The impact of embracing adaptive learning and the encouragement of crowd-sourced learning solutions would help to radically change the culture surrounding learning and promote the shift from a top-down model to one of collaboration and exchange. There needs to be an alignment of learning potential and practice in order to allow the extensive benefits of learning technology to be realised. This requires the active participation of all parties within the learning space: educators, learners, content creators, publishers and tech developers. We would even go so far as to predict that there will be less and less distinction between those functions across the learning space as connectivity continues to improve.

  • Dave McCormick

    Kick off event at the Shard was held on Feb 10th on Future of Learning

    Discussions during the day explored many aspects of learning including considering what we mean by learning and the following themes

    The impact of technology development on human and emotional, cultural and geographical aspects of learning and the degree to which technology can augment or replace face to face interactions

    The importance of learning to enable rather than limit creativity

    Who shapes the learning agenda and how will learning be paid for and monetised

    The importance of motivating individuals to learn

    Enhanced learning through pharmacological and technological means, as well as through ‘smart’ content that ‘knows’ more of the user’s usage and application

    The following provides some more detail on what was discussed relating to defining what we mean by learning and the topic of cultural and generational boundaries:

    Learning may play out differently in respect to different learning objectives such as learning for the workplace, learning to be creative, creating new knowledge or learning for behavioural change. With so
    much knowledge and access available now and going forward, the ‘learning lens’ applied becomes increasingly important.

    Democratised access to technology that enables online interactions (and thus online learning), driven by “digital natives” achieving positions of influence, will erode generational boundaries. Cultural differences with regard to learning styles and preferences will still exist. Overall, the acceptance of operating
    in a digital world could result in substantive shifts that break down geographical, generational (and some) cultural boundaries but could potentially build new e-boundaries – perhaps best expressed as boundaries of access.

  • Caroline Jones

    This is a very long comment but definitely worth a read. Dr. Jules
    Goddard is a teacher, writer and consultant in the areas of business
    creativity, strategic thinking, leadership and corporate transformation. In addition to being a Guest
    Lecturer at INSEA Jules is currently Research Associate
    of the Management Lab (MLab) at London Business School. Over the last 10 years,
    he has worked with a third of the FTSE 100 companies. He has recently written this short paper on
    Design for Learning

    Design for Learning

    Some Principles of Programme Design in Executive Education

    Jules Goddard, Fellow, London Business

    Over the last 10 years or so, a small group of us at London Business School have been pioneering a new method of developing managerial and strategic capability amongst senior executives and
    high-potential managers. We call this technique, the “Discovery” method. It builds on earlier experiential approaches to learning that went under the names of “Creative Encounters”, “Learning Journeys”, and more generally, “Action Science”. Our clients have included Prudential, BG, Deutsche Bank, Vinci and Danone.

    With these clients as partners, we have been trying to break with tradition by experimenting with new methods of learning.

    1. Daniel Kahneman has demonstrated brilliantly how everyday behaviour is steeped in various forms of systemic bias. In executive education, the most important misconception is that what executives lack is knowledge and that the place to impart that knowledge is the lecture theatre and that the person best equipped to impart that knowledge is the subject-matter expert. This model accounts for more than 90% of all executive education in business schools, and it betrays a serious bias in our understanding of how adults learn.

    2. Currently, there is a strong push within business schools to teach only what is called “evidence-based
    theory”. Yet ironically, evidence-based pedagogy seems to have slipped through the net. The Corporate Strategy Board has published the results of its research on the efficacy of various modes of learning (Exhibit 1). Traditional, classroom-based lecturing fares particularly poorly. Business schools would seem to have a blind spot when it comes to evidence-based learning.

    Exhibit 1: Effectiveness of Various Methods of Personal Development
    Coaching by your line manager 93%
    Job rotations and assignments 86%
    Action learning 77%
    360-degree feedback 71%
    Professional coaching 57%
    In-house classroom-based education 48%
    Business simulations 39%
    Peer mentoring 32%
    External executive education 23%

    Source: Corporate Executive Board 2009

    3. Corporate under-performance has many sources, but the lack of theoretical knowledge on the part of executiveis decidedly not one of them. There is no evidence, for example, that business acumen is related to a thorough grasp of modern management theory. If it were, then we would expect business schools themselves to be particularly well-led and well-managed organizations. Anyone
    working in these institutions knows that this is not the case. For example, it is rare for a professor of
    leadership to show up as an exemplary leader.

