‘He or She Who Learns, Leads’

Ready to fail at your job, embarrass yourself in front of your manager, and show that you aren’t ready to take that next step in your career? Erika Andersen thinks you should be—and the sooner you do it, the better.

Erika Andersen Keynote

“I want to help you turbocharge your ability to learn new skills, new ways of operating, new ways of dealing with this world,” she told hundreds of attendees at the opening session of SLA’s 2016 Annual Conference in Philadelphia. “That, in itself, is the heart of leadership. What I’ve found, over the past couple of years especially, is that the leaders of any organization are those who can learn the best. He or she who learns, leads.”

Andersen, who heads a leadership consulting firm, Proteus International, urged her audience to accept that learning often means failing, especially in a world where the amount of information is accelerating faster each day.

“We need to crack the learning code,” she said. “We need to be good learners in a way that no one else has had to be before, in the history of the world. . . But we don’t very much like being bad at things, and we often don’t like the process of getting good at things.”

Andersen proceeded to lay out a four-step process of learning, which she explains in greater detail in her latest book, Be Bad First—Get Good at Things FAST to Stay Ready for the Future:

  1. Aspiration;
  2. Neutral self-awareness;
  3. Endless curiosity; and
  4. Willingness to be bad first.

The hardest step in this process, she said, is the last one. “By the time we get to be 30, 40, or 50, we rely on and identify with our expertise,” she said. “And we don’t particularly like to go back to being a beginner.”

Andersen’s keynote address capped a session that featured awards presentations to 14 SLA members who have demonstrated leadership within the association and the information profession. The session also included an introduction to SLA’s new executive director, Amy Lestition Burke.

Following the opening session, SLA President Tom Rink officially opened the INFO-EXPO, an exhibit hall with more than 150 exhibitors. Attendees visited the INFO-EXPO throughout the day and especially during the opening reception, which also featured poster presentations by nearly a dozen SLA members.

When they weren’t visiting the INFO-EXPO, attendees could choose from among dozens of educational sessions on topics such as competitive intelligence systems and functions, advanced search, knowledge retention strategies, and using metrics to help researchers show their value. The sessions varied in length from 20-minute “Quick Takes” to 90-minute “Master Classes” and “Hot Topics” presentations.

For more information about the conference, see the online planner.

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