A Good Plan for How to Make Learning Strategic From Charles Jennings

On June 18th I responded to Michele Martins thoughts,  That post needed more elaboration, which has been supplied by Charles Jennings’ post.  This is about my suggestion #1: Strategy must play a stronger role where learning is part of the organizational narrative not just an afterthought.  Jennings excellent post suggests how to go about supporting a vision of learning and development (L&D) as a strategic business tool in 5 basic actions:

1. L&D departments need a strategic departmental vision, aligned with the organization’s strategic vision and priorities, and supported by an appropriate model of governance that includes senior business leaders. The following graphic is an example of a governance structure from Jennings Blog:


3. Integrate frontline managers into all aspects of L&D.  The managers are the point at which learning must take place or it is likely to be ineffective.  Jennings draws on the information from the Corporate Executive Board/Learning & Development Roundtable in this graphic to support his view:


3. Embrace Innovation (such as social media and informal learning trends).  This would also be supported by fostering a creative environment.  My previous post on Supporting and Developing Creative Environments has much relevant information.

4. Use technology and tech tools in innovative ways.  Don’t just put course work into technological forms, but use technology to rethink learning experiences

5. Develop internal departmental capabilities and skills such as consultancy skills, (communication and skills in leading and persuasion), a deep understanding of L&D contexts

The Business like University Meme: An Explanation

I think often on the meme of businesses becoming more like universities with universities (researchers too) more like businesses.  It can be disparaged as a crass idea by academia, but I think a deeper understanding can inform potential reforms on either side of the equation.  I came back to this meme by following the thread from Tony Karrer who asks us to weight in on the future of learning as a business.

The future of business itself is knowledge and technology centric.  Managing that future is different when:

  • you’re managing people with more expertise than you and
  • when the knowledge that you have and want to impart is dense and complex and
  • when a major goal is to uncover or develop new knowledge and when
  • a major goal is the ongoing development of a shared knowledge base and communication structure within the organization.

If the goal of your organization is to develop world class service, managing it may share many activities with running a university department and research center, except that there are no diplomas and your always in beta.

On the university side of the equation, I’ll first differ to Ellen Wagner’s post Psst…for researchers only.

This is a tip for those of you who conduct quantitative research . . . you can influence the technology product roadmaps . . . if you have data that shows that particular kinds of features in products can help students retain more, remember better, perform at peak levels of efficiency for longer periods of time then you need to figure out a way to get that information to the education marketing team at your technology company of your choice. Because those are the kinds of facts and figures that help sales teams connect with their educational customers. Education customers don’t just want to hear about features and benefits. They also want to know about best practices for using products to solve real problems.  . . . What (technology companies) can do is to help promote your findings, showcase your success.

I may be jaded, but I believe that academics writing is often intended to be instrumental toward tenure, not to have an impact on society and the peer review journal processes inhibit innovation and risk taking by researchers.  Research should be consequentially valid and disseminated for that purpose, and at its heart, dissemination shares many similarities with marketing.  Academics and journals must also travel beyond their disciplinary boundaries in ways that are in line with new forms of networked knowledge.

Summary: A manager / leader of world class services and a teacher leading students and research projects share potentially similar skill sets and futures.

Who’s in the Market for Learning: An Organization’s Perspective

More ideas following Tony Karrer’s post, this time inspired by Michele Martins thoughts (Who’s in the Market for Learning, Individual or Organizations).

Lifelong learning from an organizations perspective:

  1. Strategy must play a stronger role where learning is part of the organizational narrative not just an afterthought.
  2. Focus learning activities on building organizational intelligence with individual learning.  Individual learning becomes organizational intelligence when it changes processes, shared understandings or artifacts (like the organizational narrative).
  3. Organizations need a learning infrastructure.  Six Sigma is one example, except that it could be more broadly focused beyond quality.

I think there might be some room for further development of these ideas.

A horizon summary

I think It boils it down to 2 areas where I am knowledgeable, have an interest, where there is opportunity to apply that interest, and where the technology exists to allow reasonable implementation: (1) measurement and (2) lifelong / just-in-time learning.

Measurement – It has one purpose, to generate data, but when combined with appropriate theory, data can provide invaluable supports to decision-making, communications and experimental practice improvement efforts.  People act either because they believe their actions will lead to desired outcomes or because they are following a tradition.  All action should be backed-up and validated by data, but it is often not because managers cannot articulate a theory linking action to outcome, because they don’t understand how to design relevant and efficient measures, because they don’t understand the knowledge that measures can generate, or because they don’t understand how important data is to communication / reporting.  Education is needed to help managers articulate operational theories, designing appropriate measures and integrate them into everyday activities.  I recommend integrating measures into existing reporting / communicating structures for efficiency and aligning these structures with processes and with organizational strategy.

Learning – Existing learning structures are not sufficient to facilitate individual lifelong learning, organizational learning or in learning that is directly related to contextual needsAs I have written before, we need social innovations in how organizations learning.  What is also needed is pedagogy, technology and institutional structures designed for diverse interdisciplinary on-demand knowledge networks.  Social networks are growing (Linkedin is one example.).  Missing from learning opportunities in these networks are the mission structures and technical capabilities of dedicated learning organizations to participate in ad-hoc networks with the pedagogy and monetization strategies to make these networks efficient and effective as learning nodes in the day to day activities of individuals and project teams