MAKING IT PERSONAL: A key theme for Elliott Masie’s Learning2012 is personal- ized learning. “Very often, as we are explainingthe latest in a new business process, skill set, or technology, a good percentage of our learners already know some, much, or almost all of the content; yet, the ability for a learner to have a personalized learningexperi- ence is quite rare,” Masie wrote in a recent blogpost. “How do we better focus learningmoments and expendi- tures on the content that our workers need to know and accelerate or skip them through the stuff that they already know?”
How do the brightest minds in our global community go about learning? Great question. I would like more data to validate my hunch, but my hunch is that effective leaders are highly effective learners. If you are president of the U.S. and have a cabinet and a million people working for you, then you may learn in one mode, and if you are a small businessperson with six employees, you learn in a different mode. But most of the peo- ple I meet who are presidents, heads of corporations or associ- ations, or entrepreneurs, are enormously curious and motivated to learn themselves. Here’s the best example. I had the honor of serving on the
board of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics, founded by Dean Kamen, inventor, entrepreneur, and tireless advocate for science and technology. At their last conference, I [cohosted] a discussion called “The Mothers of Invention” with a panel of famous game-changer moms that included [Amazon.com founder] Jeff Bezos’ mom and other mothers of inventors, including Kamen and [online- education pioneer] Sal Khan. Every mother reported that their
kids, as they grew up, were nonstop learners. Jeff Bezos would go on a carousel ride and then spend time learning exactly how it worked. What I found was that the leaders themselves were con-
stant learners. President Clinton, with whom I worked when he was president, has an insatiable appetite for knowledge. I enjoyed watching how his brain worked, watching his expres- sions, how he was so curious. He mentioned books that he read, and would continuously ask for clarification on issues.
How do leaders, including presidents of countries, handle the mass of information that they need to first learn and then store in their brain? I think it comes from people who read for them and prioritize what they need to know. I have a small staff comparably, and I have two people who just read stuff and synthesize it for me. One of most interesting challenges for leaders is when they
first take office, they aren’t as good learners as they might be. They either try to master all the material or they try to get a quick fix and just go forward. Some of the challenges that President Obama has faced as a