Output driven input strategies: 4 growth shortcuts

output driven input

This week’s post is about output driven input growth strategies. A short set of thoughts on how your external facing work (output) can be a great way to reinforce your learnings, get skills and be successful (input).

What is output driven input?

Have you ever been in a situation where you had to run a presentation about a given topic and finish it up knowing way more about topic, then if you never did a presentation in the first place?

Some times to best way to learn something, get an input, is to put yourself in a position that forces you to obtain an output based on that input. By focusing on achieving an output you are forced to work backwards to understand what exactly you need to do and know to get there. It is the desired output that is driving the required input.

Output driven input at school

During our school lives and even at university, we have all had to endure tasks that required us to deliver public pieces of work, outside the other formal evaluation deliverables like test or exams. These tasks could either be hands-on projects, public presentations, written assignments or others. These tasks are designed to dive deeper into a given topic and force students to expose their learnings.

On our professional lives our learning paths become less strict and are often optional. It is frequent for professionals to not feel the need or inclination to learn new skills, or to be entrepreneurial enough to go the extra mile on a given area. As there are no formal assignments with specific deadlines, there is often no formal commitment that force us you to put the toes in unknown waters. Unlike school, there is not always pressure in knowing we will always be publicly evaluated on our deliverables. Even though professionals are frequently subjected to annual reviews, the granularity of year’s review is low, so typically there is no fear of the repercussions that a good or bad evaluation may have on our future.

Despite the anxiety, the pressure of having to deliver assignments may cause, delivering assignments is also a great vehicle for learning. Same goes with us professionals. There is however, one major difference, while during school all task and assignments were focused on making students grow on a given subject, work assignments can be mundane and growth neutral. It is up to us to establish commitments that will enable us to grow.

By doing the parallel with our school assignments, having a public commitment, with defined deadlines, that is subject to evaluation pushes students to learn more about a topic and enable them to grow. How can we do the same on our professional lives?

Growing in the office, outside the office: 4 shortcuts

Depending on your role, the public deliverables you get to work on may differ. As this is the first post on the topic, we will focus on non-work output. In future posts, we will look into output driven input strategies for specific roles, namely Product Managers. Let’s look into some examples of outside work endeavours that enable growth.

Find an audience

It is great to have a group of people to share ideas and contributions. It is even better to receive feedback about them and use it in a constructive way. Starting a blog, writing a book, or creating a youtube channel are all valid options to expose yourself to the world.

Each piece of content will make you research, polish your findings and ultimately make you learn. Make sure to produce content about areas which you want to grow at. Try to keep it as niche as possible, this will allow to focus and also to get an engaged audience of like minded peers. By engaging with your audience you will have an opportunity to network and debate ideas with people interested in the same topics.

Remember to keep a cadence on content delivery and be public about it. Your readers expectations will be a motivator that you will prompt you to get to the next piece.

Contribute to your industry

You do not necessarily need to take off your work hat to find work related output opportunities outside the office. Involving yourself in industry thought leadership is a great way to do so.

There are often opportunities to discuss the challenges of different industries. Either in public forums, webinars, or even by publishing articles and white papers.

If you find it hard to get into an industry leadership inner circles, you can also get involved into a professional community. There are numerous slack channels and sub-reddits of professionals sharing experiences.

Each contribution you make, will force you to think about the industry and the challenges you face professionally. By discussing common problems you may find ways to improve the industry, or even to establish partnerships with other companies and professionals that complement your company’s offerings.

Be public about your learnings

At Idea Shortcut we believe in the power of sharing the journey and in building-in-public. This includes building-up skills as well. It is helpful for other people sharing the same journey to hear thoughts about others learning processes. Especially in today’s world with so many learning options, it is hard to distinguish the wheat from the shaft.

Sharing what you learned is also a great way for learnings to stick. As you exercise a critical vision over what you learned, you isolate the key points you feel are important to retain and also get clarity on what to learn next, or what to do with those learnings. A fun way to do this is to post you cheat sheets online. Other people may use them and comment on gaps.

Mentor someone

A good way to be confident about your knowledge is to share it with someone. Being a mentor to someone could provide invaluable insights. Imagine if you could speak to a younger you, how helpful could it be?

The act of mentoring someone forces you to identify key points on key areas. You may even have to dive back into past experiences and learnings and recap. This journey gives you a moment to think about your own path and get clarity on what matters. You can often help yourself while helping others.

In addition, live goes around, mentees today can become employees, business partners, or even customers.

For all of the above, the commitment should be public, measurable and have well defined deadlines.