We often hear that all of the knowledge that exists in this world is now at our fingertips thanks to the Internet. But it can be a challenge to access and integrate that unwieldy mass of information into your life and business. Especially when you're a business owner constantly occupied by daily commitments.

Making time for learning and growing can be overwhelming when you have a business to run. But, remember that anything new you learn won't exist in a vacuum. You can mix it with what you already know and immediately apply it to your company. It's then just a matter of discovering areas of study that can make the biggest difference.

Here are four topics you might not normally consider that you can use to improve your ability to run your business:

1. Behavioral Economics

Behavioral economics is one of the highest-leverage subjects to learn about. This may be partially due to its immediate application to daily decision-making. An understanding of behavioral economics can underpin better choices that you make to support, lead and motivate employees. Here are some examples:

  • Mere exposure effect - Research from the American Psychological Association finds that people subconsciously develop preferences to things purely by getting more exposure to them. This clearly has marketing implications and you can also apply it to company-wide initiatives. For example, the more you present a radical idea, the more comfortable employees around you may become with it.
  • Halo effect - Studies show that when your baseline perception of someone is high -- you're more likely to judge them positively on other characteristics you know nothing about. Knowing this can help you evaluate potential hires more objectively and accurately.
  • Confirmation bias - Research shows that people seek out information that promotes their beliefs, and ignore things that don't. When you need to consider all ideas and options, this is dangerous. Remembering to seek out contradictory evidence that detaches from your usual opinions will help drive creativity and make your decision-making more true and effective.
  • There are many more. - If you want to dive deeper, you can also explore "anchoring," "broad framing," "the conjunction fallacy," "the endowment effect," and "the certainty effect."

2. Energy & the Environment

There's recently been a growing movement towards sustainable business practices. A 2017 Unilever report found that 33 percent of consumers are buying from brands they believe are doing social or environmental good.

Large corporations have been following suit. McDonalds committed to having 100 percent of its packaging sourced from renewable, recycled or certified sources by 2025. Google claims it runs entirely on renewable energy and Facebook has set 2020 as its target to do the same.

You can go down this path too. Determine whether the sourcing part of your supply chain can be run more sustainably. Try running more on renewable energy. Or, simply learn about other ways to play your part in this arena. Making a few changes can bolster your business' reputation as well as the livelihood of the planet.

3. Travel

Understanding how to save money on travel can not only help your bottom line, but even make trips possible you didn't believe could be in the first place.

Do research and evaluate services that let you compare cheap flight deals. Skiplagged, Skyscanner and Cleverlayover are some lesser known but innovative arrivals in that space. Airbnb for business has been growing quickly as an option for cheaper hotel housing.

New technologies are emerging to support and complement business travel as well. For example, a recent GBTA and Sabre report found that by 2020, 80 percent of travel managers expect to save money by using mobile platforms to book travel for employees and customers. All of this can help you run a more lean travel schedule and provide your employees with better trip experiences.

4. Education

A recent poll by Gallup found that 59 percent of millennials think it's extremely important to discover new options at work for learning and growing.

With millennials already the largest demographic represented in today's workforce -- providing opportunities for employee development is critical.

First, in order to provide up-to-date learning -- you should stay in touch with different tools and opportunities available for employees. These include corporate learning solutions as well as boot camps for different functions like computer science, data science, and cyber security.

Secondly, this means paying attention to what other businesses are doing to support employee development. Bonobos, for example, runs internal programs to teach management skills, to help lower-level employees communicate with senior leadership, as well as teach customer empathy.

These programs not only improve worker output, but make employees happier because they feel like they're learning and improving. Benefits like this will have you keeping your eyes open for unusual industries that can boost your startup.

Published on: Oct 4, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.