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Why ‘intentional learning’ is the most important skill to learn right now


The most important skill to acquire in our new digital age? Surprisingly, it’s the ability to learn.

In a recent report, McKinsey describes ‘intentional learning’ as the most fundamental skill for professionals to cultivate in the coming decades, saying that: “Few adults have been trained in the core skills and mindsets of effective learners”.


So what is intentional learning?

At its heart, intentional learning is the practice of treating every experience as an opportunity to learn something. Rather than being something that occurs separately, the desire to learn should be an always-on, instinctive approach to everyday situations.


“Although [intentional learners] are experiencing all the same daily moments anyone else might, they get more out of those opportunities because everything – every experience, conversation, meeting, and deliverable – carries with it an opportunity to develop and grow,” the McKinsey report argues.


How to acquire it

Two things set intentional learners apart from everyone else: a growth mindset and a curious mindset. Although these are personality traits that people naturally have in varying degrees, it is also possible to adopt these outlooks, the report says.


People with a growth mindset believe their capabilities and even intelligence can be nurtured, expanded and changed over time.


“A growth mindset releases you from the expectation of being perfect,” says the report. “Failures and mistakes are not indicative of the limits of your intellect, but rather tools that inform how you develop.”


Some people are naturally more curious than others. And curiosity is, the report argues, the starting point of everyone’s learning, right back to infancy.


Cultivating your curiosity can mean overcoming the fear of asking questions or of trying new things. It may mean taking on new challenges that do not relate to your day-job – learning a language, for instance, or taking up a musical instrument.


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