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David Grebow

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The Relentless Learner has become the most important person in the worldwide search for talent. How can we identify them?

Most relentless learners are independent learners. The take programs, attend events, go online and learn in as many ways as they can. And they learn because they are driven to know and know-how things are done. When that thing is related to their performance at work, they trump what is casually referred to as "talent" and leave static event-based degrees and certifications in the dust. Every great innovation and invention can be traced to a relentless learner, yet they are the least understood, rewarded and identified hidden asset an organization or field of study can have. How do we identify and support the relentless learners?

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    Jul 26 2012: David, When I went to job fairs and collected tons of resumes I learned that all kids have talent. Some have experience, some newly gratuated, some Masters, some PHd. So what do we use to seperate the wheat from the shaft. The trick is to marry the need to the talent or the talent to the need if you perfer.

    When it gets down to the final three the seperation is microscopic. Your concern is the relentless learner. What I need is someone who can take that knowledge and apply it.

    Being a professional student looks great but what have you done with it .... what can you do with it ... show me. In todays military, government, and corporate world much of the work is compartmentalized. "X" is completed in Seattle, "Y" is accomplished in Ft Worth, and "Z" in LA when the time is right all of the pieces X, Y, and Z will be brought to Phoenix and the puzzle assembled.

    As a manager I can tell you that I think you are wrong. I knew who was the real talent on the project. You are right about not always being rewarded. There are certain assets required to move up in each area. Just because that person has the talent does not mean they could ever lead at any level. We can be sure that they will be promoted. They will rise to project assistant manager for operations and their talent will be used over and over but always a brides maid never the bride. Relentless learner does not translate to application which is necessary to meet the needs.

    All the best. Bob.
    • Jul 27 2012: What you would look for would depend on your need. I don't think it's a question of good or bad but rather desired or undesired. For an employee who can function independently in maintaining an existing position successfully, education and/or experience may be more important than if someone is looking to expand through a research and development type of position, where a relentless learner would be an important consideration.
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        Jul 27 2012: As a supervisor of numerous R & D projects I can assure you that is not the case.

        Bob.
        • Jul 27 2012: So what DO you look for, and why wouldn't a relentless learner be on your list of desirable attributes in a candidate?
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        Jul 27 2012: R & D is results oriented. I need proven achievers that are project oriented and can stay on task. Early in the conversation the relentless learner is someone who is not focused. A person who skips from one area of study to another absorbing information with no desire or inclination to apply that information. R & D is money invested in the companies future. It is limited and if no results are found then it must move on to a more fruitful area.

        I never said that a relentless learner could not function in these areas ... I am saying that if given a choice I do not think a relentless learner would last in the long run where a focused task oriented proven performer would.

        We could each provide arguments where they would fit ... or not. In the final analysis the decision is in the hands of the project manager. He must marry the talent to the assigned tasks. He has limited resources and limited manpower and must make decisions in the interest of a successful project or he will not lead again. A bad decision is a 1000 hours of wages and manpower wasted.

        As David said in his explaination, ... "and when related to his work performance ...." If this person had the talent related to the task they would probally be chosen. But never solely on the basis of being a relentless learner.

        Bob.
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          Gail . 50+

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          Jul 28 2012: You are incorrect in your assessment of what a relentless learner is.

          You said, "A person who skips from one area of study to another absorbing information with no desire or inclination to apply that information".

          My joy and source of inspiration comes from finding solutions to seemingly unfixable problems. Give me a challenge, and I will work independently, learning all that I need to know in any field of study, to find a workable solution with a factual foundation, and I will find that solution. I haven't failed yet.

          Ideas don't exist in a vacuum. They are all connected. I can use that awareness, where you cannot, thus I can accomplish things that overly-compartmentalized people cannot.

          Unfortunately for companies like yours, I don't fit well. It's really your loss that you are not able to apply that information because you do not understand the fundamentals of what it means to be an insatiable learner.
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        Jul 28 2012: Gail, I went back and read all of your comments to see if I could better understand your reply. You quit formal education because you did not fit, you feel isolated, allow you to work independently to solve problems, you will not be anyones slave, great annoyance with the educational system, etc ... I think I have a picture.

        As a project manager, one must work with the talent given. That is not always a easy task. That each has an ego that usually bruises easily is managable. Other traits could be they are loners, develop tunnel vision and thought, deep seated hates which inspire unacceptable attitudes, failure to follow set directions, non-team players, etc ... these are time consuming and difficult to manage at best.

        As I said before when the person has a talent that is related to the task they maybe selected. The areas we are discussing is R & D. Your skills may be more of value in a trouble shooting situation.

        In almost every response on all conversations I read in your profile you mention education as being the problem. If I might suggest, take your talent as a relentless learner to the fight for educational reform. As you say " .... to find a workable solution with a factual foundation, and I will find that solution. I haven't failed yet."

        Good luck. Bob.
        • Jul 30 2012: I did not quit formal education. However, this does not change the fact that education is about giving you a taste of everything my given field encompasses. You are then left to your own devices to pursue your particular interests. Most professionals never move beyond what they are taught in school unless forced to. Those of us who are relentless learners are driven by a need to find answers, knowing that these answers make a difference. Too many professionals, when faced with unanswered questions, simply shrug and say "sorry can't help you." The relentless learner is the one who finds that answer unacceptable and if forced may say apologetically "I'm sorry I can't help you NOW"
          I'm not sure what business you are in Bob, but in any cutting edge business that is involved with R&D (such as technology or medicine) it is the relentless learner who is at work finding the cure for cancer, sometimes spending years even decades on a single pursuit.
          Why must "relentless learning" mean superficial temporary interest, by definition relentless means tenacious, not quitter or flighty?
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          Jul 30 2012: Chanie, on what basis do you claim that "most professionals never move beyond what they are taught in school unless forced to?" This is such a surprisinbg assertion, and so contrary, probably, to what most of us have experienced in the professionals we know, that it would be a service to produce your evidence on the point.
        • Jul 30 2012: Fritzie,
          My response regarding professionals is unfortunately based on experience. In my position I deal with dozens of professionals and there are only a few that I actually recommend.
          (While this did compel me to begin providing workshops for professionals and write so that parents would be educated consumers, I still receive much grumbling pre-events as to why trainings are necessary when what they've been doing has been working well enough. Thank goodness I've never had anyone tell me post-event that it was a waste of their time, but more often I usually have people telling me even years later that they still apply what I've taught.)
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          Jul 31 2012: I would not say that a reluctance to participate in mandatory trainings indicates a lack of interest in learning unless forced. My first hypothesis would be that professionals sometimes balk at having specific trainings imposed upon them by someone in charge rather than being permited to pursue personal development in a self-directed way. My second hypothesis is that these professionals may have too much experience with useless trainings, or rather trainings that meet someones needs, perhaps, but not theirs.

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