Collaborators: James Myers and Joseph Hall
“The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice”
This is the third part of the IBM B2B continuous learning blog series. In the first two parts, the focus was what and where to learn about B2B technology. In this part, we will provide strategies on how to embrace your B2B learning journey in an efficient and proactive manner to adapt to changes in technology, industries and marketplaces.
As we stated in part one, learning is not a goal line or point of destination. More than anything else, learning is a continuous journey that should never end. This journey entails discovery, awareness and challenges. Sometimes learning can be painful, but in the end, there is growth and rewards.
As a B2B (Business to Business) technology professionals, you need to cope with constant change, which requires climbing steep learning curves in short periods of time. You must take a proactive approach before your knowledge becomes obsolete.
The strategies below allow a person to learn B2B technologies more efficiently:
1. Establish realistic goals and be curious
By setting objectives properly, awareness about relevant topics is raised which allows you to have a sense of focus. This focus can help develop a sense of urgency and be more proactive on learning and achieving those objectives. A good strategy to setup goals adequately is to use the SMART Criteria. (SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time Bound) .
A good example of a SMART Goal can be:
To complete IBM Sterling B2B Integrator Fundamentals Module 1 training by the end of September 30, 2021.
This goal has a very specific deliverable (Complete Fundamentals Module 1) which is measurable, realistic with a deadline (by end of September 30, 2021). An ensemble of smart goals can help you accomplish your mission (What you do) and your vision (What you want to become in the future). This set of smart goals can represent a training roadmap for you over the next one or two years.
2. Develop self-awareness:
It is important to identify your strengths and weaknesses in your B2B skillset and intellectual capital so you can identify opportunities to improve and expand your knowledge and experience. For instance, based on the first part of this blog series you can check where out of the four major segments (B2B Administration/Tunning, Business Process Modeling, Communications), do you feel your B2B knowledge is lagging or excelling. A suggestion to identify learning blind spots is to complete this assessment.
Based on the results, you can identify which areas to focus your learning on and what areas are already your strengths. A smart goals based roadmap (Strategy 1) can l help in the transformation of those weaknesses (improvement opportunities) into strengths.
3. Take a proactive approach:
One of the best Ice Hockey players of all time, Wayne Gretzky, said during an interview:
I do not skate where puck is, but where the puck is going to be.
Like Mr. Gretzky, timing and anticipation is essential for achieving high performance specially when quick learning is required to be successful. An excellent exercise to become more proactive in acquiring the right technical knowledge, is to review new trends in the B2B space on a regular basis. The part one in this blog series describes the current B2B/MFT body of knowledge. That is a part of the equation that can be used as roadmap to focus your attention and priorities for training and then there is the other piece: new technology trends (i.e. Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain). The challenge is to find where these major technological trends overlap or intersect with the body of knowledge. For example, the impact of IoT on the logistics and manufacturing industry can cause serious challenges on how to integrate and orchestrate vast amounts of data from multiple sources to multiple recipients. These challenges can be alleviated using B2B/MFT Technologies .
4. Invest time wisely
Everybody has 24 hours per day at their disposal. No more, no less. It is up to you to decide how we invest this time. As a B2B Technologists, it is important how you allocate your time. The second part of this blog series provides a great reference of training types (on site, self-paced, Subject Matter Expert On site, etc.). The self-paced trainings give the flexibility to dedicate more or less time in a specific feature or topic versus others. If you have access to a SME on-site, you could tailor the knowledge transfer on a more ad-hoc basis to your requirements which can help you assimilate and learn better B2B technology. However, this approach lacks the flexibility that a self-paced training session can provide.
Figure 1, which displays Steven Covey’s Time Management matrix , can help assign priorities to your training workload and activities. You can position your learning project and activities in this two-dimension matrix based on importance and urgency, which is defined by the four quadrants. All those learning projects and activities placed in the top two quadrants should be your focus and time allocation. Anything else placed in the lower quadrants should be deprioritized.
5. Build your network and relationships:
We do not have the relationships we want; we have the relationships we build. It is extremely important to cultivate a network which can leverage your learning and knowledge. The following actions can foster and strengthen your knowledge and learning by expanding your network:
- Attend B2B conferences, user groups andwebinars. IBM offers many events through conferences like THINK, regional/industry user groups, webinars and more.
- Increase digital presence by using aocial media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, Reddit, Quora and Facebook. These platforms can boost awareness and expand your horizon.. You may ask, how can one know if their digital presence is robust enough to enable them to discover new b2b insights? LinkedIn, for instance, offers to every user a Social Selling Index Score. This index measures how effective users are in establishing their professional brand, finding the right people, engaging with insights, and building relationships. The personalized score is updated daily giving opportunities to improve on a regular basis.
- Contribute with questions and answers on discussion groups and forums. Writing an update to an online discussion group or posting an article makes us research and reflect on what we know, while also establishing an excellent way to build our professional brand. Challenge yourself to produce updates, contribute to group discussions, and post information on LinkedIn that others may find interesting.
By quoting Mr. Brian Herbet, we can conclude that “ The capacity to learn is a gift, the ability to learn is a skill, the willingness to learn is a choice.” This blog series tried to share strategies that can make this choice to learn B2B technology easier, more effective, and enjoyable.
Strategies like setting realistic goals, developing self-awareness, being proactive, investing time wisely and building a social network are not mutually exclusive and can be used not only to learn B2B technologies but technology in general and to grow personally and professionally.
Read the previous blogs here: