Thursday, January 5, 2017

Learning - continuing to seek, explore, improve

Learning is fantastic, I love to learn new things. I love that learning can occur with all the senses simultaneously or independently of one another. I love being able to learn in silence, I love being able to learn when it's thunderously loud. I love learning from reading, seeing, listening, touching, tasting, experiencing, immersion, sometimes even from lecture.

As Leaders we need to continue to learn by "sharpening the saw" or "investing in ourselves"...but what are the best and right approaches? How do we know what is beneficial to us and what is simply interesting? I feel compelled to argue that both are very relevant as one is specifically "sharpening" our saw and the other is an "investment" in potential and future.

Learning something new provides so many benefits to us on an emotional and cognitive level. Learning new work skills and ideas will improve our work and careers, with the possibility of seeing significant improvement. Standing out for improving likely leads to new opportunities both within and outside of your current organization. Sometimes climbing the ladder is luck and genetics, but most often it is driven by past success. Learning something new outside of our "work" environment provides added stimulation because of the opportunities for distraction from work. Developing new skills or interests provides us with energy and enthusiasm that carries over into our work life and persona. Who wouldn't rather work with and for someone who has interesting stories, hobbies, or talents?

This year I am learning the Python programming language because I want to create my own AI - simply for the goal of having a self contained Siri/Alexa/OKGoogle to do my I want to understand how they work. I listened to a Curious Minds podcast yesterday on Autonomous driving cars and the technology which has lead to their significant improvements over the past few years. Machine Learning is a key component of the "self driving" evolution and this story discussed a team whose machine learned something they didn't ask it to learn. It (the software program) DID NOT become self aware, as I understand the story, but it did learn to recognize faces in an environment which did not require or request that it do so.

In other words, software "learned" and it did so by pushing itself beyond its "defined" boundaries as established by its programmers. Daily we should strive for the same thing as the benefits are likely to be full of surprises and positive consequences.  Elon Musk and others have urged us to be wary of AI's because we do not fully understand what path they may choose to follow if "turned loose". Humans have no such risk from the side affects of knowledge. There is only upside for us as individuals, communities, and a people (species).

My boss wraps up our weekly meeting with the phrase, Go Forth and Be Brilliant - as of today this has new meaning for me.

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