Learn faster to survive the digital age, says Martijn Aslander

“You have to read other books. If you are just in business for business you will be out of business,” said Martijn Aslander, stand-up philosopher and co-author of the bestseller, 'Permanent Beta', on 12 October 2017 at Finance Indaba Africa. “I want to focus on this because most people don’t focus on how to learn faster,” the highly regarded Martijn told a room packed with finance professionals. “You have to learn as fast as you can without being in a hurry; it’s really about learning how to learn.”

An avid reader himself, Martijn cites Tim Sanders' book, 'Love Is The Killer App: How to Win Business and Influence Friends', as one of the most influential books he's ever read because it taught him to learn as much as he can as quickly as he can, and encouraged him to share knowledge.

Oftentimes, knowledge doesn't usually go around fast enough in organisations, he said. For instance, even though in every company it is the IT department's responsibility to ensure that the staff is backed up and uses the right technology, they are sometimes not up to date with the latest technology and miss a lot of the technological developments that happen in between.

According to Martijn, the best way to learn is to make mistakes. He urged conference attendees not to be afraid of making mistakes. "When people shout at you for making a mistake, you internalise those mistakes," he said.

Reading books is one of the ways to increase your chances of learning, Martijn said, adding that people who read a lot learn faster. Finance professionals have to read the right books and figure out how valuable they can be and how they can help others, otherwise they will be left behind. Changing the way you learn is a sure way to ensure you remain competitive, he said. Nowadays, people don't need a big building or a company to make a difference. "We forget how powerful the individual can be," said Martijn.

The philosopher added that although our economy is based on scarcity, this is changing. Altruism and abundance are the two most threatening things for economists, he said. An example of altruism would be how Wikipedia has decentralised the dissemination of information and put it in the hands of five billion people. This means that people no longer have to go to the library to do research, or get information from other, more traditional sources. Abundance refers to the fact that, today, people have smartphones and access to technology, which means they don't need companies anymore, either. Digitising means you don't need certain services, Martijn said, which means companies must adapt - and fast.