Let’s be real. Our classic learning and development world was designed around the knowledge and expertise “haves and have-nots.” The world has evolved, and it is time that we do as well. We do not need more content and more cognitive knowledge. It is all at our fingertips in this age of the sharing economy.
We live in a world of savvy, digitally native creators where little happens, even if you are an individual contributor, without the interdependency of others and the influence of outside data. Cognitive knowledge is one Bing, Google, MOOC or TED Talk away.
Gone are the days of simply rolling out “training.” We are in a world of constant change, and digital disruption is now both a tool and a distraction.
Learning and development professionals have to navigate these new realities in order to create opportunities — like flipped classrooms and virtual conferences — and leverage what we know about neuroscience and the power of social learning. This navigation is often further complicated by corporate restructuring that leaves us focused on helping “survivors” be our outstanding talent of the future in an environment of uncertainty and change.
We are doubling down on doing more with less in a climate where leaders who demonstrate curiosity, creativity, agility and authentic collaboration hallmark true sustainable success.
The sharing economy is a disruption and an opportunity. With mutual need, trust and collaboration at its heart, the sharing economy is here to stay and changing the way we do business and see the world.
The mindset of “sharing,” value creation, opt-in, open source and easy access are growing expectations of our employees and customers alike. This means that we as learning and development professionals need to create and curate programs that are relevant, valuable, easy to use, accessible and very focused on leveraging the knowledge that already lives in the system. Our focus is quickly shifting to being curators and enablers of learning in action and through collaboration. This has major implications on what programs we sponsor and how we sponsor them. Gone are the days of the sage on the stage. We are now guides on the side, connecting our employees to learn from one another and leveraging the internet umbrella of knowledge available just a few clicks away. Building technical expertise will still be important, but what will be critical is building stellar learners and sharers within our organizations. Most of the work done in today’s corporate environment requires collaboration in and across high-performance and, better yet, purpose-driven teams.
The challenge is that these teams are not only global but they also operate virtually in a complex matrix where it is necessary for them to source their measures of success intrinsically rather than from the certainty of executing on their task, as these tasks can get reprioritized in a single email exchange.
Leaders and team members alike need to possess strong interpersonal skills that translate in a virtual environment. These skills are needed to create an inclusive environment with the understanding that cultural differences matter, and mutual value creation is what drives healthy interdependence.
One of the most difficult tasks for leaders of global teams in this new world is to have the humility to recognize that their styles of decision-making may be deeply rooted in old ways of working before the rise of mutuality and sharing. Research shows that, in a geographically distributed team, trust is measured almost exclusively in terms of reliability, so leaders of virtual teams need to concentrate on creating clear expectations for all members of the team while checking in mutual value creation within and across to other teams.
The implications for learning mean that the human elements of building trust through impeccable coordination, humility and reliability require very different skills and mindsets for leaders. We are charged with growing leaders who have human-centered mindsets and skill sets that enable learning in action, sharing of ideas, and the agility to pivot in the moment while maintaining strong and often virtual relationships.
We are charged with tapping into the knowledge within and outside our systems. We need to curate experiences that grow adaptive systems thinking, polarity management, design thinking and the inclusive leadership needed to drive innovation (creativity) as well as the ability to leverage diversity, build partnerships, foster a learning attitude and inspire vision. Devices will never replace or even compete with the learning benefits of human interaction. However, the internet is an organizer, amplifier and information accelerant that feeds our desire to learn, with powerful tools that allow us to create our own paths of inquiry and share what we learn. Search is magic, and that information has never been more engaging, accessible and customizable. But “learning” and “development” are two different things. Current curriculum, even when delivered with the tools and media of the information age, do not fully engage leaders nor prepare them with the skills they need to prosper in the 21st century.
Global learning and development is no longer about rolling out training. It is about transforming the mindsets of leaders, including how they define their individual identity, and shifting success from knowing to success from learning and sharing.
We need to be thought leaders in developing expert disrupters and creating transformative environments where learning and development are as easy, seamless, respectful and collaborative as Uber is to transportation and Airbnb is to hospitality. Virtual classrooms will only work with a strong focus on human connection and opportunities for learning in collaborative action, where we are leaning on our peers and making learning and development a sign of success rather than an opportunity to prove what we know.
Search for the pain points in your organization, identify allies within the system to influence learning solutions, and make it real, relevant, valuable and collaborative with a strong focus on humanness, while leveraging the knowledge that exists within the system. As leaders who walk their talk, we need to go about this in a way that demonstrates the very mindsets and skills that we are aspiring to grow within our systems.