    4. We contend that the knowledge that is needed to enhance the performance of a business already exists in the minds of those running the business – but it is tacit, unacknowledged and
    fragmented. Where management education can help is in designing a forum in which this critical but dispersed knowledge is surfaced, shared, appreciated and integrated to form plans, decisions and
    initiatives. The setting in which this best takes place is one that dismantles defensive mechanisms. As soon as managers “drop their guard” and start to connect with one another emotionally – as humans not simply as functionaries – remarkable things start to happen. Ideas and insights coalesce and the recalcitrant problems facing the firm begin to become tractable. Managerial learning is not a process of the personal acquisition of theoretical knowledge so much as the adaptive application of collective wisdom.

    5. The surest sign that something is awry is when teachers default to “generic solutions”, usually under the
    rubric of some portentous phrase such as authentic leadership, lean thinking, total quality, core competence, visionary management, or sustainable value. Equally dangerous is a dependence upon “fashionable solutions”, such as the popular practices identified in Exhibit 2. This displays a serious misunderstanding of what is difficult about business. Winning at business is more like playing a good game of chess than cooking a good plate of pasta. The latter can be codified in a reliable
    recipe; the former requires a measure of spontaneous and adaptive improvisation. There cannot be a universal winning formula in business.

    2: Twelve Popular but Perilous Concepts
    Best Practice – the recipe for formulaic sameness
    Operational Excellence – doorknob polishing
    Competitive Benchmarking – plagiarism run riot
    Balanced Scorecards – the bureaucrat’s revenge
    Performance Targets – insults for the conscientious
    Annual Budgets – the pathology of under-achievement
    Financial Incentives – bribes for loners and cynics
    Organisational Alignment – the fear of variety
    Shared Values – the extinction of individuality
    Professional Standards – the refuge of the risk-averse
    Lean Thinking – right first time, wrong second time
    Charismatic Leadership – narcissism unbound

    6. If the wisdom dormant in the minds of the managerial cadre is to be drawn upon effectively, then the first prerequisite of an effective workshop is to bring together the “right minds” in
    the “right environment”. The “right minds” will be those that collectively contain the seeds of the solution to the most important challenge facing the business. Most management workshops are restricted to a single tier of management. But it is rare for business problems to reside at a single level of the organisation. Problems of collaboration across internal functional boundaries or across business silos may be one such problem. But it is more likely that the more pressing, more contentious issues cut across the vertical strata of the hierarchy. If “the problem is not in the room” – in other words, if all interested parties (all “voices”) are not represented in the workshop – then it is unlikely that the real issues and opportunities facing the firm will be adequately addressed: the participants will simply “scapegoat” those outside their group. Essentially, this is an issue of fair process: if managers with divergent views are to converge upon a joint
    decision, then each of them must feel that their point of view is being treated openly and fairly.

    7. The “right environment” is one that disarms the self-serving (and quite rational) defence mechanisms of the participating executives. Only when the conversation amongst participants is natural, candid, disinterested, and exploratory is it likely to be productive; and only when individual executives freely
    and openly recognize the fallibility of their own beliefs can collaborative work
    get done. The spirit that needs to be engendered above all others is one of curiosity – combined with a willingness to challenge strongly-defended positions and interrogate well-entrenched corporate

    8. The environment that is most likely to encourage this spirit of inquiry possesses, in our experience, two
    particular qualities. First, it must feel unfamiliar, uncertain and unpredictable. It must arouse feelings of
    surprise, confusion, even discomfort. We know that creativity is stimulated by what Daniel Berlyne has called the collative variables – properties such as novelty, complexity, uncertainty, and unfamiliarity. To an extent, executives should be thrown off-balance, metaphorically speaking, and immersed in a setting that arouses their interest, curiosity and need to make sense of what at first sight may seem puzzling. Second, it must touch their humanity; it must stimulate an emotional response, such as wonder, pity or affection. We have taken executives into prisons, science parks, drug rehabilitation centres, museums, shanty towns, hospitals, care homes, and favelas. In short, an effective learning experience features a nice
    balance between the Aristotelian properties of logos (the appeal to reason), ethos (the appeal to virtue), and pathos (the appeal to emotion). Compared to more traditional methods, the Discovery method downplays the importance of logos and emphasizes the importance of ethos and pathos.

    9. When executives find themselves sharing these emotional experiences far from the office, far from home, and far from equilibrium, they open up to each other. Things get said that need to be
    shared, and things get shared that need to be applied. In other words, these creative encounters act
    as a catalyst for more effective behaviour. It is true, of course, that executives can learn directly from these
    encounters by observing particularly effective practices – a kind of “mimetic learning”. But more importantly, they find a way of learning from each other. Perhaps for the first time, they truly attend to each other, and discover thereby the power of collective knowledge and a cooperative mindset.

