4 Ways Technology Can Bolster Executive Education and Impact Company Strategy16 March, 2015 / Articles
In a recent post, I explained that executive education is falling short today because it pulls busy executives away from day-to-day work rather than providing context-relevant learning that equips them to solve the business challenges they face every day. Although the challenge is obvious, and the opportunity, profound – solutions haven’t come as easily.
Ten years ago, many saw online learning as a panacea. More recently, MOOCs for business have been held out as the solution du jour. As CEO of a learning technology company, and a student of learning in organizations, I’ve witnessed the hype cycles and emergence of new models firsthand. The good news is that historic investments in online learning have taught us a lot about what works — and more importantly, what doesn’t.
Today’s corporate learning bears little resemblance to approaches embraced just 5 years ago. Smart strategies are blended, gamified, and social. And smart companies, like Coca-Cola and MasterCard, are providing a deeper, more meaningful learning experience for leaders across their organizations. Fortune 500’s most innovative chief learning officers understand that technology can enable executive education and development that meets leaders where they are, and delivers a direct impact on company strategy. Here’s how they’re doing it:
- Providing access to experts. For the last fifty years, most companies were forced to select just a few rising executives for the opportunity to continue their education with leading minds at institutions like Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton. The impact of these programs was, by definition, limited. Today, however, technology allows organizations to share the insights of top thinkers on supply chain leadership development, sales negotiation, and employee engagement. But it’s not just about expert content. Today’s corporate learning tools leverage innovations in consumer tech to move beyond static, one-way presentations—pairing expert content with expert facilitators who can help busy leaders to not just understand, but activate leading-edge business research, theory, and strategy.
- Delivering problem-based learning. The most effective learning organizations tailor content based on industry- or vertical-specific case studies and projects that address a specific enterprise challenge. As industries continue to change at break-neck pace, Netflix-like content curation helps corporate leaders adjust and measure the impact of content on-the-fly so that it’s continually based in problems and examples that are relevant to today’s challenges and opportunities.
- Integrating learning with work. Learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Today’s corporate learning occurs on-demand, as a part of one’s job—not in isolation at a week or weekend-long residential program. The historic distinction between strategy setting – and strategy activation – has collapsed. When the lines between learning and doing are blurred, employees are equipped to make a real impact on business outcomes. Real-time delivery requires an unbundling of content. Today, we’re helping companies to deliver courses in multi-modeled, bite-sized chunks that keep the pace with real business decisions, and enable employees to apply their learning instantly.
- Getting serious about social. The success of any company comes down to the employee’s ability to collaborate and work with others. Corporate learning has to build not only content knowledge of employees, but also social skills. Corporate leaders of tomorrow are not just digital –but social natives. They understand how to tap the collective genius of friends and peers; skills that translate well into the workplace. Social learning networks bring people together across the company, giving employees tools to connect, form networks and share ideas. The effects are particularly profound with millennial workers. Grouping learners together in social networks that mimic real workplace teams can enable employees to further their professional development, amplify contextual learning and improve decision making.
As I’ve mentioned in past blogs, not all technology is equal. But technology is a powerful tool when incorporated as a part of work-integrated approach to developing new leaders. The best corporate learning I’ve observed blends together best-in-class content with pedagogy rooted in the science of learning—and technology makes such an approach possible for organizations today. Companies that can pivot their learning strategies stand to benefit from a new generation of engaged, equipped leaders.