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Investing in learning for a continuous return

Apr 18. 2019
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By   SPECIAL TO THE NATION

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THE TERM “investment” is one we’re all familiar with, one way or another. You may have invested in the stock market, real estate or even gold, but we all understand that the money put into these choices are just long-term investments for higher return in the future.

Basically, we all invest our money into something hoping to earn some passive income.

But there’s also another form of investment that many of us don’t even recognise as an “investment” – and that is learning.

Understandably, organisations and even individuals sometimes see learning as a one-off or periodical event to appease management or just complete a degree or certificate to fulfil a job requirement. In many ways, learning doesn’t seem like an investment but rather more of an expense.

Your parents, for example, have spent on your education since you were three or four years old, costs mounting from primary school all the way through university. Even those training sessions set up by companies involve spending money – as well as time and energy – to take the training that the company sends us to.

At the end, learning is added to the items on our lists of expenditures. But the truth is that learning is an investment. The tough part here is that, while your investment in real estate or the stock market shows evident return, the return on investment for learning isn’t clear or even immediately noticeable. You cannot calculate an exact number that would resonate with everyone.

Even so, learning is still considered a long-term investment rather than merely an expense. Below are the reasons why.

The first point is that learning helps us keep everything up to date. From our past knowledge to new trends and insights, we cannot even begin to imagine the new and improving content we gain. What we learnt a few years ago could easily be irrelevant in the next few years. Things change so quickly, and so does the content we learn from lower grades and at university.

With that in mind, we gain updated knowledge when we invest in learning. Constantly unlearning the irrelevant and relearning the available newly relevant information isn’t an option in today’s world – to survive we must continue learning.

The second point is while you’re updating knowledge, learning can also upgrade your current skills or build on your total self with newly added skills. That, in itself, is a great return on investment. 

When you invest in learning, you’re investing in the development of yourself and the people around you, thus building your business in a better way.

Some readers may counter with the point that this is a huge risk, and in many ways it is. Imagine developing your own people for example only to see them leave later with those skills you’ve invested in? But, the greater risk is that if you don’t develop them and they stay – what then?

As a very popular saying goes: “A CFO asks a CEO: What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave us?” The CEO responds, “What happens if we don’t and they stay?”

Investing in stocks or real estate can be risky too, but we all still put money on the line because we understand that the higher the risk, the bigger the return. The same works with learning. You risk more but you also gain more.

The third point is that learning creates results in every aspect of your life, work and business. As learning builds skills, those same skills are used to build a better personal or work life. Courses such as Design Thinking from the Stanford d.school, Outward Mindset from the Arbinger Institute or even Self-Leadership from the Ken Blanchard companies have content that can be used both for personal and work life.

The point about learning that scares many people off is the fact that it isn’t as straightforward as other investments you may make. When you invest in the stock market, you understand clearly that there are risks involved, but so are great potential rewards. With learning, it isn’t the same. It is possible to calculate the return from learning, but you sometimes can’t directly put a number on it.

Whether you’re a university graduate, an employee, or a business owner, you cannot possibly know everything in this world. But, if we stop learning and investing our development, we will cease to grow and won’t be able to move anywhere.

At the end of the day, constantly learning means constantly changing yourself for the better. 

For example, we may now know more about a topic that we once didn’t even think about. We learn to use the knowledge in ways that make our work more efficient and more productive. We constantly grow with learning, and that in itself is the return from learning.

ARINYA TALERNGSRI is chief capability officer and managing director at SEAC (formerly APMGroup), Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Centre. She can be reached by email at arinya_t@seasiacenter.com or through https://www.linkedin.com/in/arinya-talerngsri-53b81aa

 

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