Never before managers have needed to learn so constantly and quickly, as they need in current times. According to the article, Leading in the 21st century, there are many executives than find almost impossible to know all the things they need to know to do their jobs. Above all, the two main reasons could be the ongoing development of information and communication technologies and the changing markets environment. If they are not able to acquire knowledge of business news in a fast way, they could lose a lot of valuable opportunities. So they would have to face some negative effects for their companies, such as a smaller market share, a worst brand placement, or an unsuccessful international expansion. Moreover, they would lose big opportunities of personal growth, such as enjoying leading projects, being promoted or, simply put, being proud of themselves. Therefore, managers need to include in their agenda this issue and learn while they are in charge of their usual business duties.
One of the root causes of this necessity is that the pace of information and knowledge creation is increasing thanks to the development of information and communication technologies (ICT). Consequently, managers, in order to be informed, must develop ICT skills, such as selecting critical contents, distinguishing between reliable and unreliable sources or being connected through digital social networks. However, it is not easy to face these challenges, especially for older managers. “I’m not a tech freak. I use my iPhone and send text-messages, that’s it. I still like to have paper in front of me and I do a lot in written memo form. I think people who constantly use their BlackBerry or iPhone easily lose sight of the big picture,“ says Josef Ackermann, CEO and chairman of the management board at Deutsche Bank . If managers are not able to develop these skills, they could suffer the consequences of the digital gap and be out of the business world.
In addition, the use of ICT and the accelerating knowledge creation generate a new business environment where competitors evolve and react faster to news strategies. As Ellen Kullman, DuPont’s CEO, says “You have to be able to react very quickly”. As a result, managers must pay constantly attention to how competitors are organized, what products and services have recently been launched, what is new in their customer attention policies, etc. In other words, being aware of the movements of the competitors makes managers able to respond successfully and to keep the business up to date and synchronized with its environment. In today’s markets, for products and services success, it is more important to be the first than the best. Therefore, business managers must be able to learn a broad set of aspects and adapt quickly, rather than deeply learning a narrow aspect.
Then, what could managers do to be well informed and know enough to do their jobs? As it is mentioned above, business managers must devote time to acquire the latest information and knowledge related to their business (overload cannot be an excuse). That means committing themselves a plan for lifelong learning, reading the latest business research and ideas, meeting professional people in their sector, attending seminars and conferences. Also, business executive officers must keep in touch with their markets by using social networks, not only in electronic forms but physically as well. Furthermore, business managers are not alone in this crusade. Business schools offer permanent programs to help executives keep up to date and learn about the latest business trends, technologies and strategies and also offer multiple choices to network other people.
To conclude, doing business today is essentially different than it used to be decades ago. The environment changes so fast that business managers must develop new skills to be able to follow it. In contrast, those who be unable to adapt to the changing environment will face obsolescence, as their place in the market arena will be soon taken by a competitor. The fate of managers is to be forever learners.