Neoteny – The Essential Trait for the Perpetually-Learning Generation – (Thanks to Bill George, True North)

Warren Bennis described his philosophy of the third phase of leadership with the littleknown True North, Emerging Leadersterm neoteny, “the retention of all those wonderful qualities we associate with youth: curiosity, playfulness, eagerness, fearlessness, warmth, energy.” …Older people with neoteny continue to grow while retaining the youthful qualities of joy, exploration, and discovery.

Bill George, True North: Leading Authentically in Today’s Workplace, Emerging Leader Edition


Are you learning as fast as the world is changing?

A favorite quote shared by long-time First Friday Book Synopsis participant, Jim Young.


Here is a question:

When is it ok to quit learning?

When is it ok to no longer learn?

When can you retire from learning?

You already know the answer, don’t you?!  The correct answer is…never!

But, think about it.  Look around you.  Think about the people you work with.  Have they quit learning?

Ask them, what is the latest book you read?  Be silent, waiting for a response.  How many people do you know who have a ready answer to that question?  Too long a pause is a clue:  “Well, to be honest…I’ve pretty much quit learning…”

Watch the people who attend a seminar, a conference.  Actually watch them.  How attentive are they?  How seriously do they focus on the messages; how meticulous are they about taking notes?

Are they truly learning anything – or just going through the motions, just pretending to be learning?

Now, ask yourself…are you still learning?  Are you still taking your learning seriously?  What is the latest book you read?  What did you learn from it?

I’ve run across this concept of neoteny before.  I suspect it was when I read Warren Bennis in earlier years.  So, I am appreciative of this reminder from Bill George. It is a great concept.

I found this paragraph from The Meaning of Neoteny:

Adulthood in the past meant that you finished learning most of what you needed to learn and you switched to production mode and started focusing on repeating tasks and narrowing your focus. I think that with the amount of change in the world today, it is impossible to “grow up” and finish your learning. I think Neoteny will become more and more of a survival trait in the future.

Look at the qualities of neoteny that Bill George emphasized:

curiosity, playfulness, eagerness, fearlessness, warmth, energy. 

They all communicate this:  I have more to learn, I’m still at it all the time; my energy is high; my exploration and discovery is ongoing; I am an eager learner; I am…curious. I am a curious life-long learner.

So, a few hints:

Are you reading books “outside” your normal interest?

Can you name some new thought, some new idea, that you have recently been exposed to?

Are you working at staying current?  Are you working at staying ahead of the curve?

Since the world is changing, it is up to us to keep learning.

I think I am safe in saying this:  you are either a lifelong learner, or you have quit learning?

Which are you?

A quick and easy clue:  do you have current reading stack, and a soon-to-read reading stack?  If not, it might be time to up your game…

So, so many good books to learn from...

So, so many good books to learn from…

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