We now live in a hyper-connected world. Communication technologies have joined us together across time, distance, culture and country faster than we have developed frameworks to understand each other. In a connected world, the ability to thrive resides in the ability to create strong connections with others — to reach out, build trust, enlist others in a vision and share passions.
Hyper-connectivity has created hyper-transparency, which a learning culture needs to incorporate into its educational programs. The quantum leap in our access to information about almost everything has dramatically changed the playing field in almost every way in life and business. We have begun to judge people and companies in different ways.
We now expect a higher level of transparency from everyone and every company. As individuals and organizations, we no longer control the story that is written about us. Instead, we can only control how we behave, which is the primary influence on how our story is told by others.
The New Competition
Our flattened world has limited previous modes of competitive differentiation. Almost every product, service or process a company creates — our “whats” — can be reverse-engineered by competitors. The “hows” of human conduct are to the 21st century what process re-engineering was to the last.
In the late 20th century, business came to understand and quantify quality. When business leaders realized the soft and subjective aesthetic of quality was in fact hard and quantifiable, they began measuring inefficiencies at every level of production. As a result, everyone got good at quality — so good that it, too, became a commodity.
To thrive today, we can no longer differentiate ourselves based on what we sell to the customer or the processes we use to do so. Instead, we need to differentiate based on the connections we establish with customers and other stakeholders: the experiences we create that engender trust and loyalty.
In this new world, companies must not only communicate their values, they must truly engage their employees in their values and inspire them to live them. When companies understand, embrace and build processes and practices to embed these qualities into their organizations’ cultures, the connections they then make — informed by a deeper set of values — can delight stakeholders and help them reduce supply-chain risk, enhance customer experience, help executives exert greater influence over a highly decentralized global workforce and lower costs and boost revenues.
The Impact of Collective Learning
In today’s world, learning must be a part of the overall business strategy of an organization. Forging a balance between both the value of individual and collective learning will impact a learning culture. One must think about how the workforce approaches ideation and innovation. A mature learning culture encourages innovation and ideas, recognizing that the journey through innovation is a learning experience by itself, even if the idea fails or is never brought to market. Conversely, an organization that views ideation as wasted time and punishes those who dare to question or try alternate solutions can impede the learning culture, shifting attitudes and behaviors of trust.
Failure to recognize the value in supporting employee engagement and communication through learning can stifle the workforce and create knowledge traps. With globalization, remote and disparate regions are at risk of becoming disengaged with the culture, values and fabric of the organization.
A sustainable learning culture embraces change and avoids this potential trap by proactively facilitating communication and virtual collaboration and understanding that these activities have a direct impact on building cross-cultural connections and allowing employees to know their voices can be heard.
The Global Generation
The corporate learning environment is changing rapidly. Organizations are realizing learning is all about the audience. Adopting a global mindset in the design of corporate learning environments is a critical differentiator and will offer a competitive advantage.
The global generation, or “Gen G,” is hyper-connected, complex and diverse. It spans across multiple time zones and regions, creating a growing demand for 24×7 access to tools and services. The Gen G population takes a consumer approach toward education, picking and choosing the learning medium that affords it the best experience. Gen G members view themselves as participants in the learning experience and seek personal relevance and customized plans. They do not merely “listen” to content.
Instead, they interact and engage with knowledge to play an active part in the solution. Globalization has fundamentally changed this generation of learners, driving new requirements around how people work, collaborate and communicate.
Organizational learning communities that support collaborative work are a critical ingredient of building learning cultures. These communities are finding ways to connect and contribute using social networking, knowledge management, virtual collaboration and multiplayer gaming. The emerging trend of collective intelligence is paving the path through building environments of user-created content, collaborative work and instant access to information.
This emergence of collective wisdom gives a voice to global organizational communities. High-impact learning cultures recognize the need to facilitate a culture that encourages idea sharing through tools such as social networking, corporate wikis, blogging and podcasting.
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