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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

15 simple, practical tips for learning valuable new business skills

Smart professionals know there’s always an opportunity to learn more and hone new skills in the business world.

15 simple, practical tips for learning valuable new business skills
Members of Fast Company Executive Board share their expert insights. [Image: Courtesy of the individual members.]
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Learning a new business skill is always a good idea, whether you’re the company owner or a frontline team member. And in today’s digital age, there’s no shortage of material out there for professionals to peruse, from seminars to online courses to advice from experts.

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In fact, these days it’s easier to drift into information overload than to be stymied by a lack of resources. If you’re looking to engage in some professional learning or skills building and are overwhelmed by choice or simply short on time, check out the following smart tips for acquiring a new business skill from the members of Fast Company Executive Board.

1. LOOK INTO INDUSTRY TRENDS.

Find out what’s happening in your niche. Whether it’s a helpful business trend or an ominous challenge, think about how businesses are navigating it. Sometimes, we have to rely on ourselves to find new problem-solving strategies. So, if it’s something you can master on your own, do some research, master the skill, and then teach your team. They’ll appreciate learning something new and useful. – John Hall, Calendar

2. TAKE ON STRETCH ASSIGNMENTS.

When team members are eager to learn more, have your managers give them assignments outside of their normal purview. This is a great way to hone new skills, develop talent, and see where an employee’s passions may lie (which may be elsewhere than the role they’re in). These experiences often result in added value for the organization as well as for the individual. – Becca Chambers, Ivanti

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3. CONSULT THE EXPERTS.

When my team and I are looking to learn something new, we reach out to experts in our network who have the knowledge and skill set we are looking for and set up a call. These experts help provide a foundation and initial direction on the topic and share additional resources so we can learn more on our own. – Matthew Wool, Acceleration Partners

4. UNLEARN, THEN RELEARN.

Make sure to open up time for new learning to take hold by also deciding what you will unlearn. And don’t ignore the importance of relearning tried and true practices that are still relevant. I see digital-native teams discounting prior knowledge and practices that contain valuable metaphors for today simply because that knowledge and those practices are mature; but they can hold the keys to time-saving, elegant solutions. – Amy Radin, Pragmatic Innovation Partners LLC

5. LOOK BEYOND LEADERSHIP THINKING.

For leadership strategists, it is imperative to gain insights from beyond the echo chamber of leadership thinking—standard go-to’s in that area include TED Talks, wisdom traditions, and sports and military stories. I urge clients to study the lessons found in nature, in the creative processes of artists, and in the stories of everyday humans navigating life. Doing so is a step away from the hubris that comes with power. – Tevis Trower, Balance Integration Corporation

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6. IDENTIFY WEAK SPOTS.

Understanding where you have a weakness as an individual or as an organization allows you to look at opportunities to improve those weak spots. If you lead by example, your team will likely follow suit and look to expand their skills as well. – Brad Burns, Wayne Contracting

7. CONNECT WITH INDUSTRY LEADERS.

A key way to learn new skills and get information that I think is just about to become big is connecting with other leaders in your industry. When you work with a mentor or an industry expert, you’ll be able to interact with them and get feedback right away. You’ll build skills and grow through conversations and practical advice. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

8. SEEK OUT A MENTOR.

Mentorship is one of the quickest ways to take your skills to the next level. Through their invaluable perspective and experience, mentors can help you navigate through personal and professional decisions, encouraging you to learn something new with each experience. Reach out to experts and gain their knowledge, but be sure to pass on your helpful learnings from them as well. – Irfan Khan, CLOUDSUFI

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9. BUILD A CULTURE AROUND LEARNING.

Encourage people to pursue the skills they’re interested in, then give them opportunities to try them out, under guidance, to practice and perfect them. Helping build the next generation of leaders starts with letting them find and pursue their strengths. – Noah Mitsuhashi, Portfolio Insider

10. LEVERAGE LINKEDIN CONNECTIONS.

When I want to learn something new, I often reach out to a LinkedIn connection I know is an expert and set up a call. Often they will either help you learn or acquire the skill or send you to good resources to learn it on your own—or you can make the determination that you should stop trying to learn it and simply outsource it if it’s too complex or not worth your time to master. – Kevin Namaky, Gurulocity Brand Management Institute

11. JOIN LINKEDIN LEARNING.

I’m a huge fan of LinkedIn Learning. You can learn anything there. Yes, there are tons of other platforms, but LinkedIn has very high quality standards. I was using it to brush up my business and sales skills, but they also have courses in drawing, portrait photography, meditation, and natural language processing—all of which might help you become a better-balanced human being and more effective in your business. – Viveka Von Rosen, Vengreso

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12. START A PODCAST.

Start a podcast and interview people from across the spectrum who fascinate you. I can’t tell you how many new ideas I’ve picked up and new approaches I’ve been inspired to learn after interviewing guests on my podcast. I started the podcast thinking I was giving back to the creative community—it turns out, I was also giving something to myself! – Barry Fiske, LiveArea, a Merkle Company

13. USE BLINKIST.

I recently discovered Blinkist, which offers book summaries in 15 minutes or less. The app makes it easy to acquire knowledge on a topic quickly. Think of it as Cliff Notes for business books. You have the option to read or listen to the summaries. – Kelley Higney, Bug Bite Thing

14. EXPLORE YOUTUBE.

YouTube is a wonderful place to learn new hard skills. When a team member doesn’t know how to execute something new, we either search for a how-to on YouTube or ask around within our network. It’s important to have a work environment that values curiosity rather than calling people out for not knowing something. – Phnam Bagley, Nonfiction Design

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15. LOOK INTO FREE UNIVERSITY COURSES.

Many Ivy League universities have opened up their online classes for free during the pandemic, and they’re still available online. You could easily and freely learn marketing, programming, negotiation, and many more skills in your free time. – Yoav Vilner, Walnut