Using Learning to Prevent Depreciation and Demonetization

How’s your asset? Yes, that is a serious question, but it is also a reference to a great article by David Maister.  The article was actually written in 1991, but the core tenet still holds true: invest in your asset (i.e., your knowledge, skills, abilities, experience) or in those in your organization or risk unintended depreciation and demonetization. 

Most leaders acknowledge the importance of learning to themselves and their organizations as a general rule of thumb. However, how many leaders see learning as a critical key to survival and as a driver for value? The word "depreciate" is defined by Webster’s as “to lower the price or estimated value of”. In order to prevent the depreciation of intellectual capital – yours or others' – and retain or improve the value of the business, you must invest and prioritize learning.

In his article, “The Secret to Lifelong Success is Lifelong Learning, Michael Simmons indicates “Knowledge is the new money.” The new money. Let that sink in. In other words, organizations that don’t build in learning as a core competency risk losing market share, or worse, being disrupted unexpectedly and being replaced.

Contrastly, organizations and leaders that build a core process around learning are more likely to succeed. They are more future ready, can spot and better understand signals of change, and drive innovation. Moreover, they identify opportunities to fight against or stem the depreciation, demonetization or commoditization of their own products and services over time.

If you invest in a core process, what should you prioritize to increase success? A recent study by the McKinsey Global Institute, “Skill Shift: Automation and the Future of the Workforce”, highlights three key skill sets workers will need to develop further by 2030 to avoid being left behind:

  • Higher Cognitive Skills: advanced literacy and writing, quantitative and statistical skills, critical thinking and complex information processing

  • Social and Emotional Skills - advanced communication and negotiation, empathy, the ability to learn continuously, to manage others and to be adaptable.

  • Technological Skills - everything from basic to advanced IT skills, data analysis, engineering, and research.

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The lessons for leaders are clear: to build learning as a personal fundamental and organizational priority and ensure that the curriculum includes a depth of focus on the skills in these three categories. Push beyond formal learning events to consider how you are embedding learning within the culture and within the fabric of your teams. Taking these steps will not only help you avoid depreciation, they will also help you avoid the potential demonetization and value of your intellectual capital over time.