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THE ART OF LEARNING: 7 principles for a new Open Development model



My personal experience taught me that few specific insights can be crucial to face the most important organizational challenge of the present time: the art of learning transformation

Below are sketched 7 principles that, according to my view, can guide and sustain a different approach to learning and development for people and organizations.


1. CONTINUOUS

Instead of a top-down annual review of the learning and development plan (poor, demotivating and inefficient), it is vital to create, design and incentive an always-on learning experience, supported by continuous mentoring and feedback.

First of all, it means it should be truly on a regular basis: not attending an 8-hour-course each month but being responsible - for instance - of 20 minute learning-slot every day.

Setting an individual as well as group action plan based on different tasks:

  • Daily: what I’m going to do/learn on a daily basis

  • Weekly: what I’m going to do/learn on a weekly basis

  • Monthly: what I’m going to do/learn on a monthly basis

For each action the following should also be clearly set:

  • Expectations: what I’m expecting from a specific action, decision, content...

  • Feedbacks: the L&D manager should incentive a massive network of feedbacks as a strategic tool for any kind of personal as well as business improvement.

  • Results/Evidences: organize and analyze the outcomes derived from actions and decisions, evaluating their discrepancies from the expectations and their benefits for the next action plan.

This continuous learning approach should become a routine; but in order to truly support such action plan, organizations should ensure a real lifelong learning place (consider, for instance, platforms such as Degreed) and active communities.

2. OPEN

It’s time to expand and apply the principles taken from the Open Innovation model to the Learning and Development Management too.

Internal contents, classrooms and curricula are no longer sufficient to face the challenges in front of us: the best lies outside the wall of the organization and it’s open and ready for use.

I see 3 main agents to pioneer the internal learning model:

  • Being increasingly inter-functionally and trans-disciplinary oriented, spreading competencies, information, interests, insights and passions all over the organization - through teams - encouraging personal proposals and activities.

  • Finding and using any possible opportunity to open up organizations and teams to external contents (from other companies, consultancies, startups, events, workshops and labs) in order to mix them up with the internal ones, creating a blended and dynamic ecosystem of contents.

  • Letting teams join and actively participate in external and mixed communities in order to broaden and deepen their horizons.

3. COLLATERAL / PERVASIVE

Each employee should become an agent of continuous development, for himself/herself as well as for the others. That’s not only about giving them key responsibilities on their own development plan, but also about transforming our teams into widespread communities, letting people become guide and example for each other.

In order to do that, companies should guarantee a specific budget and an amount of free time for the employees letting them invest in their own development.

In this perspective, one of the main purposes of the L&D department should consist in arousing and promoting collateral learning and collaboration experience by introducing an explorative culture where each employee has the responsibility to propose, develop and share any form of collateral content.

4. ENVIRONMENTAL

The workplace should become a strategic agent of effective learning and development. Going beyond the mere concept of cubicles or open spaces, the priority is to create dynamic environments that turn on creativity and inspiration, capable of truly increase the opportunities of interaction and collaboration.

According to neuroscience studies our brain learn faster and better in a dynamic environment. That’s why several innovative companies are proposing a reinvented experience of the workplace leveraging an inspired combination of design and coworking (just think to Ideo, Wework, Talent Garden and many more). They are actually anticipating a global as well as irreversible trend thanks to key factors such as differentiated spaces with plenty of natural light, comfort and benefits, art and wellness.

Embodying all these aspects within the culture of the workplace an organization can have a crucial impact on recruitment, retention, learning, performance, benefits. That’s why competitors of any kind cannot neglect such trends.

Few suggestions for old-fashioned organizations:

  • Assuming that too often both our work-station and device, e.g. our laptop, become a wall for relations and a strict frame or even a cage for creativity, then find any possible opportunity to substitute laptops with boards, walls, common tables and so forth, especially at the beginning of the day or starting a new activity or project.

  • Do not take place in the morning and just stand there for 8 hours but incentive differentiation, movement and shifting: even a temporary change of the environment can effectively alter our approach to daily actions, decisions, learning and team-work, helping us to see the ordinary in a different perspective.

5. COMPREHENSIVE

The concept itself of “employee” is becoming obsolete: the next Learning & Development model cannot be focused on the employee any more, but rather on the person as a whole. Organizations cannot neglect any more this key point: there is no professional improvement without a comprehensive personal development.

They should deal with this big change, since it is not only a matter of work-life balance, but also - and probably most importantly - of global well-being and wellness.

It is vital - for our personal as well as collective brain - to be immersed in as many different incentives as possible. That’s why organizations should become a comprehensive center of interests as well, including:

  • gyms and yoga

  • design

  • theatre

  • art installations

  • open events

  • communities

  • and much more

The L&D manager should become an experience designer, because each employee is constituted not only by professional skills and capabilities but embodying a plexus of energy, talents, creativity, emotions, expectations, fears and desires.

6. ACTIVE

For decades we have been accustomed to the passivity of a top-down learning and development model. Now the process can be reversed: the employee should have the full responsibility over his/her curriculum; in this sense the L&D manager (on behalf of the organization) becomes a guide, not imposing but mentoring.

Organizations should provide tools/platforms and mentors as well as time and budget, but the learning and development plan should be totally in charge of the employee: he/she should be able to actively compose and design his/her own action plan with specific approaches, kind of contents and fruition.

7. CONTENT CREATOR

Creating, valuing and distributing original contents must be considered the primary asset for any organization.

That’s why reinventing the learning and development model goes through a dramatic inversion of the current approach about contents management.

I reckon the next challenge is about letting contents arise from people within the organizations, from any functions and roles.

Imagine if any employee could be or become a powerful source of collateral, transversal and innovative content: in other words an agent of development.

Instead of buying contents from outside, organizations should invest in tools and practices that could incentive and facilitate the emergence of widespread contents, leveraging talents from internal resources, those talents that we normally lose or waste.

Just think, for instance, to expand the concepts of “branded content” and “distributed content” to the learning content management.

With the proper support and guide of a far-sighted organization any employee could become an active and motivated creator - and even distributor - of “branded contents”.

Imagine how much it could be valuable in terms of culture, innovation, adaptability, performances, engagement, teams or branding: an exponential return on investment.

IN CONCLUSION

I see the continuous learning as the only way to really leverage the digital innovation we are experiencing at the present time: an opportunity to become more human. But it also implies a dramatic change in the current establishments, losing certainties and starting to set up a truly lifelong academic approach to work more openly, widespreadly, environmentally, comprehensively and proactively: evolving from organizations to academies.

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