Too Busy to Learn?


Looking back over the past two years since I left Intel, I’ve noticed a change in who I meet with. In my Intel days, I generally only met with someone if I had a clear purpose for the meeting. As I look at my schedule these days, I have several regular meetings with people without an agenda. In the past I would have said I was wasteful as I didn’t have time to chat. But these meetings have turned out to be very valuable for me. So what’s changed?

Learning Partners

I currently have a few, what I call, learning partners. These are people who are in the same or similar field as me. We meet on a regular basis, usually bi-weekly or monthly to discuss topics of interest. As I prepare for these meetings, I don’t have a good idea of what will come up. Interestingly, something useful always comes up for both of us. We agree to meet again and the cycle continues.

As I reflect on this, I’ve started to realize these are learning conversations. They help me expand my perspective and challenge me to push myself to be better. As an example, I have a learning conversation tomorrow and I agreed to document my team development process. For whatever reason, I have been reluctant to do this and even now it is complete, I have no idea if it is going to hit the mark. I will find out and also learn many ways to improve it.

So what makes these meetings special?

The people I meet with are different to me and also similar in many ways. We get on well together. We have similar and yet different talents and expertise. This is uncovered after several conversations and we find more and more areas of difference and interest over time. We are both generous with our time, and our insights and feedback. We are willing to challenge each other. These meetings are not about being nice to maintain the friendship. Most importantly, we are both open and committed to learning from each other.

The only thing that came close to this in my Corporate life was a mentor relationship. I found them extremely helpful, but the learning was also usually only one way. I am not sure why I didn’t have these two way learning relationships. Is everyone is too busy? If so that is a shame, if they only knew what they are missing. It may also have been an aspect of Intel’s culture, are other companies different? Regardless, I am very grateful to my current and previous learning partners. I am looking forward to our next conversation.