On a recent flight, I listened to an audio recording in which a business coach talked about just in time versus just in case learning. His premise was, when an entrepreneur or manager is starting and/or growing a business, there is much to learn - but the time available to do so is scarce. So this coach's suggestion was to learn what you need to know - as and when you need to know it - something he referred to as just in time learning, as opposed to spending scarce time learning about something which may be useful to know at some point in the future - just in case learning.
In a business context, an example would be where a manager is presented with an opportunity to learn about say, intellectual property contracts. So she thinks to herself: "This will be valuable knowledge - if we decide to license our product at some point in the future". Because the entrepreneur/manager has no immediate need for this knowledge, it is just in case learning.
On the other hand, if the same manager is about to hire several, key employees, it would be far more efficient - and immediately beneficial, if she were to learn how to avoid the 7 most common hiring mistakes most managers make. Because she needs this knowledge right now, it is just in time learning.
Assuming this manager doesn't have the time to pursue both of these learning opportunities, her choice should be obvious; she should pursue the one most relevant to her immediate priorities. And this is the premise of just in time learning.
This concept makes a lot of sense in a business management context. But it got me thinking about how just in time versus just in case learning applies to a technical specialization such as hydraulics. And I came to the conclusion that a just in time approach to learning (or learning more) about hydraulics is great in theory but doesn't work very well in practice.
Because for just in time learning to work for you, you need to be able to define exactly what you need to know - and when you need to know it. And the trouble with hydraulics is, you never really know what it's going to throw at you next!
There are exceptions of course. For example, if you're a designer and you know your next project will require the design of a closed-loop electro-hydraulic system, then you likely have the opportunity to get this knowledge - just in time.
Or similarly, if you're a maintenance guy and your plant has just taken delivery of a new piece of equipment with a complex servo-hydraulic system, you have the opportunity to bone up on this type of system - hopefully before it throws a problem at you - again, just in time.
But most of the time, your need for hydraulics know-how is not so orderly. Which is why if you're actively involved with hydraulic equipment, you should be continuously open to just in case learning. Because the alternative is just too late learning. And if you haven't read it yet, a good place to start is my free report: "6 Costly Mistakes Most Hydraulics Users Make... And How You Can Avoid Them", available for instant download here.