On ‘Appointment Learning’

Jun 7, 2023
Kate Walton

Hello from Steyer!

When I’m asked by job seekers what content skills and tools are most in demand, I sometimes say: a proven ability to learn new skills and tools.  

I say this not to be ornery; for any given content role, I’m happy to follow up with a short list du jour. I say this because job requirements—even for the same title at the same company—are constantly changing. This has always been the case, but with the mainstreaming of generative AI, what’s needed in a particular content role is morphing faster than ever before. An aptitude and an appetite for learning have always been sources of competitive advantage, but they’re quickly becoming the price of entry.

Because we view continual learning as so important, Steyer’s employee benefits plan includes free access to two major educational platforms: LinkedIn Learning and Masterclass. What we’ve found over the years, however, is that it’s easy to value learning in the abstract—practically everyone does. It’s much harder—for all of us!—to value learning by dedicating to it that scarcest of resources: time.

Enter ‘appointment learning,’ a quirky thing we’re trying, whereby small groups of Steyer employees gather online at a set time every week to move through an online course together. There’s no homework, and each session lasts only 30 minutes. For 20-25 minutes, those attending the class share a screen and listen to the lecture together, occasionally exchanging thoughts by writing in the chat box but just as likely: eating, stretching, doodling...whatever it takes to carve out space in our jam-packed days and busy brains to proactively learn something new. The last 5-10 minutes of each session are reserved for group discussion: what resonated, what didn’t, etc.

Classes currently underway at Steyer include two Masterclass offerings: Neil Gaiman’s “Art of Storytelling” and Chris Voss’ “Art of Negotiations.” Starting next week, Shonda Rhimes’ Masterclass on “Writing for Television” will enter the mix.

We’re also experimenting with a non-lecture format:
On Tuesday mornings, I host an open chat about AI (email me if you want to join), with this as the latest prompt: “Bring a tidbit—a fact, an article, a short video, an AI sample, or a viewpoint/feeling that you want to share. We’ll structure the session by going around the group and giving everyone a turn. Think of it as ‘Show & Tell’ but no pressure: it’s always okay to pass on presenting and just contribute as a supportive listener/learner.”

It’s too early to make any sweeping declarations about appointment learning, but so far I’ve observed two encouraging things:
1) More engagement with courses than we were seeing when people were left to learn alone;
2) A happy contagion—once someone’s cracked open one class, they’re likely to try another.

I’ve also noticed in myself the gradual return of beginner’s mind, which most experts argue is key to continued growth.

What about you? What are you learning? Why and how?

Thanks for reading,

P.S. Speaking of learning:

Photo by Kimberly Farmer on Unsplash