A Lifelong High Level Learning Platform: Some Initial Thoughts

A friend was involved with a professional network, GPSEG (The Greater Philadelphia Senior Executives Group) in the Philadelphia area.   It is a group for professional networking.  There are approximately 1100 individuals registered with the group.  Membership can connect with other members for coffee meetings and there are many sub-groupings and meetings organized by locale or by industry.  Many people use the group to network for jobs, but they are encouraged to (and many do) remain with the group and continue to network after finding employment.

When describing his activities with the group, the words “learning platform” kept coming to mind as a primary goal and function of his activity.  I don’t really know much about the group and hope to learn more in the future, but just the idea began sparking my imagination.  One of the greatest educational needs for the future is for institutions that can support and actualize adult lifelong learning in ways that is functional for their everyday learning needs. The term “knowledge age” may not be sufficient to the task, but let’s at least say that learning is an imperative for everyone these days.  Prepackaged courses and curriculum will not cut it.  Networked learning is all the rage, but networks have to start and end with people.  It is important that any network be technologically enabled, but it can’t be dominated by IT thinking.  I believe it needs to have a local component and a face to face component that is primary.

This group is billed as senior executives, and I think this is a very good foundation, but I will put on my educational hat and speculate about who else could potential be served a group like this.

High Potentials – A recent Harvard Business Ideacast (Keep Your Top Talent from Defecting) reviewed the work of Jean Martin and Conrad Schmidt who authored the article How to Keep Your Top Talent in HBR (subscription required).  What struck me was their figure that 70% of today’s high performers lack critical attributes essential to their success in future roles.  What a need for education, but its got to be realtime and relevant learning in real contexts.  You can’t have the training department design a course or curriculum to fix this problem.  The learning needs are too diverse and unpredictable. Development is also spoken of in this article as an engaging and motivating force for this group.  Management may not want to expose their top talent to individuals in other organizations, but these authors say that top talent already knows their value and their place in market forces very well.

Entrepreneurs – Most cities have an entrepreneurs development and support organization.  In Cleveland it’s call Jump Start.  This type of organization could serve as a great screener of people who may not have a job history as a senior executive, but would have such potential.  For projects supported by these organizations, a learning platform is exactly the type of support entrepreneurs need as they and their companies grow and develop.  Jumpstart has advisors and networking, but I bet it does not alway function as a true learning platform like I’m envisioning.

Academics – I don’t know exactly how this would shake out, but academics and the higher education business model needs to get out of class and out of the insular world of researching order to work and interact with this type of group.  Academic models need to change and it can only happen with experience and experimentation.

I’m sure there more possibilities I should consider, but I’ll leave it there for now and allow more time for my thoughts to develop.