Be a “Learn it all” not a “Know it all”

Be a “Learn it all” not a “Know it all” 

I recently had the pleasure to present a TEDx talk at the ‘Adventurous Minds’ TEDx Melbourne event sharing some insights from over thirty years in the technology industry.

My talk titled ‘Digital Disruption is a Human Thing’ focused on some key mindset shifts I believe are essential in today’s leadership landscape.

The first of these I’ll focus on in a new blog series is the importance of being a “Learn it all” versus a “Know it all”.

The problem we face today is that much of that human potential and capacity to change things for the better (commonly called innovation) is stifled by old ways of thinking, industrial age ways of thinking, which don't suit changing times well at all.

The winners in these fast changing and unpredictable times are those with mindsets that think in a way which see that potential in people and obsess about and embrace change. 

The adventure that disrupted me and changed my mindset and the way I think, started in 1998 when I was appointed CEO of a start-up digital media company ninemsn.

At the time, there was no on-line advertising industry or spend, other than some testing done by progressive organizations like Intel.

ninemsn was a joint venture between Microsoft and PBL Media, an unusual start up born, with $100 Million backing of Gates and Packer, all the tech in the world at the time, media brands (from Channel Nine and ACP magazines) that millions of Australian knew and about 100 smart people from a variety of media, telco and tech backgrounds.

I joined with no knowledge or experience in advertising and media and knew less about the domain of advertising and media than everyone else in the company, or then industry experts.

The established leaders in the media industry believed that “on-line ads would never pay” and “banners wouldn't work”.

This established view by those who knew most in the industry just didn't make sense to me.

If I watched TV and the ad presented worked and paid, and if I looked at the page of a newspaper or magazine and saw a print ad, which worked and paid, why wouldn't the same apply to a computer screen?

Well history has proven the experts were wrong.

In 2015 digital media share grew to 42% of the total ad market. All from nothing much 15 years ago.

What’s even more amusing to me today is that the “banners that were never going to work” do so well, that even TV screens are plastered with banners today.

The reluctance of traditional media players to embrace the new trend destroyed enormous amounts of shareholder value.

They were all too attached to what they knew and as a result too slow to embrace the change that digital media enabled.

The first big mindset shift I learnt was that you must treat what you know not as important as your capacity to listen and learn.

I would take a  “Learn it all” over a “Know it all” any day.

In subsequent posts I will explore why change is hard, failure is essential, the power of asking why and the importance of reflective time to think about how we think.