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The Power Of Continuing Education

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Want to help ensure your retail operation runs in the black? Place an emphasis on continuing education! Read on, as Robyn Waters, president of RW Trend LLC, discusses the knowledge (and earnings) that can be gained by reading—and by sharing what you've learned with your staff. Waters is former vice president of trend, design, and product development at Target.

Trend trackers and creative types tend to be very curious people. We exhibit a voracious appetite for knowledge. [The late] Louis Ross, [former] chief technology officer for Ford Motor Co., said, "In your career, knowledge is like milk. It has a shelf life stamped right on the carton." The implication is that if you're not adding to what you know on a regular basis, your career is going to turn sour, fast. In the knowledge economy, if you're not learning on a continual basis, chances are you won't be earning much either.

Books are one of the best ways we can constantly replenish our knowledge. Unfortunately, in our fast-paced world many feel that there isn't time to read all the books we'd like to. Because reading has always been important to me, I try to find ways to squeeze more of it into my day. When I find a good book, I want to make the most of it.

I eventually developed a shorthand version of notetaking. As I read, I make notes of key words or phrases on the empty back pages and inside covers of the book. I use exclamation points, underline, highlight, circle, and even draw doodles to remind myself of the things that I find interesting or important.

As I would finish a particularly good book, I'd bring it to my staff meetings to share my learnings with my team. I'd recap the key points and share the stories that I found most interesting, and then offer to lend the book to anyone who might be interested. The books accumulated on the shelf, and so did the dust.

I discovered, though, that it wasn't necessarily for lack of interest. Often I'd be in a design meeting and hear a designer make mention of one of the facts I'd shared in the book reviews in a staff meeting. That gave me the idea to prepare short, one-page "book reports" on my favorite reads. Each was essentially a review of the key points, with some of the relevant anecdotes sprinkled in. Twice a month I'd bring in a new book, share my findings, and then hand out my book report (with key page numbers attached in case anyone wanted to delve deeper into an interesting subject.)

It was a great way for me to recap what was important, put it into a format that I could easily refer back to, and share the information with my team.

Read, learn, do, explore, experience, but most of all read. And I mean books. Books give knowledge, not just information or awareness. Ask your gurus to recommend their favorite books, and share yours with them. Spread the wisdom.

Reprinted with permission from "The Trendmaster's Guide: Get a Jump on What Your Customer Wants Next." To sign up for Waters' free newsletter or purchase her books, visit

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Categories we're tracking
In This Month's

  • Summer/Seasonal
  • Message Gifts
  • Stationery Accessories
  • Non-Jar Candles
  • T-shirts
  • Fashion Accessories
  • Reorders
  • Personal Care

While coloring books and related products were all the rage in Stationery Accessories last year, this year it's back to basics: note cards, journals and planners.

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