    10. This “escape” from the lore and language of management is crucial. Attempts to apply the techniques of management to “learning and development” activities invariably backfire. Pretending that executive
    education is just another “project” to be “managed” is unproductive. Fettered by the language of goals and
    targets, measures and criteria, ROIs and KPIs, assessments and appraisals, even the imaginative workshop design founders. A climate of judgmentalism is antithetical to learning. If the participants (both academics and managers) feel that they are being assessed, the playfulness and “carelessness” that lead to learning will be lost.

    11. More often than not, it is managerialism itself (one of the twentieth century’s most important social technologies), resting as it does on the increasingly fragile pillars of hierarchy and bureaucracy, that is the “elephant in the room”. Nothing therefore is more detrimental to the success of a workshop than
    clothing it in the language of this same obsolete and baleful philosophy. The curse of executive education is the importation of notions such as learning objectives, critical success factors,
    competency profiles, outcome measures, and change metrics. These methods and techniques are the very disease to which a learning workshop is meant to be the cure (Exhibit 3).

    12. To the extent that there is a need for any “teaching “ at all, it is important to recognize how the best teaching exerts an influence. It is not so much what a teacher says as how a teacher behaves that makes a difference, particularly to adult learners. On a Discovery programme, the brilliant teacher is the one who asks good questions, abstains from coming up with simplistic answers, confesses to ignorance, listens to others, plays the devil’s advocate, brings in deviant voices, encourages dialogue, waits on inspiration,
    seeks to make sense, and trusts in the process of emergent order. These skills are simple to state but
    difficult to practice. They are also highly contagious.

    13. Creativity works best when processes of problem-solving are slowed down. As David McClelland has shown, creative people give themselves permission to take longer to solve problems. A good educational programme leaves at least as much time for the discussion and interpretation of an experience as for the experience itself. It resists the temptation to fill every waking hour with “inputs” – arising essentially from a fear that managers left alone to reflect, think and converse will become restless, irritated, querulous and hostile. In our experience, this is simply not true. Silence is often the most productive moment in an effective workshop. Hurrying to solutions is the hallmark of the ineffective manager.

    A more extensive treatment of these ideas can be found in “Uncommon Sense, Common Nonsense” by Jules Goddard and Tony Eccles (Profile Books, 2013), particularly in Part 5, “Applications and Examples”, where learning journeys designed for Prudential, BG Group, and Danone are described and discussed.

    • Patrick

      Thank you Caroline and thank you to Jules Goddard as well.

      I was lucky enough to meet Jules and work with him years ago when I ran the internal strategic think tank at Orange. He provided wonderful guidance on how to keep us on our toes and asking good questions.

      I’ll just comment on one small part of the paper. Method 13 says that ‘Creativity works best when processes of problem-solving are slowed down’. I agree wholeheartedly with this, but would say it this way – that it is very important to include ‘inattention’ in the problem-solving process. Focused attention is good for problem solving, so is key, but inattention is good for forming new connections.

      My favourite example of this is a crossword puzzle. It is not a big thing in my life, but I look at a few clues in the daily crossword if I find time and then set it aside, getting on with solving many other problems throughout my working day. On return, hours later, I haven’t thought about the crossword at all – I’ve been far to occupied physically and mentally on other matters. Yet, if I pick up the crossword at that time, I find that I know the answers to a few of the clues. This have come from my giving the crossword my full ‘inattention’ and allowed new connections to form. And creativity, after all, is really about the combining two or more existing things into a new idea or concept.

      Finally, I’ll say this. That to reach a state of profundity, you need to pass through complexity first. My suggestion is that the problem solving process is three stages and looks like this: Focused Attention – Inattention – Focused Attention. Robert Eastaway said it much simpler circa 1997 in an article in the Financial Times – I was so inspired by Rob’s article that it is quietly the meta process that I applied to much that we did in that think tank in Orange.

      Wonderful post Caroline and lovely paper Jules. Thank you both.

  • Patrick

    John Sills, in his ‘weekend reading blog’ points to a TED talk/transcript by Psychologist Carol Dweck: The power of believing that you can improve. In this she raises interesting points about helping people to improve, such as not praising intellect or talent but “praising the process that kids engage in: their effort, their strategies, their focus, their perseverance, their improvement”.

    worth a quick look –