Research shows that for experienced people, learning doesn’t happen in the traditional way, which is mostly one-directional. Instead, most of the learning is actually happening in connection to work nowadays. This has big implications for companies aspiring to do leadership and team development.
In their most traditional form, leadership development courses used to be about one-directional workshops and studying preparatory materials in between. Participants would be removed from their work environment for days at a time and would be placed in ‘bubbles’ for good discussions. Of course, discussion is good, but for learning to occur, you actually need much more than that.
Let’s take a closer look at what learning used to look like. Let’s say a traditional programme consists of three different workshops, with the first one taking three full days and the second and the third one both taking two working days. With all the preparations in between, you would get to a total of ten learning days for this setup. This would all happen in a dedicated learning area, detached from day-to-day business.
But what if we reversed this logic? What if we would make the preparation moments part of the learning experience, making these moments more interactive and engaging? What if we made the day-to-day business environment part of this leaning experience? Instead of just a couple of days of learning to execute, you would then get full months of engaging execution. You would learn both within your working environment and during a series of interactive interventions.
Patrick Furu, partner and chief strategist at TalentMiles: “We think that lecturing alone isn’t enough anymore. People have limits to absorbing information and if a lecture is one-dimensional, there’s not so much room to reflect back and implement the new knowledge. Since the world is different nowadays, there’s a need for a different approach that fits this new world. That’s why we do it differently, incorporating the business environment in the learning experience.”
He continues: “Learning at work means changing one’s behavior and that learning requires trying new ways of working and reflecting together with other relevant people, usually one’s colleagues in the team. You can say that as in most workplaces today people work increasingly together on things, learning means that both individuals and their groups need to learn and change together. This happens in the course of everyday work.”
At Talent Miles we have found ways to support managers and team leaders to start and do this learning in and with their teams. One thing we noticed is what good, relevant questions can do for engaging experienced people to want to explore and learn. It is also evident from our work with clients that digital technology can be used in a whole new way, different from just offering e-learning-courses. Using digital technology, you can create learning experiences where people in a company or a team can work and solve complex business-related questions together and get inspired in the process.
Learning to learn
In work life, together with our colleagues, we are learning every day. There are demands to understand and learn more things faster and, above all, much more complex things. Luckily, we can learn how to learn. We can become better and quicker at searching for already existing knowledge. We can learn how to gather information and insights on what is going on with our customers and how together we can change the way we work and think in the team or the company. The new leadership programmes are, increasingly, programmes where knowledge and very concrete ideas for new ways of working are created and put into action at the same time.
The Talent Miles experience is an example of this new approach towards learning. It offers a combination of interactive and collaborative learning-at-work, gamification and supporting digital technology. Participants really take ownership of their own development and their company strategy. Furu: “You should turn the learning process into one where you ask the right questions and then take action together. It’s a collaborative and co-creative process.”
A good example of how we put this into practice is the work we did at Metso, a global Finnish company that supplies machinery and services to mining, aggregates and other process industries. What Metso was looking for, was a solution that would introduce hands-on learning experiences into everyday life of the middle management. They wanted something that would leave a positive and concrete impact on the way Metso leaders work every day, helping them adopt more agile and self-driven ways of working.
For this approach, we blended a series of face-to-face workshops with an online learning experience using the Talent Miles app. A learning coach was there to provide help on the way. This action-oriented concept pushed participants to take action and then reflect on the outcomes together. Action followed by reflection resulted in new insights and learning. Because it was built into everyday work in a smart way, it started becoming a habit and resulted in a new, stronger learning culture in the whole organisation.
This so-called ‘Leadership Quest’ created visible results for both Metso and the managers participating. Magnus Eriksson, Global Technical Support Manager at Metso: “In my opinion the best thing was that the programme was spread out over several months. It made this a part of my daily work instead of having all in one week. I got better time to reflect on our tasks in a much better way.”
By blending learning and doing, we were able to flip the script for Metso and a lot of other companies. For us, learning means realising things about yourself and taking action. Nothing more, nothing less. Working with these thoughts and turning them into action, together with your team, is a very powerful tool to make it stick in the end.
So what about you? Have you ever thought about reversing the logic of your leadership development programme? Have you thought of creating a blended learning experience, using both the work environment and selected moments for knowledge sharing and interaction? We’d be very curious to hear about your experiences so far and welcome all sorts of reactions, including examples of new kinds of leadership. And of course, we’d be happy to share more about our experiences. Simply get in touch with us to start a dialogue.