Many people mistake the word ‘learning’ as synonymous with ‘schooling’. Whilst formal education is one important element of lifelong learning, it’s not the only element. Lifelong learning is much more expansive than that.

In 2017 my alma mater, the University of Southern Queensland (USQ), invited me to speak at a graduation ceremony. I chose to speak on the theme of lifelong learning.  Many of the graduands were being awarded post-graduate qualifications, and clearly valued formal education as an element of lifelong learning.

I had excelled academically as an undergraduate.  However, decades on, my views on lifelong learning had shifted. Now I strongly advocate informal learning as critical to remaining relevant and future ready. There are circumstances under which university qualifications, including post-graduate studies, make sense.  However, they should not be the default choice to keep your knowledge and skills up to date.

I needed to strike a balance with the USQ address. On one hand to respect the graduands for the effort they’d put into completing post-graduate qualifications.  On the other hand, I wanted to inspire them to think more broadly about lifelong learning options and embrace informal learning practices.

I decided to focus on Working Out Loud in my address.  Working Out Loud is an approach based on building relationships that can help you in some way.  A key element of the practice of Working Out Loud is making your work and work processes visible to others.

There are three key reasons I chose to talk about Working Out Loud.

Firstly, it’s a practice that anyone can use.  It can be kept simple and versatile.

Secondly, with the convenience and power of the internet we have more opportunity than ever to connect with others. With the right mind-set you can readily build a network of meaningful relationships with people around the world and amplify your opportunities to learn and make a difference.

Thirdly, I could share stories of people I’ve seen gain tremendous benefits from making their work visible and connecting with others.  Sharing your work requires reflection, improving how you learn from experience.  People who adopt this practice form wider, more influential networks through their willingness to be open and generous.

I encourage you to Work Out Loud. Contribute generously to others, maintain a growth mindset, and make your work visible in a way that helps you and others to learn. Connecting with others and building relationships in this way is a lifelong learning practice that will lead to opportunities that formal education alone will never create.

Curious to read my USQ graduation address? You can find it here.

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