learning & change

How to create more value from your personal development investment

If you are an experienced organisational leader, you probably take your professional development seriously.
Today, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to driving our ongoing learning. In addition to traditional academic or structured workplace learning experiences, it is easier than ever to access quality reading, subscribe to engaging podcasts or sign up for interactive webinars to help build our knowledge and capability.
Whether you are working through a formal program or using more flexible self-paced approaches, it is easy to sink a lot of time and energy into learning. So here are six things you could be doing to make sure you get good value out of your personal development choices.

Get Targeted 

  • Be specific about your challenge or opportunity. Ask yourself what you want to work on and be as specific as you can, about why it is important.
  • Make an informed choice about whether to invest your time and energy. Look at the learning options available and consider how they might help in your situation. Make sure you consider what you would need to do to not only get the content but also translate it into practical skills and capability.
  • Clarify your intent for how you want to show up and what you want to take away. Sometimes the most valuable learning comes from how you shape the experience with your in-the-moment behavioural choices.

Model Curiosity

  • Actively engage with the intent to uncover something new. Sometimes when we are presented with concepts we’ve come across before, our mind can shout things like, I know this already, there’s nothing new to learn here, this is too basic for me… If this happens, and we aren’t present, we can waste a lot of time and energy. A better approach is to reset your intentions to find something new in the experience.
  • Ask questions that open up a dialogue. Some learning situations are inherently social. They give you the opportunity to interact with others as a way of surfacing new insights and opportunities to explore. Where you can, get curious and ask targeted questions that take the content and learning experience to a higher level.
  • Share your context and invite specific support. When you make your learning contextually relevant, it is more likely to stick. Where possible, set out your goals and encourage others to share their relevant ideas and experiences.

Dive in Deeper

  • Consider the content from multiple perspectives. Use your creativity to pull out the key themes and look at them from different viewpoints. Go beyond the obvious and consider how else these ideas might be useful.
  • Link new ideas to existing knowledge. Use your previous experience to compare and contrast new ideas. Think about how content can blend to create new insights and practical actions to help you move forward.
  • Check out additional references or resources. Go beyond the initial learning experience and look at the source material. Think of your learning moments as laying out a trail of breadcrumbs for you to follow towards new insight.

Try it Out

  • Capture potential actions to implement – Take responsibility for taking note of things that you might try to implement new learning. Go for volume but hold these ideas lightly until you are ready to commit.
  • Commit to at least one tangible action to experiment with. You don’t have to blindly trust the advice you come across, build out a safe test to see if it works for you. Upfront, be clear about what you are going to try out and what impact you would like to see.
  • Review your actions and outcomes and iterate your learning. Once you have tried something new, objectively consider what happened as a result. Collect the data and ask yourself how you might iterate your experiment to keep learning.

Pay it Forward

  • Summarise the ideas in simple and accessible terms. Reading or listening to content doesn’t guarantee that you understand it. To truly internalise concepts, try to summarise them in your own words using simple common language.
  • Capture relevant insights that you have uncovered. The best learners are not only able to understand new content, but they can also use it to spark novel ideas about their context and goals. Capture deep or penetrating truths that occur to you as you explore.
  • Share your ideas to help someone else. Another great way of developing your comfort with the concepts and practices is to share them with others. Find someone you know who might benefit and set a time up to talk them through the key elements and see what they think.

Make it Stick

  • Craft a routine. Consider how you might be able to piggyback new actions onto existing habits. Use your established behavioural patterns as scaffolding to support your change.
  • Reconnect with purpose. Think about why changing your behaviour and practicing your new learning is important. Be clear about what the consequences of not changing might be.
  • Control your environment. Set up reminders to prompt you to implement your new ideas. Remove barriers to action and make it easy for you to practice what you have learned.


Carey, B. (2014). How We Learn. Random House.
Duhigg, C. (2012). The Power of Habit. Doubleday Canada.
Kaufman, J. (2013). The First 20 Hours. Penguin.
Medina, J. (2011). Brain Rules. ReadHowYouWant.com.
Patterson, K., Grenny, J., Maxfield, D., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2011). Change Anything. Grand Central Publishing.
Schwartz, T., Gomes, J., & McCarthy, C. (2011). Be Excellent at Anything.
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