Flexibility: The Case for Continuous Education

As I went through my aviation training, a phrase that was emphasized over
and over was ‘Flexibility is the key to airpower’. The speed and agility of
an aircraft allows it to enter a battlespace, undertake a mission and then
escape quickly. With the correct radio fit, information can be updated
during that mission and a skilled operator can then replan and achieve the
mission despite the changes in the battlespace.

Flexibility is also one key to performance and success. Our ability to
maintain flexibility is dependant upon 3 factors:

– Our ability to monitor any changes in the environment.

– Our ability to correctly assess the impact of those changes.

– Our ability to adapt to exploit those changes.

This is the underlying theme of Spencer Johnson’s book, ‘Who moved my

Being aware of our environment requires us to be open to events in
the world across several fields. A good mnemonic for the categories that we
should generally monitor is PEST:

Political – How do shifts in the political landscape influence us? eg.
Devolution in Scotland

Economic – How do economic trends influence us? eg. The growth of the
Chinese economy.

Sociological – What events are happening that effect communities as a
whole? eg. Globalisation.

Technologies – How are scientific advances changing the World? eg. Web 2.0.

(Sometimes rewritten as STEP or STEP/LE when legal and environmental factors
are also considered)

By scanning the media and the events around us and by using this simple
model as a filter, significant changes can be identified that will influence
the way be live our lives.

Assessing the potential impact of any changes requires some thought.
History teaches us that life events are often cyclic in nature so the more
we learn about history and how similar events have unfolded, the more likely
we are to be able to assess the likelihood of different consequences. By
considering our own experience and learning lessons from
history, we are more able to assess likely outcomes.

Finally, out ability to adapt and exploit any changes is significantly
improved if we have a variety of knowledge and skills.

Professor Eric Hoffer stated that ‘In times of massive change it is the
learner that will inherit the Earth. The learned will stay elegantly tied
to a world that no longer exists.’
The point is well made. If we become mentally complacent and stop
questioning, stop thinking and stop learning, then we will lose our
flexibility and the ability to cope with change. Therefore, the value of broad deep
continuous education through reading and training, as a way to maintain flexibility, cannot be overestimated.

One of my favourite motivational quotes is from Napoleon.

There is nothing that training cannot achieve.
Nothing beyond it’s reach.
It can turn bad principles into good.
It can turn bad morals into good.
It can raise men to the level of angels.

By adopting a pattern of behaviour that focuses on broad deep continuous
education, we are more readily able to meet the challenges that changes in
the environment will throw our way. This means adopting the habit of
reading, not just novels but non fiction. Perhaps get a library card and
take out a simple business book or subscribe to a business magazine. Once
you get the habit for reading and applying what you have learned, you may
begin to crave more knowledge. If you struggle to find much time for
reading then perhaps adopting a better reading technique will help you
become more effective. Matt Cornell, a productivity consultant has a blog
that may help.

Professional training courses are also beneficial as they are often intensive and
focused with the opportunity to apply the techniques in a ‘safe’ environment
away from you business place.

Having the skills to adapt to change is essential to personal flexibility.
Begin developing these skills now with the habit of continuous education.

When you are tough on yourself, it will feel like life is being much easier
on you.

And remember

Dare to Aspire


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Filed under career, Improvement, Performance, Uncategorized

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