More than 20 years ago, I heard the phrase, “Be a student of the business.” But what does it mean? Attitudes and actions of students of the business are self-evident when we take time to study them. What we find are individuals with a very broad view of the world. They have shareable experiences and calmly respond to situations that would overwhelm most people.
These students are most likely destined for success regardless of the challenges in front of them. Recognizing the potential they can bring to organizations, I use the term in numerous master planning presentations to help inspire future leaders to broaden their knowledge and skills.
Why be a student of the business?
The short and easy answer is to add-value, but a much better answer that hits closer to home is that students of the business become the leaders of the organization. So now the question is, “Where can I find a class on becoming a student of the business?”
Finding the answer requires inspiration and a change in mindset. That shift means firmly understanding why change is needed, but keeping an open-mind about the past while looking into the future. Then the challenge is to link everything together, much like a map of the world shows the different continents and their relationships to each other. A true student of the business can’t live in a traditional department silo, but neither can they live with their head in the clouds with unrealized expectations.
Regardless of industry, to be the best in your chosen profession you need an open mind, and be willing to invest time and effort to educating yourself. This ownership rests on your shoulders. Not your parents, instructors or your employer: you. Being a self-driven student means you not only stretch yourself to learn new things, but also new ways to improve old processes.
When we put in the effort we find unlimited, very high-value resources, such as mentors, co-workers, the Internet, trade magazines and books. While most of these are free, investing time and resourcefulness can produce results far beyond expectations. We just have to remember that the ends don’t justify misguided shortcuts, and you will pay, sooner or later, for poor choices. So choose your material and mentors wisely.
Is the extra effort worth it?
Consider the time it takes an artist to paint a masterpiece, an architect to design a building or the engineering needed to build a power line or bridge. A poor design or process can be very costly, in repairs, quality of life, or even life itself.
The benefit a student of the business brings to the table is something that far exceeds expectations. They have the ability to change the way we see our world. When we have a job to do, no matter if we are a parent, coach, CEO, elected representative or public safety chief, we have an opportunity to be a significant contributor to where we live, work and play.
We’re not just along for the ride, and we don’t want to coast downhill. When we understand the value we can bring as students of the business by addressing the challenge at hand, it is a ride that’s worth the effort. And by the way, the view is much better!