How to Learn Beyond the Scope of Your Specialty

According to Alison Gopnik, a professor of psychology and affiliate professor of philosophy at the University of California at Berkeley, children are more brilliant in their approach to the world than the smartest of scientists. In a recent TED talk, she stated:

I think babies and children are actually more conscious than we are as adults. Adult attention and consciousness look kind of like a spotlight. Our consciousness of that thing that we’re attending to becomes extremely bright and vivid, and everything else sort of goes dark. If we look at babies and young children, we see something very different. They seem to have more of a lantern of consciousness than a spotlight of consciousness. So babies and young children are very bad at narrowing down to just one thing, but they’re very good at taking in lots of information from lots of different sources at once.

Until a few decades ago, children were thought to be blank slates whose moral sense had yet to develop, but Gopnik offers a very different image of babies as empathetic, logical, and “the best learners in the universe.” Growing up appears to be, in part, a process of narrowing: prioritizing certain pathways and letting others atrophy.


Taking these facts into account, how can we as adults be broader in our approach? Better learners? Avoid the trap of smug certainty? While it’s wonderful to be an expert and specialize in something, it’s equally as important to keep our minds open and pay attention to information that may reside outside of our scope of focus so that we can be not only more accepting and understanding, but better learners.

Because being motivated to learn and grow starts with uncovering that which we are passionate about, I decided to put together a list of some of my favorite resources for learning as they apply to business, leadership, and marketing that can be found outside of the typical marketing “tips, tricks and tactics” realm. On any day of the week I can visit these resources and INSTANTLY find an article, podcast, or some other type of content that piques my interest, challenges me to think, and inspires me want to dig deeper and learn more. This nearly always opens the door to more learning and eventually, it becomes nearly impossible to stop.


While this list seems to be changing all the time, below follows a list of my current favorites, and why. I hope you will share yours too!


If you’re looking for practical knowledge and reasonable discussion surrounding big topics, I suggest the Aspen Institute, TED talks in general, and Sam Harris’ Waking Up Podcast. All three organizations offer wonderful, thought-provoking podcasts that can be picked up anytime, anywhere.

1) The Aspen Institute and The Aspen Ideas Podcast

Founded in 1950, the Aspen Institute is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to “fostering enlightened leadership, the appreciation of timeless ideas and values, and open-minded dialogue on contemporary issues.”

The Aspen Institute also hosts a wonderful podcast called “The Aspen Ideas podcast,” which you can find on iTunes. Just last week I randomly listened to a podcast entitled “An Angry America: How Did We Get To This Point?” In the first 10 minutes I wasn’t sure that I was going to want to keep listening, but with each passing panelist I become more engaged and pulled deeper into topics that I didn’t even realize I cared about until I could no longer back out. I was so impressed with the discussion I couldn’t stop listening.

2) TED, TEDx, and TED Radio Hour

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of TED (though I still periodically come  across people who don’t know what it is). TED is a global set of conferences that operates under the slogan of “Ideas Worth Spreading.” TED was founded in February 1984 and talks focus on many scientific, cultural, and academic topics. You can watch any one of over 2,300 TED talks here.

There are also TEDx events, designed to help communities, organizations and individuals to spark conversation and connection through local TED-like experiences. In Reno, the TEDxUniversityofNevada event is now entering it’s 5th year. (For more information, read “Top 5 TEDxUniversityofNevada 2016 Talks for Business Professionals“) Since 2009, nearly 15,000 events have been held in every corner of the globe and cumulatively there have now been over one billion views of TEDx Talks.

Finally, there is the “TED Radio Hour,” hosted by Guy Rocha, which is a GREAT podcast that synthesizes various TED talks that touch upon similar issues all wrapped up into a single hour, exposing multiple ways of looking at the same topic. Ultimately it’s hard to summarize TED; the best advice is to simply jump in and start experiencing!

3) Sam Harris’ Waking Up Podcast

Sam Harris is neuroscientist, philosopher, and best-selling author with a degree in philosophy from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA. In his Waking Up podcast he explores important and controversial questions about the human mind, society, and current events. His podcast was selected by Apple as one of iTunes Best of 2015.  He is thorough, intelligent, and certainly worth a listen.

I first came across Sam Harris several years ago during a debate I was watching and thought, who IS this guy? I was wowed by his gift of words, which led me directly into reading a couple of his books including his most recent “Islam and the Future of Tolerance.”

As with all quality podcasts I’ve come across, please realize you can’t just listen to the first 5 minutes and know where the discussion is going to end up in an hour. My advice: make the commitment to listen to a full episode that speaks to you, do not be quick to judge, and in the meantime enjoy the poetic nature of his words. You might just become hooked. Below is a little video preview from his website, in thinking about thinking, which I just love:


While there is certainly no shortage of resources on the topics of leadership and management,  I do have a few favorites: Harvard Business Review, McKinsey, and the Barrett Values Centre.

4) Harvard Business Review

Harvard Business Review is the leading destination for smart management thinking. I personally enjoy keeping up with their articles shared via Twitter. HBR also offers a weekly podcast called the “HBR Ideacast” that highlights leading thinkers in business and management. If you don’t pay attention to what HBR is publishing then, plain and simple, you are just missing out.

5) McKinsey & Company

McKinsey & Company is a global management consulting firm and trusted advisor to the world’s leading businesses, governments, and institutions. McKinsey works with leading organizations across the private, public and social sectors offering a scale, scope, and knowledge allowing them to address problems that no one else can. Some of my favorite articles about business and marketing have been published by McKinsey, including a few  I still have bookmarked like “The dawn of marketing’s new golden age” and “Perspectives on the long-term.”

McKinsey also has a great podcast featuring conversations with experts on the issues that matter most in business and management.

6) Barrett Values Centre

The Barrett Values Centre (BVC) provides powerful metrics that enable leaders to measure and manage the cultures of their organizations, and the leadership development needs of their managers and leaders … focusing on whole system change. Richard Barrett, founder and chairman of the Barrett Values Centre, is also an author, speaker and internationally recognized thought leader on the evolution of human values in business and society. The organization offers a variety of resources here. I have enjoyed using their website  over the years as a resource to learn more about how differences in personal, workplace, and cultural values impact relationships and goals.


For lack of a better descriptive term, The Institute of Noetic Science (IONS) and Sounds True are two of my favorite sources for non-traditional knowledge.

7) The Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) is an American non-profit parapsychological research institute. It was co-founded in 1973 by former astronaut Edgar Mitchell in order to encourage and conduct research on noetic theory and human potentials. I first came across IONS several years ago while reading various papers they published having to do with worldview exploration, neuroscience, integrative healthcare, mind-body science, the impact of our collective consciousness, and more. There is so much great content published by IONS, which is fostered by a team of top-notch scientists, thinkers, and researchers, who are always pushing the envelope and inviting us to think bigger.

8) Sounds True Insights at the Edge is a podcast hosted by Tami Simon who leads in-depth interviews with leading spiritual teachers and luminaries. Having listened to this podcast over the years, I would say that not all speakers are what I would define as spiritual, but simply rather leading thinkers in their various fields. An iTunes reviewer summed it up best when she stated: “These are some of the best podcasts of this type that I have found. The interviews are intelligent, insightful and inspiring. Tami is a great interviewer. She knows just what to ask and when to ask for clarification or to expand on an explanation of a topic.”

While these resources reflect only a small sampling of the content I pay attention to on a regular basis for learning, they are certainly some of my favorites and do not disappoint. Would love to hear some of your favorites too!






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