“This is business.” — Vito Corleone, The Godfather
Business is changing, and the learning function must change along with it.
Rigid, industrial-age corporations are not keeping up with the pace of change. Customer Spring, Shareholder Spring, and Worker Spring may break out any day. Everyone’s mad as hell. They won’t take it any more.
How bad is it? The lifespan of corporations is at an all-time low. The majority of workers are frustrated, unhappy, and disengaged. Shareholders are receiving a lower return on investment than ever before. Customers are fed up with mediocre service. Return on assets has declined every year for the last forty. The only class of people making money are CEOs, and there’s general agreement that their rewards are obscene and inappropriate. We can’t go on like this.
Many people have suggested what business needs to do differently.
Social business, Enterprise 2.0, Radical Management, the Connected Company, Living Networks, Management 3.0, and Working Smarter suggest such techniques as putting the customer in charge, harvesting collective intelligence, self-organizing teams, speedy cycle times, collaboration, transparency, openness, agility, trusting one another, responding to feedback, bottom-up organization, peer learning, web 2.0 culture, and optimizing networks. Until now, most of the people working to bring this about were acting independently.
The Stoos Gathering
Last weekend a group of twenty-one people joined forces on a mountain top in Switzerland to collaborate on coming up with ways out of this mess. Our website tells the story.
Our evolving view is that successful future organizations will become learning networks of individuals creating value. They will become stewards of the living. This is a major break from the past — and an opportunity for L&D professionals to become essential contributors to their organizations.
Learning is no longer optional
Continuous improvement and delighting customers require a culture of pervasive learning. We’re not talking classes and workshops here. Creating a new order of business requires learning ecologies — what we’ve been calling Workscapes — that make it simple and enjoyable for people to learn what they need to get the job done. Companies that fail to learn will wither and die.
As all business becomes social business, L&D professionals face a momentous choice. They can remain Chief Training Officers and instructors who get novices up to speed, deliver events required by compliance, and run in-house schools. These folks will be increasingly out of step with the times.
Or they can become business leaders who shape learning cultures, social networks, collaborative practices, information flows, federated content management, just-in-time performance support, customer feedback mechanisms, and structures for continuous improvement.