Friday, 21 November 2008

Final session at the World of Learning 2008

As the last formal session I was looking forward to the summary I knew Rory was going to offer us.

As 3 o’clock approaches our host Rory Cellan-Jones looks around the room in amazement – just 37 people in the audience. He gets the nod from the organiser on the door to commence the session.

Rory introduced Richard Straub, advisor to the chairman of IBM EMA for his presentation:

Driving L&D in a changing business environment.

Reflecting on his own positive experience Straub recommended that everyone in the audience considered the question “What is the portfolio I will have when I leave my employer?”
Straub said that he would be posing more questions than he has answers for and that the answer for many of the questions would be different based on the culture in which we operate. Then using a number of bite size pieces of information Straub provided us with food for thought:

  • “The illiterate of the 21 century will not be those that cannot read and write but those that cannot learn – unlearn and re-learn” Alvin Toffler

  • That Drucker in the 50s and 60s coined the term knowledge worker.

  • That often when we use Organisational Development (OD) models that we fall into the traps caused by over simplified models, and Straub gave examples.

For many organisations we are now moving from a closed world to an open world, where once things were top down, they are now bottom up, where once there was command and control and now there is pragmatism. These structural and cultural changes while a challenge provide OD professionals with a wonderful opportunity.

In Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital: The Dynamics of Bubbles and Golden Ages by Carlota Perez Straub walked through the industrial and technological ages and pointed out that at the end of each age is a crash before the ‘golden age’ of that era was realised. For the age of information and technology many thought that was the dotcom crash, but many feel that what we are experiencing now is the beginning of that crash, and that when we come out the other side we will be on the dawn of a new golden age of information and technology.

Research from IBM suggests that outperformers in many organisations deliver higher revenue growth and manage change more successfully, and that for us in OD and L&D the ability to manage the learning of skills to address business needs is the only competitive advantage.

Characteristics for success at an organisational level are:
1) Speed
2) Risk Taking
3) Flexibility
4) Frequent opportunity for trial and error

We must create the ability for our people to fail fast as we need to be able to learn quickly. Conservatism was acceptable once but will not be a strategy for survival or growth in the current climate.

Research from The Lisbon Council (for Economic Competitiveness and Social Renewal is a think tank), shows that 80% of the value of human capital is informally developed on the job. We need to create the culture to nurture and capture this learning without stifling it.

Straub put the Klob learning cycle up on the screen and asked for the relevance of this old and well used model, Straub challenged us to the need to re-engage learners with models like this to ensure that the informal learning in the workplace was as effective as it could be, and that learners made the most of informal learning opportunities.

In his final words Straub said that things tend to happen in “hidden champions”, companies of a medium side that get on with things and are often not noticed, it is these organisations that tend to lead the way. How many hidden champions were sat in the audience.

It was disappointing that so few attended this session as for me it was again one of the most enlightening, Like the final session at the CIPD conference, few attended the last session and missed the best.

Straub’s style made the note taking of this difficult and the reason why the style of this entry is sticky is that it reflected the style of the session.

Closing summary

Rory Cellan-Jones closed the event with some quotes from the two days, including:

  • “I don’t chose to retain things I can look up”

  • “I am only interested in people that are 100% committed, not 98%”

  • “we don’t hire bad people, only good people and make them great”

  • “How do you touch 65000 people at once? You go online”

  • “We are a curiously conservative profession and we could be decimated by this time next year”

  • “Sex, violence and crime.. and all in one hour”

My immediate reflections on the event
A valuable mix of the sales pitch and the practical with just a little gloss and spin on the content of the sessions (less than at other conferences). The tome of this conference while discussing the challenges was much more positive that the CIPD conference just a couple of months ago.

The fact that the conference sessions were held adjacent to the exhibition space was great for networking, although the sound damping in the seminar rooms could have been more effective to filter out the low hum of the activity in the exhibition itself – especially as a F1 style car was just feet away have its wheel changed by participants!

Over the next few days I will dig deeper into my notes and add more detail to some of the sessions. If you were at the event feel free to add your comments too.

Mike Morrison is director of RapidBI, an organizational effectiveness consultancy. He has been involved in HR, OD and strategic development for over 20 years. He can be contacted via

© This article is copyright RapidBI 2006, 2008 – it may be copied providing the authors are credited, and direct links maintained
Bookmark and Share

No comments: