A New Theory of Relativity

Einstein’s famous theory of relativity (E=MC2) celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.  This elegant formula helped us understand how the world works and has impacted scientists and philosophers alike.

The business world has it’s own formulas for success.  Hard work + dedication = results.  Power = money + influence.   Big > Small.  Fast > Slow.   Fancy degree + time = corner office.

The thing is, the world has changed.  The old rules of business no longer carry the day as we cope with fist-fighting competition, mind-numbing speed, and exponential complexity.  Add in macro trends such as global markets, digitization, cloud computing, millennial workforce shifts, mobile technology, and geo-political turmoil, and you’re wrestling a whole new beast.  One that can’t be conquered with some long-expired formula.

So what’s the new formula for progress in the fierce world of business?

PROGRESS = SPEED times LEARNING divided by COST (P = SL/C)

In other words, the success of your business or career will not be based on what you already know, it will be based on how fast and inexpensively you learn.  The amount of success you’ll enjoy is directly linked to the velocity with which you learn.

The world is changing at a rate like none other in history, and making smart decisions has become increasingly difficult.  To enjoy sustainable success, you’ll need to adapt; to evolve; to innovate in real-time.   Unless you plan to spin the wheel of chance, the most effective path to consistently driving results is to become a lifelong learner, or as a company, a learning organization.

Business today is much like solving a puzzle.  You may have a long-term vision (the image on the puzzle box), but you still need to figure out where to put the pieces.  The faster you learn, the faster those pieces fall into place.  While cash may have been the fuel of growth in the past, learning is the new energy supply.  Fortunately, it’s renewable, environmentally friendly, produces no waste, and is extremely low priced.

When calculating cost, the investment in learning (books, conferences, training, etc.) is a rounding error compared to the real costs of not learning fast enough: opportunities squandered, time wasted, employee turnover, competitive losses, customer attrition, and damaged morale.  To keep the true cost of learning low, learn as fast as possible.

If you’re not actively prioritizing learning, you may be unknowingly falling behind.  Near-term competitive advantages come and go, but the learning organization wins in the long run. Push yourself and your team to learn more and learn fast.  Set learning objectives.  Recap and share lessons learned.   Experiment, measure, refine.

If you want to drive meaningful progress, don’t forget your new formula of relativity: P = SL/C.

If Einstein were alive today, he’d likely understand the unquestionable importance of this new formula for business success.  The real question is, will you?