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"In the age of the internet, how much longer will we settle for an IBM Selectric™ culture at work?”

The IBM Selectric™+: state of the art tech, in 1961. What other 55 year old technology are you using to solve today’s challenges?

Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey—two of the most important thinkers in learning and development today—pose this incisive question which compels us to reflect on the use of scientific knowledge in creating learning and development initiatives in a digital age. Since the 1970s, science has consistently shown that learning is hardly achieved through an expert standing in front of the learners and regurgitating insights. As useful as that may be for some, it is hardly adequate for all. There are some things we know as hard cold facts about learning. People learn through:

  • surveying and attending to the subject (experience) at hand, questioning what it means in their context—which prompts some emotional linkage
  • reading aspects of the situation or information in relation to what they already know and to determine gaps
  • reviewing some hypotheses about what they are learning and what it means in their context
  • reciting (in some form) the information, experience, or insight, and
  • testing the experience again in the form of applying the new knowledge.

Yet, the vast majority of learning events in organizations are time bound, expert focused, and abstract. The learner is expected to know how to take the newly minted knowledge and use it. Certainly events of this nature have their purpose; these can be redesigned to use the principles we know are essential for information or insight to travel from short-term memory to long-term memory, and long-term memory to behavioral action.

Holding on to Old Models

Organizations in Western societies will spend 140 billion dollars on development training or support and only 37% of surveyed company leaders believe these programs are effective. And, organizations keep doing the same thing year after year believing the outcomes will somehow change and greater effectiveness will follow. In an age of neuroscience and intense scrutiny about the pathways for learning, we really have no excuse for holding on to old models. Learning and development need to be continuous and not intermittent experiences.

If we look at what is identified as the typical development opportunities today we see the use of punctuated inputs (2 days), thin application (assessment report suggestions), with events set up outside the work flow creating disruption. This traditional event architecture is costly, requires time away, and serves only a few in the entire organization. That approach to learning will go the way of the the IBM Selectric™+. Developmental learning needs to more closely align itself to the science of learning. Today's technology is a critical channel to provide continuous information, prompts, and tips that are blended into the workflow and are available to all. And the evidence is that the millennials expect self-directed learning to be at their fingertips.

There are vital reasons that the recent Deloitte Global Human Capital research report, based on more than 7000 respondents, found that organizational design, leadership, culture, and learning (in that order) among the top mission critical areas needing attention. Loudly and clearly, from a number of research corners, the message is that old models simply do not work sufficiently in an age when agile learning is needed to maximize talent.

New Models are Team Oriented, and Mobile

Organizational design means that old silos and hierarchies are not effective in maximizing talent. Developing a team-oriented culture where working across boundaries is essential becomes the new model. A culture of teams with a collaborative focus where the team is the unit of measure and accountability creates an entirely new priority for training and development initiatives. Most traditional training is for a select group (e.g. Hi Potentials), with no impact on the whole, and in the emerging new organizational design, training for the whole of the organization becomes primary. (Kegan and Lahey richly cover these dimensions in their research.) But here is the problem: people often do not have the skills to effectively team and organizations falsely assume that teaming is a second hand skill readily available, when in fact it requires a set of competencies that few have in abundance. Bob Eichinger and I have attempted to address this skill gap with iPad Applications (TEAMOSITY) and now a web based development application with Matrix Insights.

The field of leadership, research has been unambiguous that leadership occurs when there is direction, alignment, and commitment (see Center for Creative Leadership research summaries) regardless of position title. In other words, leadership is a series of processes that create meaning among a group of people. How we use and align talents to demonstrate commitment to achieving desired goals shows that leadership is present. Anyone with the know-how of facilitation, initiation, and execution contributes to leadership. But here is the rub: the skills are teachable, though few get the chance to learn them.

The IBM Selectric™+ typewriter transformed the work being done in organizations all over the world. In its era, time was saved, quality improved, and productivity was enriched. Try to use one today and you will find that you are losing time, quality is limited (no additional fonts to select), and productivity is reduced. This is precisely the shift we need to make in the development of the new workforce in moving from the Selectric to the digital world.

Mobile learning and development will transform the way we use knowledge. Learning will be in micro elements, personalized, available 24/7, and designed with neuroscience in mind. Neuroscience has already clearly established the neurological parameters for optimal learning experiences; these parameters should be integrated into all of our learning designs and can be done so with greater effectiveness through digital strategies. For example, maximizing attention spans with micro focused information and building in automatic feedback mechanisms are easily achieved with appropriate digital strategies.

Matrix Insights was designed with all of these issues and needs in mind. Accessible to all, the Matrix Insights solution provides assessment information on strengths and areas of needed growth, action tips of doable steps, prompts to integrate the learning in daily work, and multiple recursive elements so the learning is bite-sized and personalized. All of the frameworks in the system are designed to explore application of insights in relationships and teams. The TeamPulse inventory allows for a regular check on how a team is performing. And when one area of mastery has been achieved, individuals can self-direct to a deeper look—manage their own needs in light of the dynamics in their context. In short, the Matrix Insights solution promotes lasting personal growth in a time-starved world.

Mobile learning is easily integrated into blended and facilitated learning events, and easily accessed and used in personal self-directed learning initiatives. These times requires all of us to refresh our perspectives in the learning space and to be the leaders of transitioning from a Selectric lens to a dynamic mobile one.

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