Friday, October 27, 2017

Learning Culture or Training Culture--Part III--Collaboration

When considering the need for a transformation of a training culture into a learning culture, a third element to consider is the nature of collaboration.

The Roots of Collaborative Skillsets

The industrial model of education set the tone for how collaboration was to be conducted within the classroom often referred to as "group work". The usual process for bringing forth collaboration started with the teacher announcing a task or issue that groups were going to work on and arrive at finished product which could be the resolution to a problem or the position on an issue that the group had adopted. An example of such an issue might be: "Capital punishment should be restored for such crimes as murder and treason against your country". Agree or Disagree. The educator would choose groups, making sure that that each group had equal numbers, had mixed genders, and at least one above average student in each group. A time limit would be established for each group to either solve the task or come to a consensus on the stated issue. The teacher would then be the person who would listen in and check on the groups' progress.


The reality of this process was that group dynamics had several effects on the reaching of the goal such as:

  • Usually the above average student became the group leader
  • Usually the above average student ended up doing the "lion's share" of the work
  • The other students in the group usually helped to a limited degree or did very little work at all in terms of adding to the discussion portion of the work.
  • Some of the group members, not feeling that their input was valued, became distracted and did things that had nothing to do with achieving the stated goal of the exercise.
  • There also the problem of personality clashes

As a business organization, you might be asking yourself the following questions:

"Do you see parallels here to what happens in business organization groups?"

"Why should I care as a business leader about how kids do group work in school? It doesn't affect us."

The answer to your question is:

"You should care because this is the way the adult employees in your organization including your leaders have learned to collaborate! This approach has been entrenched and reinforced over many years of schooling.

Although, we have changed the terminology in that groups are now called "teams" and "group work" may be called "team projects", all the failings of this process have been transferred into the business environment. The teams and the make up of teams are still relatively the same as they were in school. However, to further complicate collaboration, the arrival of the Internet and social media have increased the level of distraction to new levels.

Credit: Fredrick Questier

For collaboration to be effective, individuals employed within business organizations need to see the following characteristics of the task that they are collaborating on:

  • The task needs to be personally meaningful for the individuals involved
  • All participants need to feel that their input is valued in that they see it as realistically contributing to the success of the goal
  • Individuals need to be able to trust the talents of those in their group and trust that each individual has the success of the group as a more important priority than their own personal "glory". Out of control egos destroy trust relationships in the collaborative setting.
  • Individuals need to be able to trust that the decision leaders who brought the project forward have analyzed the needs for the project and have carefully selected members whose unique talents sync with the talents of the other group members so that their performance and contributions to the group are vital to the success of the project.

Two Dimensional Thinking in a Four Dimensional Business World

The arrival of the online world has resulted in drastic changes to the ways that 21st century business organizations conduct daily business. It has also changed the way that collaboration should occur. Since the industrial revolution, business organizations were characterized and built upon two dimensional thinking, meaning that projects were often conducted "in-house" using purchased resources on site and having employees collaborate with other on-site employees in pre-selected teams with oversight given to on-site middle managers. All members of the team were usually in the same time zone or within a time zone that was workable. What you had is a closed system that included your clients, suppliers...etc.

The standard team project might take the form of the following:

With the exponential growth in new technology and its use to compete on a world class level, the restraints on time and place that characterized the two dimensional business environment all of a sudden were cancelled shifting business organizations into a world where information was the new currency and technology innovation became a necessity in order for a business to compete in a global digital economy. 

The training culture that has been in place since the industrial revolution was not able to provide the innovative thinking skillsets that were required and instead a new culture based upon learning principles that would allow collaboration to grow outside the confines of the local business organization and create collaborative global business networks became necessary.

In order to truly capitalize on the great potential of accessing world markets and to open up new ones, the collaboration approach of the past needs to be transformed. In order for the transformation to take place without significant disruption to the flow of a business organization, not only requires the establishment of a learning culture within the organization but also a new form of collaboration that fits with the new connected and collaborative world economy.


The question that needs to be asked is:

"What will this new form of collaboration look like and what will distinguish it as a benefit compared to the more traditional one we are used to?"

In the next post, the characteristics of this new form of collaboration will be more closely described. Some of the ideas that will be looked at within this new form of collaboration are:

  • the use of AI and intelligent assistants to enable business organizations to work smarter rather than longer
  • the use of big data in making collaboration more effective 
  • the use of  globally networked communities of business as resources
  • the engagement of employees in collaborated networked projects that are proposed by the employees themselves
  • the use of a Learning Principles Expert and the collaboration with SME's
  • the development and use of the "rapid prototyping" model in creating new innovative products and services

Monday, October 9, 2017

Learning Culture or Training Culture: Part II: Elements of a True Learning Culture--Engagement

As suggested in Part I of this post, the development of a true learning culture within business organizations is no longer a "we will experiment with this if we have time but lets keep doing what we have always done" choice. It has become an essential to healthy organizational growth that enables an organization to to truly compete on the new digital playing field.

It starts with admitting that we have a problem, as business organizations, in handling change in ways that do not disrupt what we already do well. In admitting this, we need to take a good look forensically at the nature of our present learning culture and ask some key questions.

Credit: www.24x7

Looking at these key questions, we see that they have one thing in common. They emphasize developing employee engagement as a part of their learning culture.

The Element of Employee Engagement

Looking at how much your employees are engaged in the mission and vision of the business organization means that business leaders have to ask themselves some hard questions that reflect directly on their leadership. Some of these questions might be as follows:

  • Do employees know and understand the mission and vision of the business organization? If not it is a problem of clarity and communication.

