Yes, reading can expose us to a world of thought, ideas, and findings that are often condensed, carefully crafted, well organized, and sometimes documented with references to supporting research or sources. This is good.
Audiobooks, podcasts, webinars, instructional apps and games, virtual reality, and other media and modalities can spark curiosity, multiply sources of information, and reveal potential opportunities for learning. This is even better.
I say “potential” because information delivered regardless of the medium is not learned until our brains commit the input to long-term memory. Perception and awareness are essential but almost always not sufficient for meaningful learning.
If we expect leaders–or anyone–to be learners, then we must ensure that leaders learn how to learn. Coursera‘s MOOC, Learning How to Learn, has attracted more online learners than any other Coursera offering, and for good reason. Taught by Dr. Barbara Oakley, Ramón y Cajal Distinguished Scholar of Global Digital Learning, McMaster University, and Dr. Terrence Sejnowski, Francis Crick Professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Learning How to Learn presents practical insights into how the brain learns and how we, as brain operators, can learn better and benefit more fully from the time and effort we invest.
Reading widely, or, more generally, ensuring frequent exploration and steady exposure to a broad array of new ideas, is a great starting point. We can then choose more purposefully what we want to learn. Learning takes intention.
Learning creates “future memories.” Learning is what enables us to recall, and these recollected memories enrich our ability to think and decide at the time. Learning makes information available and actionable. This is the best!
As a leader, as a learner, explore for breadth. Learn for Depth.
But whatever you do, learn to learn.