’s resurgence as an industrial power after the Second World War.

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This is the 111 th of the “A Step A Day” series : To provide perspective and provoke thought to facilitate self-development across a wide spectrum of issues- big and small- crucial for executive success.