  • Do employees have faith in the mission and vision of the business organization recognizing that decisions that are made in relation to mission and vision have direct consequences for their professional lives and then their lives outside the walls of the business?

  • Do they see the mission and vision of the organization as being in sync with their connected lives in the 21st century or do they see it as contradictory to being meaningful in the context of the way they live?

  • Are they engaged because they are told to be engaged and must endure endless, meaningless training sessions that for the organization means just another check mark on the mandatory list or are they engaged because they are inspired by the vision and mission?

  • Are they in fact a picture of the "overwhelmed employee" instead of the highly self-motivated and engaged employee who is committed to a clearly defined and communicated vision and mission?


If engagement is such an important element in a true learning culture then it begs some obvious questions:

  1.  Why is employee engagement important?

Credit: Lewis Garrard

Business organizations are finding it is more difficult to retain employees with the necessary skillsets pertaining to 21st century, globally networked business. In particular, the "millennials" as incoming employees are proving to be the most challenging.



2. Given that engagement is a problem, how does this translate as a problem for the bottom line of a business?

Credit: http://

Comparing this with highly engaged employees within business organizations, the business case for employee engagement becomes even more convincing.


In regards to the branding aspect for a business organization that is very much customer focused, how engaged the employees are also translates into sincere efforts of employees to make known to the outside world that this company is not only a good one to work for but also to do business with because it can be seen in the engagement of the employees.


One of the key elements that gives rise to engagement in employees is that the organization is making efforts and progress to make ongoing employee learning systemic throughout their organization. This means that employee needs start to take precedent over organizational needs.

Credit: Harvard Business

In one sense it means that when the learning of employees is concerned that they are given a greater degree of autonomy to developing new skillsets, engaging with co-workers in innovative projects that benefit the company and having a forum by which their ideas may be explored, presented and defended in the presence of key decision making leaders within the organization. In order for an organization to take such steps it requires leadership in the corporate suite with the courage to be innovative in the way that they approach new ideas.


When leadership starts down this path to build and nurture employee engagement through the design of a better learning culture they can take solace in the fact that this is not just a local national problem but it is global in nature and that there is a relationship of need in regards to engagement and learning.

Credit: Deloitte University Press

Credit: Deloitte University Press

The questions that we are left with are:

  • How does the element of collaboration change in order to make a learning culture within an organization more dynamic and in tune with the globally connected economy?

  • What would the business organization look like as one that is different by design?

  • What steps can we take to change a stagnant learning culture to one that is innovative, vibrant and serving the future of the organizations to the benefit of all stakeholders, especially the employees?
These questions will be the focus of Part III...

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Learning Culture or Training Culture: Part I: What is the 21st Century Mandate?

A phrase that is appearing more and more in the spotlight, especially in the corporate realm, is the "learning culture". A growing tension is occurring in business organizations in regards to how employees may be engaged to be stakeholders in the health and advancement of business organizations. This tension is driven by the face off between the training culture that has been in place since businesses first opened shop with the intent by leadership that someday the apprentices of that business would carry on and teach the skillsets to the next generation versus a new generation born into a world where technology is advancing an exponential rate and that technology is merging into all layers of life and has made itself irreplaceable. The obvious example would be the cell phone which has evolved into the smart phone. More than just a simple communication device, it has become an essential to linking people up to all the necessities of digital life. To see how dependent we are on such a device, consider the human reactions that are displayed if access is suddenly cut off for a lengthy period of time.


In order to cope and adjust to the emergence of technology means that human beings have to exert effort to learn how to use and integrate the technology into their daily lives. This means that learning is not limited to the four walls of the business organization in training sessions but learning needs to be available 24/7, using any device, and available anywhere. This is the requirement of living productive lives in the digital world.

Corporate Training: Putting a Square Peg into a 21st Century Round Hole

An obvious but important question that needs to be asked is:

"Why doesn't the old training paradigm deliver anymore the way that it has always done in the past?"

A simple answer would be that the world changed and is changing faster than business expected or had even planned for.

Credit: www. Biz

A natural reaction when confronted by rapid change that could impact your business livelihood and that of your employees is to freeze in your tracks and retreat back into what was comfortable. This retreat is a double-edged sword because while it may feel comfortable, the changes with the opening up of the collaborative, networked, global economy means that those who are not use to this constant change are being quickly left behind. Past clients and opportunities disappear and join forces with competitors who have learned that in order to increase the ROI, their organizations need to have employees who have developed the necessary skillsets to work on the world wide web.

Credit: David Blake

 With respect to the traditional training sessions involving the "sage on the stage" with his or her multitude of Powerpoint slides, this just does not cut it if the performance goals are based on in house learning alone.

"It is important to remember that the training culture has its roots in the industrial age which is long past. The age of learning, technology and innovation works on a new set of parameters. The differences between the training culture and the newly evolved learning culture are becoming starkly apparent."

On a basic level of comparison, the following would apply:

Credit: Vikas Tyagi (2013)

In comparing the above parameters it can be deduced that there has been a shift from organizational needs to employee needs. Why? The answer lies in the need of an organization to empower employee engagement in an age where personal learning and collaboration in a networked world are the key elements to innovation which is the key to competing in a globally connected digital economy.

Credit: David Blake

If training culture no longer fits the needs of 21st century business, what other evidence supports such a radical conclusion. As we piece the evidence together, we start to see how advancing technology and the explosion in new knowledge is giving shape to a new type of learner who become employees and leaders.

Credit: www. Biz

Credit: David Blake

In this post you will notice that I have not attempted to "train you" but instead to get you to think about your own business organization in the context of the globally connected digital economy. In Part II of this post, I will detail more as to what an effective learning culture in business should look like. I do leave you with the following question: