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ATD Blog

Grow, Adapt, or Die!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Say it loud: “Grow, adapt, or die!”

Companies know that if they’re not growing or adapting in some way, they will die. But that same philosophy applies to you, me, and the people we serve. If we’re not growing or adapting, our careers will die.

In a McKinsey & Company paper, “Getting Ready for the Future of Work,” Bob Kegan of Harvard says that the time it takes for people’s skills to become irrelevant is shrinking. While people used to think, "I got my skills in my 20s; I can hang on until 60," it’s not like that anymore. People will find their skills irrelevant at age 45, 40, even 35.

There is no doubt that the lifespan of a skill is shorter than ever before. When you add the impact of automation and artificial intelligence, the reality becomes clear. The status quo is not OK. We must continue to grow and adapt.

Your job is to promote that understanding to the people you serve so that it becomes ingrained and normal to them. That is, we must create a culture of learning.


How? Change how you think and talk about development. Stop thinking about development as an event, or as formal learning only. Development is something you should do every week. To make it easy, start with a small change. Encourage each person to do one development activity each month. Just one. Pick something, plan it, and do it.

Think informally:
· I really need to learn how to create pivot tables; I’m going to watch a 5-minute YouTube video on how to do it, then I’m going to try it on that spreadsheet I need, rather than asking someone to do it for me.
· This upcoming legislation is going to affect us. I’m going to ask Maria, our resident expert, to take 15 minutes to explain it to me.
· I’ve got an upcoming presentation to the department head. It’s technical stuff, but if I could just craft a story around the data with a little visualization, I know I could get the resources we need approved. I’m going to meet with one of our data analysts to pick his brain about what visualization would work best, watch a TED talk on storytelling, then practice in our weekly team meeting.


Most people don’t think about those things as development activities, but research shows that informal learning is powerful and sticks best because it’s relevant and often applied right away.

If you can get the people you serve to plan just one development activity each month, document it and put it on their calendar so they will hold themselves accountable, then complete it and add an activity for next month, you will create a habit. Then they will be growing and adapting each month.

That is how you create a culture of learning!

About the Author

Cheryl Lasse is SkillDirector’s managing partner. Her goal is helping people and companies achieve their potential. Cheryl has extensive experience with competency model development and implementation, and enjoys sharing her knowledge and passion with others. Check out the LinkedIn group Competency Models For Professional Development.

She believes people are intrinsically motivated to excel, if they are given access to a competency model for their role, the opportunity to assess themselves against that model, and personalized learning to help them close gaps and meet aspirational goals. This philosophy has been embodied in the Self-Directed Learning Engine, the engine behind the ATD Skill Tracker.

Cheryl has a strong background in consulting, marketing, and sales, mostly in technology companies, where training has played a chief role throughout her career. She holds bachelor’s degrees from Syracuse University in computer science and HR, and an MBA from the University of South Florida.

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