Photo of Rahul Garg
Photo of Rahul Garg

The 1-3-6 learning framework

Rahul Garg, who has 16 technology patents to his name, says he has attempted to codify his learning mechanism

Rahul Garg prides himself on being a quick learner. It began with learning to eat meat to survive, he laughs. In 1999, Garg a third-year student at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur got a summer internship at Advanced Telecommunication Research International in Kyoto, Japan. Considered the country’s Bell Labs, it’s buzzing, intellectual energy got Garg hooked on to wireless technologies and paved his post-engineering career roadmap.

But, the abundant variety of minds and talent didn’t quite extend to the dining table in the beautiful Japanese town. There wasn’t an Indian restaurant in sight for 200km. A vegetarian, Garg had to adapt by letting go of his dietary restrictions.

This ability to systematically teach himself new skills, he says, has been a consistent pattern of his professional trek. Today, Garg is the founder and CEO of Moglix, a B2B e-commerce start-up that wants to digitally transform the supply chain of India’s manufacturing sector.

The learn, unlearn, relearn cycle has been honed through the six different technologies he worked in his eight years at Ittiam Technologies, or the five different ones he worked on at Google Asia, where he led the advertising exchange business.

The biggest perk of a founder’s job is the steep learning curve. It is also the job’s biggest ask. Whatever your experience or qualification before being an entrepreneur, or however many years of corporate success you might have, the founder’s chair demands learning: and at a pace faster than even what the brightest professionals might be used to. Or can cope up with.

In contemporary management literature, this skill is called learning agility. Leadership handbooks affirm it is the key metric for success today. That more than anything else, it predicts high potential, breakthrough performance, diverse careers and innovative organizations. The business benefits are clear. The more you learn, the more you open yourself to opportunity.

The trouble is that an attribute such as this isn’t easy to define and measure—even when everyone agrees how important it is. How do you measure growth and progress in learning agility? How does learning convert to practical applications? How do you teach learning and imbibe it?

Garg, who has 16 technology patents to his name, says he has attempted to codify his learning mechanism: he uses what he now calls the 1-3-6 learning framework. The ratio essentially signifies the approach to learning a new technical skill or technology.

Within this framework, the first month is to get introduced to the technology. Read up on it like a student, he says. By the end of the third month, the aim is to know as much as people who have spent 5-10 years on the technology. By the end of six months, Garg says, “We should be able to hold forth on it, and teach others."

He says the framework has been at work at Moglix many times, including in its recent GST (goods and services tax) focus. “When we entered the GST business, I was an engineer trying to figure out a function I didn’t know much about. But, in the last six months, we have been able to educate many finance departments on the implications of GST on their business."

Garg admits the 1-3-6 hack might not lend itself as well to non-technical skills but it has at least helped him understand how and when he learns best.

As you thrive in (and survive) your start-up, stop to think not just about what you are learning, but how you are learning. If you have interesting approaches, like Garg, share them with us.

Surviving Start-ups focuses on the stories of the people who make up an entrepreneur’s world. The columnist is the spouse of a start-up entrepreneur and draws from real-life experience.

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