Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Sneezing Trees

I just finished registering for the 2015 ANCOR & AAIDD Technology Summit & Showcase. Attending conferences such as this one is part of my job, and for the most part, I enjoy them. But here’s a secret as to why I enjoy them – it isn’t so much about the presentations or panel discussions or breakout sessions, it is about the opportunity to keep in touch with colleagues from all over the state and the country.

When I connect with these colleagues, I almost always learn something new. We talk about what is happening at our respective organizations, what is happening with our families and friends, and what is happening in the world. I am frequently surprised by the knowledge I take back from these conferences, and it isn’t always (or even usually) about the work we do. It may be something as simple as someone showing me a new app they are using on their phone to track how many steps they are taking every day. Whatever the subject, conferences tend to provide great learning environments set in a natural, real world setting.

I believe Imagine! operates best as a learning environment. The employees who succeed here tend to be the ones who are always asking questions, not just about their daily tasks but about the larger world around them. They make connections between concepts that may not be immediately apparent but that can lead to new solutions to common challenges. They are willing to admit when they don’t know something and to ask for clarification when they don’t understand. And guess what? I do the same.

I firmly believe that the culture of learning at Imagine! is the cornerstone of our success. We seek out information from many sources in all of our daily interactions. We avoid acting in isolation, because we understand that isolation leads to stagnation. Inside Imagine! and out, individuals or organizations that don’t look to continually learn frequently find themselves behind. I’m not just talking about new ideas, tools, or approaches specific to our field. The person who says that they aren’t good at Facebook, or get confused trying to join in a conference call, or don’t know how to access their email through their smart phones are putting themselves at risk of falling so far back that they won’t be able to catch up.

I want to be clear that I understand there is a difference between needing to know and wanting to know. For instance, for Calvin, and for most of us, knowing what causes wind isn’t essential knowledge to our daily lives.

We all make decisions about how much time we will spend learning something based on how important it is to our daily lives. A lot of ignorance is willful, which isn’t always a negative, and sometimes it is just easier to think that the trees are sneezing then learning about the complex factors that create weather. However, taking the occasional risk to learn about something for which the value to your personal life may not be immediately apparent can open the door to so many possibilities. And in the field in which we work, where the challenges are many and the solutions aren’t always obvious, that approach can make all the difference in the world. A learning environment can mean the difference between a life fulfilled and a life wasted.

Then again, what do I know?

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