Foreword – The Upskilling Imperative: 5 Ways to Make Learning Core to the Way We Work


In our world, competition is fierce, and the nature of the work we perform changes fast. To thrive, we need to get back to the most fundamental of all human skills: the ability to learn. Small problem: Many of us have been habituated—through our organizations, those around us, and society—to believe that learning officially ends with formal education. We’re unaccustomed to the scariness (and the thrill) that comes from starting at the beginning again and again.

That’s where The Upskilling Imperative comes in. I love Shelley Osborne’s message that learning must be continuous and prioritized. I’m in absolute agreement that investing in upskilling is the path to better performance, better organizations, and more meaning in our work.

I study an incredibly diverse set of organizations around the world, from high-end boutiques and restaurants to bustling chains serving millions. Most recently, I’ve focused my attention on “rebel talent”—rule breakers who change the nature of their work, their organizations, and their industry, sometimes with spectacular results and sometimes less so. One key attribute shared by successful rule breakers is the willingness to courageously and continuously learn. You can’t just rebel; you need to draw on skills to devise solutions and keep pushing until you succeed. Through continuous vilearning, we channel our inner rebel to push past our discomfort and grow our organizations and ourselves.

I first met Shelley at an event where we were both speaking, and I was immediately struck by how Shelley drew in the audience. In her book, she does the same. As someone who studies and prizes authenticity, I love Shelley’s voice. She’s encouraging, pragmatic, and clear. And she’s the right messenger to get us all on board with spending time every day pushing ourselves to grow.

Make no mistake: it’s not easy to make learning part of our every day. Shelley’s book, however, will help each of us do just that. It’s full of the very best kind of advice: straightforward and supremely doable ideas that you can put into practice right away—and that will make an actual difference.

—Francesca Gino, Harvard Business School professor and author of Rebel Talent and Sidetracked