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What Lifelong Learners Look Like--In the World and the Relativity Community

Taylor Overstreet

I consider myself a lifelong learner. I encounter so many opportunities to soak up new knowledge every day, it’s hard to fathom ending any day not having taken advantage of those moments and picked up some small tidbit.

A recent rabbit hole centered on Edwin Land, American physicist and, most notably, the inventor of the Polaroid camera. I learned that, on a family trip in the 1940s, he took a photograph of his daughter Jennifer, and she didn’t understand why she couldn’t see the photo immediately. Three years later, Polaroid was born.

How did I land on that historical anecdote? I looked at a framed Polaroid of our son that sits on my desk and wondered how this capturer of memory turned conduit for instant gratification came to be.

Learning in a professional setting has often looked different than your run-of-the-mill lifelong learning. We go out of our way to learn something at work mostly in service of a particular goal: getting a promotion, justifying a pay increase, breaking into a new field, proving our chops to leaders and colleagues. But what if we treated learning at work the same way we do learning in our everyday lives?

John Hagel III, founder of Deloitte’s Center for the Edge, describes those who learn and grow simply for the sake of learning and growing as showing “the passion of the explorer.” These folks share three key elements, outlined in a great piece I came across in the Harvard Business Review last fall, titled “What Motivates Lifelong Learners.”

Three Qualities of Lifelong Learners

“Explorers have a long-term commitment to achieving impact in a specific domain that excites themanything from factory work or financial services to gardening or big wave surfing.”

The “specific domain” that excites me is the kitchen. The first year I was married, I started making from-scratch biscuits at least once a week and inspired my husband to start making butter. We experimented with various recipes, textures, and flavors until, 50+ attempts later, we finally landed on the perfect combination. Sometimes the impact of our experiment spread to neighbors and friends around us, sometimes it remained in our tiny kitchen—but the joy was in our commitment to the journey.

“They are excited in the face of unexpected challenges. Explorers view these hurdles as an opportunity to learn and achieve even greater impact. In fact, if they’re not confronted with enough challenges, they get bored and seek environments that will give them more.”

There’s a term for hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and Appalachian Trail all within a calendar year: the Calendar Year Triple Crown. It’s roughly 7,500 miles of hiking, including high altitudes, extreme weather conditions, and the unpredictability of living in nature for nearly a year. Fewer than a dozen people have completed the challenge. Sammy Potter and Jackson Parell, the most recent to complete it, are also the youngest to do so at 21. I don’t know what’s next for this young pair, but my guess is they’re building on what they learned and are already planning their next adventure.

“When confronted with new challenges, explorers have an immediate desire to seek out and connect with others who can help them get to better answers faster so that they can increase their impact.”

Great minds think alike ... sometimes. Sometimes they don’t! There’s value in seeking a variety of perspectives and ideas, especially when faced with challenges. Think of your favorite collaboration that is greater than the sum of its parts (the partnership of Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield comes to mind); how much farther are we able to go if we seek the help and feedback of others to get us there?

Serving Relativity Learners

Curiosity and openness to new information are embedded into the culture at Relativity. Two years ago, we piloted a program that had been brewing for some time—one where we’d share our own training philosophy with customers, putting the tools in their hands to train on their own. Our goal was to avoid being gatekeepers to information that could help folks all over the Relativity user community accomplish more, faster, in the platform—and empower our certified pros to share their knowledge with the world.

To date, we’ve trained over 50 e-discovery professionals to become Relativity Certified Trainers. One of the hallmarks of this group of people has been their shared commitment to a lifelong journey of learning.

Have you thought about trying something new this year, learning a new skill? Are you the go-to person for all things Relativity, or would you like to become that person? Are you a sponge for new knowledge, one who enjoys sharing that knowledge with others? You might find yourself at home in this program.

Our current roster of Relativity Certified Trainers, or RCTs, includes marathon runners, semiprofessional bakers, former rock band roadies, certified first aid responders, restaurant owners, and sports coaches. They come from over ten countries across all geographies that we serve. Our backgrounds and experiences are a big part of what makes us human, what makes us relatable, and for many folks who find themselves in the learner’s seat, being able to relate to those imparting knowledge can be a key part of the learning experience.

The Relativity Certified Trainer Program and How to Get Involved

The Relativity Certified Trainer program is about more than learning how we at Relativity facilitate training content. That’s a big part of it, sure—and that peek behind the curtain, at not only how we approach training and facilitation but also how we develop our training content, is invaluable. But where the program really comes to life for me is in seeing people grow and develop over the course of our time together. It’s in getting comfortable (or at least, trying to get comfortable) with sharing honest, constructive feedback with peers to help each other grow and develop as trainers.

The five-day program starts with an introduction to how we at Relativity approach building our training content. We dive into our training philosophy, how we incorporate the Relativity brand and our core values into our content, and the emphasis we place on RCTs being an extension of our team. With that foundation, we move into the core tenets of adult learning to better understand our audiences and all the factors that come into play when they take their seats as learners—from how adults learn differently than younger folks to limitations to learning (time is a big one!).

At the root of our philosophy are retention and engagement. We want to ensure learners walk away with a marked increase in knowledge, feeling empowered to share this knowledge with others.

Throughout the program, attendees are given opportunities to present content to each other, culminating in a final evaluation where each person presents a condensed section of one of our training modules to the full group. It’s an iterative process that builds over the course of the week, and by that final day, attendees have built a strong foundation for the skills they need to train like a pro.

If that sounds rewarding and you’re already a Relativity Certified Administrator, you’re invited to apply for our next cohort! Applications are open through January 31 via the Relativity Community site.

2021 Data Discovery Legal Year in Review

Taylor is a senior technical trainer at Relativity, and manager of the Relativity Certified Trainer program.