18 Dec, 2020
The Importance of Developing Knowledge Outside Your Specialty
This informal CPD article The Importance of Developing Knowledge Outside Your Specialty was provided by Liesl Coetzer at Alison, a free online education platform that mostly focuses on workplace-based skills.
While an in-depth and detailed knowledge of one’s area of work is a massive asset to both an employee and their company, there is also the risk of acquiring this expert-level skill at the cost of other interaction skills. Focusing too much on one’s own job, without taking into account your working environment, can lead to frustration and disappointment.
As one develops in one’s career, it’s important to keep perspective on one’s role within a broader workplace environment. When we learn more about the work of our colleagues, we don’t just learn about their work but learn from their work.
Silos are for grain storage.
A coherent understanding of the various departments in your company allows you to realise how your work impacts, other people and functions. It means colleagues can inform you about your work habits that may seem innocuous to you but may hinder work further down the line. When you recognise your role in the value chain, it can give you a sense of purpose and fulfilment. For example, if you’re in Sales, by speaking to coworkers in Accounts, you might learn about their preferred Invoicing techniques, something you may not have been doing, which can make their job easier.
It’s essential to get fresh opinions from both within and without your place of work. There are any number of high-profile examples from the sporting world of coaches who spend time in a different code to learn about how their peers manage in a sport that is entirely different from their own. While a discipline might be completely different from your own, there are often tasks or systems common to all work, such as time management. By spending some time studying a different field, you might see things done differently, consider them from a new angle and thus learn better ways of working in your own field. For example, if you’re a Project Manager in Chemical Engineering, why not learn from a Project Manager in Construction?
And now for something completely different
The wide range of high quality and flexible online courses available today means that no one has an excuse not to learn something new. Deciding to allocate some time to learning something entirely different from your career can fire the brain in a way that can shake off cobwebs and make us think in entirely new ways. Having new ideas means new ways of thinking! A new area of knowledge has its own value, but this new energy can also be directed into changing long-standing practices in your work.
Learning is an accumulative process, and so there’s always the fear of compounding an error if you don’t look for a breath of fresh air now and again. Unless you get out of the echo chamber of your own experience occasionally, you can risk repeating errors without being the wiser. It’s important to make inquiries about your performance and methods from those who you work with, particularly if they’re from another department and perhaps only engage with your work at the other end of an email, or via a third party. Those who engage with your work will often have useful points of view on how you work.
The dangers of pigeon-holing
Worst of all, if you’ve made yourself appear too fixed in a particular area, you risk being overlooked for possible promotions that would have seen you enjoy a broader role with more responsibility!
We hope this article was helpful. For more information from Alison, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively please visit the CPD Industry Hubs for more CPD articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.