CXO Leadership

Learning as a Hobby: How Executives Can Stay Ahead Through Continuous Development

Learning as a Hobby: How Executives Can Stay Ahead Through Continuous Development

Throughout history, successful leaders have understood the importance of continuous learning. From Benjamin Franklin, who famously taught himself to read and write by candlelight, to today’s digital executives, the drive for self-improvement through education and training has always been a hallmark of great leadership. However, traditional formal training is often inflexible and may not be suitable for executives who need to learn quickly and on-the-go. Learning as a hobby, through tech-assisted “informal learning,” is one way for modern executives to stay ahead of the curve and drive innovation in their organizations.

My Personal Story

As a busy CIO, I’ve recognized the value of ongoing learning throughout my career. Despite the demands of my job, I’ve made a point to prioritize my personal and professional development by leveraging tech-assisted informal learning. Through MOOCs like Coursera and Udemy, as well as SPOCs like Emeritus, I’ve been able to expand my skill set and stay current with industry trends in my free time. Additionally, I’ve been using smartphone apps like Duolingo, or teacher-led 24/7 platforms like Lingoda, to learn new languages, which have been fun and interactive ways to improve my foreign language skills.

When I tell people about my learning pursuits, I’m often met with the question: “When do you have the time?” But for me, learning is not a burden, but rather a hobby – an enriching and enjoyable way to engage with the world around me. Just as others might unwind with sports, music, cooking, or reading, I’ve found that learning can be a fulfilling and rewarding part of my life outside of work. In fact, it’s made me a better CIO by enabling me to bring fresh perspectives and innovative ideas to my role.

Benefits of Learning as a Hobby

Let’s take a closer look at some inspiring examples of executives I’ve met who have turned learning into a fun and engaging hobby.

Michelle is the CEO of an advertising start-up and a busy mother of two. During her morning commute, she listens to business podcasts to learn about the latest trends while enjoying her daily coffee. As she listens, she often pauses to jot down new ideas and insights to bring back to her team. “I have found that my commute is the perfect time to catch up on industry news and get inspired for the day ahead,” she says.

Similarly, Steve, the CIO of a large software company, spends his lunch break playing interactive quizzes and games to sharpen his skills and challenge his colleagues to beat his high score. This friendly competition is helping to create a culture of learning and growth in his workplace. Learning doesn’t have to be a chore. Making it fun and competitive keeps him engaged and motivated to continue improving.

These leaders prove that learning can be both enriching and enjoyable, and that it’s possible to make time for personal and professional development even in the midst of a busy schedule. By adopting a hobbyist approach to learning, you can unleash your creativity and innovation, stay abreast of industry trends, and most importantly, have fun doing it.

To make learning more accessible when you are a busy executive, it’s important to consider alternative forms that are flexible and agile, such as MOOCs, micro-training, and gamification.

Agile Learning for Busy Executives

The term “agile” comes from software development, where it includes rapid iteration, collaboration, and continuous improvement. In the context of learning, agile means using similar principles and techniques to create a more dynamic and personalized experience. It has been gaining momentum in recent years due to the fast-paced and ever-changing nature of today’s business world. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of remote and online learning, which has further fueled the demand for agile and flexible learning solutions.

So what are some of the ways busy executives can incorporate agile learning into their routine? One option is MOOCs, which offer online courses taught by top professors and experts from around the world. With MOOCs, you can learn at your own pace and from anywhere with an internet connection. Best of all, many MOOCs are free or low-cost, making them an accessible option for everyone.

Another option is microlearning – short, focused learning modules that can be completed in just a few minutes. We see more and more the use of technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to deliver customized content and assessments. Whether you have a few minutes during your lunch break or a spare moment during your commute, micro-training allows you to fit learning into your busy day.

One modern method that has gained popularity in recent years is gamification. Gamification involves incorporating game elements, such as points, badges, and leaderboards, into learning experiences to make them more engaging and enjoyable. It can be used in a variety of learning formats, including e-learning courses, workshops, and seminars. Gamification has been shown to increase learner engagement and motivation, as well as improve knowledge retention and transfer. This makes it an excellent option for busy executives who want to learn and grow in a fun and interactive way.

By incorporating agile learning into your routine, you can stay up-to-date with the latest trends and developments in your field, and continue to grow and develop both professionally and personally.

Before we wrap up, I want to share with you my favorite quote from Mahatma Gandhi: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow; learn as if you were to live forever.” This quote has always inspired me to keep learning, to never become complacent in my knowledge and abilities. Learning as a hobby, through tech-assisted informal learning, is a powerful way for executives to continue to innovate and enrich their lives. So, I encourage you to embrace learning as a lifelong hobby, and to live each day to the fullest.

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Minori Hara

Minori Hara, Chief Digital & Information Officer, Santen Pharmaceutical

Minori Hara is Chief Digital & Information Officer at Santen Pharmaceutical, a specialized company dedicated to ophthalmology. Santen carries out research, development, marketing, and sales of pharmaceuticals, over-the-counter products,... More   View all posts


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Minori Hara


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