The French author Francois de la Rochefoucauld observed “the only thing constant in life is change.” Great CEOs understand this and are constantly trying to improve and expand their knowledge. They should focus on learning both inside and outside of the business.
Inside the business you should focus your learning on your products, customers and competitors. It is easy for CEOs to lose contact with these areas if they don’t force themselves to devote time to each. Scheduling at least one extended customer visit per quarter and attending a couple of industry trade shows every year are good ways to improve your knowledge inside the business.
One of the best ways to have breakthrough ideas is to look outside your industry, according to Jim Schleckser, creator of “Five Hats: The High Leverage Roles of the CEO” and CEO and managing partner of the Inc. CEO Project. This can mean focusing on a wide array of topics, from economics to basic research. Using CEO peer groups like the Inc. CEO Project to add to your knowledge can also be extremely valuable. The two keys to any peer group are the quality of the leader and the individual members.
As Jim states in the video below, as a CEO you see the whole playing field in a way that no one else does. If YOU aren’t learning, nobody else is and even if they are, they certainly aren’t applying it at your level. You always need to be on the lookout for what’s next, and devoting a few days every quarter to wearing the learner hat will pay major dividends for your success.
Here is Jim’s description of the learner hat:
The last hat in the series and my own contribution to Jim’s work will be the priest hat.