If you’re in the market to be learning, what is best: content or community?
How do we choose to expose ourselves to new ideas and approaches? How do we value our investment in those areas in terms of lasting change and growth?
The choices are not the same — and yet are complementary.
For most of us, we see content as books we read, seminars we attend, classes we take, podcasts we listen to — things or places where information is dispensed in a programmed, orderly fashion.
Content can feel efficient. We can choose when to read, we can go right after what is of interest, we can often integrate it into our normal rhythms of the business.
Here at the Goering Center, we put a lot of effort and intellectual capital into our highly regarded, multi-day programs like the Next Generation and Leadership Development institutes. That is also true for our single-day programs — our luncheons, breakfasts and workshops. We compress a great deal of information into our programs so they are focused and, well, efficient — a “good use of time.” But the content, in and of itself, is not what delivers the magic of our events. It’s the interaction that occurs here.
Community, broadly, means being in relationship with other people where our exposure to ideas and perspectives comes through conversations, shared stories and experiences. Our advice or counsel is derived from people who we have come to know and trust.
Community — such as being part of a roundtable — can feel inefficient. It’s time out of the office, away from the daily demands. We can even find ourselves using the term “being away from work.”
Interestingly, though, we hear often and passionately from Goering Center members who say if they take away one thing — one thing — from their roundtable meeting, it’s worth their time. Arguably, a pretty inefficient use of time in terms of being focused on the business itself, and yet it is a good use of time. Valuable.
I believe there are several reasons for that view, some obvious, some less so.
It’s not just the content, it’s the story that comes with it. Sharing stories, particularly in the confidential setting of a roundtable, brings an important dimension to knowledge. It feels more like wisdom. And the awareness of how the knowledge was gained by others gives it credibility — it is already road-tested. The roundtables also offer a chance to engage about new ideas, report back on results, and serve as a point of accountability on actions members say they want to take in their business or in their life. Valuable.
The subtler value, though is simply getting away, creating some space to think and listen differently about the business and your leadership of it. It is a mistake to think that time away from the office is “not working.” Part of working, part of leading, is the self-care, the discipline, to stand back from the buzz of the work and hear something different, even quiet.
While it is a mantra to “lean in,” it is just as much it is important to lean back. The view is often quite different — the return quite high.