Innovations in LED (Learning, Education & Development)
KNOWLEDGE is both input and output (raw material & finished goods) in the new economy.
In the past, wealth consisted mainly of physical things. Wealth was created using natural resources, labor and capital. Today, wealth – like love – comes from unexpected places. In the new economy, the new sources of wealth are ideas, information & relationships.
Even in the past, a healthy dose of knowledge – about what people need and how things are made – was needed to spur economic activity and create wealth. Today, the role of knowledge – learning, education and development – in creating customer value has immensely grown by leaps and bounds.
Knowledge as enabler
In many industries, the material content of products relative to their utility is constantly diminishing. The knowledge content is continuously increasing. In the end, consumers (final users or organizations) buy products with material content, but they actually want (knowledge) solutions to the world’s problems and challenges. These challenges can range from the trivial and mundane LHC (Light Hair Color) that improves human vanity to the earthshaking and life-changing LHC (Large Hadron Collider) that splits particles of quarks that can help analyze the so-called “God particles.”
Knowledge is an enabler of innovation. The many innovative products that you see today are a result of their makers’ knowledge of markets not yet served, and of technical possibilities. The iPod was a product of Steve Jobs’ knowledge of customers’ want for more music beyond what a typical CD can contain, and his knowledge of technical possibilities that the microchips can offer.
On the other hand, innovation is also an enabler of knowledge. The twenty-first century has witnessed innovations in the practice of learning as a consequence of the ongoing technological revolution and the increased demand for better knowledge to drive production and productivity in the workplace. Learning and education are commonly perceived as the cornerstones for global development, sustainability & modernization in the new economy.
Wikipedia defines pedagogy as the discipline that deals with the theory and practice of education. It also concerns the study and practice of how best to teach. The word came from the Greek “Paidos”(child) and “ago” (lead), which literally meant “to lead the child.” Negative connotations, associated with pedantry started to exist in the 1650’s at the time of Samuel Pepys, an English Naval Administrator and Member of Parliament noted for keeping a diary for a decade when he was still a young man. In the old Roman Empire, pedagogues were slaves who escorted Roman children to school.
In the recent past, workplace learning and development could be likened to pedagogy, with its good and bad connotations. Most of the early corporate trainers were behavioral scientists or management professionals who shared their knowledge with their students or trainees. As more modern methods of teaching and training emerged, those who stuck to lectures as a mode of instruction were often called pedagogues (with the bad connotations).
Across the globe today, there are emerging trends that highlight innovations in learning, education & development. Consider the following:
- Open and mobile learning. The booming of open, distance and e-learning changed the landscape of learning and education as it offered additional venues to higher education for those hit by the harsh realities of exclusivity and scarcity, especially in underdeveloped and developing economies. Technology has combined with education as great equalizers. With open and mobile learning, ignorance is becoming an irrelevant option for people from all walks of life. The founding of the Open University in Britain in 1969 targeted limitless audience with innovative teaching and learning modes. Since it was founded, more than 1.5 million students have studied there. The Open University was rated “top university in England and Wales” for student satisfaction in 2005, 2006 and 2012.
On the other side of the ocean, the 2010 State of the Industry Report released by the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) claimed that 27.7 percent of all formal learning hours made available in 2009 were online, up from 23 per cent in 2008.
- Adaptive Learning. It is a methodology that allows employees to learn at their own pace. It has gained popularity with educational institutions, referred to as “adaptive teaching,” where a teacher will gather information on individual students to learn what they need to do to improve their students’ learning. In the workplace, employees can be monitored individually and in real time to determine what learning approach will best suit their needs. Adaptive learning can be effective at improving efficiency, employee engagement and retention since younger employees expect more flexibility and interaction as they build confidence and overall expertise. Mass customization of learning experiences will eventually be mutually rewarding for individuals and organizations.
- Align with business. I learned basic Human Resources (HR) in a firm with highly sophisticated and specialized HR functions. Most of the trainers and systems specialists were so enamored with what they taught and shared with the line managers. Learning success was judged on how much our participants learned. Whether or not the participants used their learning for individual and organizational effectiveness was almost of no moment. I moved to a global multinational in the 1990’s and understood the business of doing business. Today, I fully agree with Harvard’s Dorothy Leonard who said, “Companies, like individuals, compete on the basis of their ability to create & utilize knowledge. Companies survive on their ability to adapt when necessary, & it is increasingly necessary for them to do so. Successful adaptation seems to involve the thoughtful, incremental re-direction of skills & knowledge bases so that today’s expertise is reshaped into tomorrow’s capabilities.”
Those charged with the function of learning and education must understand the business. They should not just correct skills deficiencies of the past, but develop the skills needed for tomorrow’s business success.
- Measure learning effectiveness. To determine if the learning strategy is driving business outcomes, organizations must appropriately measure learning effectiveness. Companies should include both business metrics and learning metrics. Obviously, the traditional “40 training hours per employee per year” as learning metrics does not mean anything to the CEO. In fact, it could mean that you’re taking away all 5,000 employees from their jobs five working days per year, possibly hiring temporary replacements sending employees to exotic island destinations, while they doze off & listen to some boring self-proclaim-ed mumbo-jumbo experts who don’t even understand your business.
- Outside providers. Sometimes, a credible outside Consultant is better at delivering a strong message to your workforce. Programs aimed at creating mindset or attitude change are best handled by outside experts. Even if you know how, “a prophet isn’t honored in his own town. (Luke 4:24).” However, with the plethora of external suppliers in a largely unregulated marketplace, it is daunting to choose your appropriate provider. Stop getting those who have complete disconnect with your business, organization or employees. Don’t patronize those whose claim to fame is customizing Western learning modules or mouthing buzzwords that aren’t applicable to your industry or environment. Ask me.
Managing the learning, education and development function in an organization is like leading a racehorse to the water in order for it to drink. Success in handling the racehorse requires thorough understanding of the horse. Does it want to win? Does it want to improve performance? Does it want to drink? Or are you simply forcing it to drink?
(Ernie is the 2013 Executive Director and 1999 President of the People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP); Chair of the AMCHAM Human Capital Committee; and Co-Chair of ECOP’s TWG on Labor and Social Policy Issues. He also chairs the Accreditation Council for the PMAP Society of Fellows in People Management. He is President and CEO of EC Business Solutions and Career Center. Contact him at [email protected])
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