3 Reasons You Should Learn From People Different Than You

Here’s a questions I’m working through:

Does the breadth of your learning impact the depth of your learning?

I know… I think in tweets. But to say it a little less 140 character’ish: How much more could we learn by expanding the context of our education? And I don’t mean studying more people in your current industry. Granted, it’s not natural to study other industries and organizational leaders unlike us, but I think finding breadth could be a hidden ingredient to accelerated growth.

This idea hit me recently while at a conference. It was a great conference full of wonderful leaders – who I’ver heard from too many times to count. I saw an advertisement for another conference. Guess who was speaking? Basically the same people. Don’t get me wrong. I love and respect these leaders. They’re my mentors – some directly. But I wonder – does a homogenous learning community stunt growth at some point?

When we only learn from our own kind, we become critical more than curious.

As a pastor, I primarily learn from other churches, church leaders, and church models. As a younger leader, that was a great place to start. Seeing other perspectives and approaches to church helped solidify how I wanted to create and lead a local church. There was great clarity found in watching those who were already doing it. Yet, the more comfortable I got as a leader in my church, the more critical I became of leaders in the church. I accidentally replaced learning with critiquing.

Of course, that’s not a healthy dynamic, but it is a natural progression. When we visit other organizations within our industry, we are hyper-critical of what we understand (or think we understand).

Here’s what I’ve discovered: My leadership growth for my church is limited when I only learn from leaders in the church. This principle extends to EVERY industry, company, and organization. Back to the principle (and tweet):

The breadth of your learning will influence the depth of your learning.

Maybe that’s not new to everyone, but for me, it has created a new category from which to learn. When I seek out leaders in other industries, it helps me in 3 specific ways:

1. Different Is Intriguing.

When I meet with leaders from other industries, my interest is automatically peaked because different is intriguing. I find myself asking questions rather than simply evaluating executions – mostly because I can’t fully critique an industry I don’t fully understand. Think about it. When we are faced with something new, we automatically ask more questions. Curiosity begins to trust criticism.

2. Different Drives Innovation.

Some of my favorite innovations at Watermarke Church have come from interactions with leaders and organizations outside the church. Example: Just recently, I read a book on screenwriting. I have NO desire to ever write a movie script. I’m doing good to write a blog post. But as I began to understand the systems and approaches to movies scripts, it generated new ideas and possible innovations for me as a communicator. I’ve already tried a few successfully. A sermon is much like a story, and the principles of great screenwriting can (and should) be applied to message writing.

3. Different Isn’t That Different.

Leadership principles are transferable, and seeing principles executed in non-familiar settings can help us see the same things in new ways. We bring fresh eyes to old lessons. Sometimes that’s all it takes for us to discover a leadership breakthrough.

I know you already read the great business books. I know you study other leaders and models in your industry. But whom can you seek to learn from outside your industry? What other industries can provide new you new insights? It might provide the breakthrough you’ve been seeking.

So from whom do you learn? What other industries have you found most intriguing? I’d love to know so I can expand my breadth, too.

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