Education Competencies: Technical learning

This competency is one in a set of complete functional and behavioral qualities that, when fully realized, can help lead to professional success. View all competencies.

Quickly learns and integrates new technical skills and knowledge; seeks out avenues to enhance technical knowledge.
Proficiency level
Level 1: BasicLevel 2: IntermediateLevel 3: AdvancedLevel 4: Expert
Learns new technical skills when requiredQuickly learns and integrates new technical skills and knowledgeIs highly adept at learning, integrating, and applying new technical skills and knowledgeHas an affinity for quickly learning, integrating, and applying cutting-edge technical skills and knowledge
Participates successfully in technical courses and seminarsParticipates successfully in technical courses and seminars; seeks out avenues to enhance technical knowledgeActively seeks out avenues to learn about advances in relevant technical disciplines, including technical courses, seminars, conferences, professional journals, collegial learningContinuously seeks out avenues and is committed to learn about advances in relevant technical disciplines, including technical courses, seminars, conferences, professional journals, collegial learning
Incorporates new learning into his or her jobEfficiently incorporates new technical knowledge into his or her jobEffectively incorporates new technical knowledge consistently into his or her job; seeks out opportunities to apply new knowledgeSkillfully applies new technical knowledge toward innovation and performance improvement; continuously seeks out opportunities to apply technical innovation to organizational problems
Overdoing technical learning
  • May learn but not act
  • May overdo learning at the expense of using it
  • May be seen as too academic
  • May not relate well to those who can’t catch on as quickly
Essential questions
To improve your proficiency, ask yourself the following questions on a regular basis:
  • What courses, seminars, or conferences regarding cutting-edge technical advances can I attend now?
  • Have I fully incorporated and applied past technical learning and skills to what I do today?
  • What professional books or journals can I subscribe to and read to keep abreast of new technological advances?
  • Should I consider employing a consultant or tutor to help with immediate deficiencies?
  • What emerging technology can I volunteer to "test drive"?
  • What technological gadgets can I incorporate into my job?
To avoid overdoing technical learning, ask yourself:
  • Am I learning all about technology, but not putting it to practical use?
  • Am I seen as an unapproachable "geek"?
  • Am I intolerant of others who cannot grasp technical learning as easily as I can?
Interview questions
  • Describe a situation that required you to learn new technical knowledge and skills. What was it that you needed to learn and how new was it to you? How did you go about learning it and how much time did you commit to it? How did you apply what you learned and what were the results?
  • Describe the various approaches you have used over the past year to learn about advances in your discipline. Please describe specific knowledge or skills you needed to build and how you went about doing it. Who initiated the learning?
  • Please provide some specific examples of how you incorporated new technical knowledge into your job. What were the results?
Learning on the job
Learning on your own: These self-development remedies will help you build your skill(s).
  • Find the master professional: Enlist the assistance of a professional in a specific function or technology to teach or tutor you. Ask questions regarding the process, the critical elements to employ, and helpful reference tools.
  • Enroll in appropriate professional associations: Sign up as a member and read their literature on emerging technologies. Seek out and participate in workshops and conferences that deal with what you need to know.
  • Find the authoritative work on your function or technology: Obtain the standard reference book which is considered to be the most authoritative on the specific function or technology. Subscribe to a journal and read the back issues.
  • Identify the leaders in your function or technology: Buy books, read articles, and attend lectures or conferences that feature them.
  • Enroll in college or university evening or weekend courses that teach your function or technology: Take advantage of training courses offered in the workplace.
  • Hire a consultant to tutor you.
  • Be an early tester of new and emerging technology: Volunteer to be the first to try new things.
  • Buy a home computer: Attend technical trade shows. Acquire and use technical equipment.
  • Practice by picking technology somewhat related to your work: Practice it and become an expert. Demonstrate or teach it to others.
  • Learn to think as an expert in the technology does: Pick the brain of an expert in the field, asking what is or is not important. Observe them at their skill. Develop five key questions to consider when technical issues arise.
Learning from develop-in-place assignments: These part-time develop-in-place assignments will help you build your skill(s).
  • Manage a temporary group of expert people in a project.
  • Build a multifunctional project team to tackle a common problem or issue.
  • Work on a process-simplification project to reduce steps and costs of a process or procedure.
  • Create a contingency plan for an anticipated event or crisis, and present it to others for approval.
  • Help someone outside of your department solve a problem.
Learning more from your plan: These additional remedies will help make this development plan more effective for you.
  • Learning to learn better:
    • Study what and how to learn. Use learning techniques and strategies that you have successfully used in previous learning experiences.
    • Teach others something you don't know well. Pick something new, different, unfamiliar.
    • Become a student again of how people learn. Review techniques on instructional design.
  • Learning from experience, feedback, and other people:
    • Solicit and accept feedback from multiple sources, using a variety of methods.
    • Get feedback from those in authority. Communicate that you are open to constructive criticism and are willing to work on issues they view as important.
    • Get feedback from your direct reports. Set a positive tone, and don’t retaliate if you don't agree.
    • Get feedback form peers and colleagues. Promote trust to get honest, quality feedback.
    • Be open and non-defensive when others offer feedback. Ask for examples and details, and take notes.
  • Learning from courses:
    • Take outside technology courses or courses offered at the workplace.
    • Take a survey course. Get a general overview of your topic of interest.
Recommended readings
  • Bennis, Warren G., and Robert J. Thomas, Geeks and Geezers. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2002.
  • Friedman, Thomas L. The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization. Landover Hills, MD: Anchor Publishing, 2000.
  • Glen, Paul. Leading Geeks: How to Manage the People Who Deliver Technology. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Inc., 2003.
  • Hruby, F. Michael. Technoleverage. New York: AMACOM, 1999.
  • Maps, James J. Quantum Leap Thinking. Los Angeles: Dove Books, 1996.
  • Muirhead, Brian K., and William L. Simon. High Velocity Leadership—The Mars Pathfinder Approach to Faster, Better, Cheaper. New York: Harper Business, 1999.
  • Stewart, Thomas A. Intellectual Capital—The New Wealth of Organizations. New York: Doubleday, 1997.
  • Tobin, Daniel R. Transformational Learning—Renewing Your Company Through Knowledge and Skills. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996.
Next steps
Copyright © 1992, 1996, 2001-2003 by Robert W. Eichinger and Michael M. Lombardo. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This work is derived from the LEADERSHIP ARCHITECT® Competency Library developed and copyrighted by Robert W. Eichinger and Michael M. Lombardo for Lominger Limited, Inc.
This competency is one in a set of complete functional and behavioral qualities that, when fully realized, can help lead to professional success.