What I learnt about learning.

Transforming something that’s already good is indeed a huge challenge and it needs a very different mindset and very competent set of people (as your team) who are highly skilled in making major transformations happen. I have observed that business and functional transformation has fast evolved as a center of expertise in many organizations and in some organizations it is also evolving as a permanent function. The landscape of learning (What, Why, How, When and Where of Learning) has changed significantly over the last one decade and some of the major paradigm shifts have happened due to the following:

1. There have been new research outcomes and suggestions in the area of neuro science and human learning that has helped us understand how people learn and hence it has compelled many to re-think their learning interventions and designs.

2. The advent of technology and disruption caused by the digital and social media has turned the concept of training and classroom learning upside down. Today, the technology of Learning Management Systems (LMS) has beautifully evolved from systems of record to platforms of sharing, networking, knowledge management and hence learning. The LMS functionality and its apps have made them a superior platform for learning on the go. Smooth dovetailing of the LMS with the HR ERP is helping connect the learning function with the overall competency-based HR processes of the company.

3. The unique needs, styles and aspirations of the millennials and younger generational workforce members have compelled many organizations to re-think their learning function and its offerings. The whole shift from traditional classroom-based training to mixed models of learning such as on-the-job, coaching and mentoring, open source learning platforms on the internet is picking up rather fast and every company needs to have a clear strategy, plan and a technology platform that can cater to this.

4. Sustained economic uncertainty has compelled organizations to become more efficient with the learning and capability building investment. Theoretically speaking, learning is still a discretional spending. However, many have learnt that not having the right capabilities, skills, competencies and knowledge makes today’s knowledge workforce inefficient and unproductive and that severely affects the organizations’ performance and perpetuity.

It is important that the learning function takes advantage of the fast evolving digital and social tech platforms. You better be continuously innovating and learning or you will soon become irrelevant to your audience and learners. For instance, 20 years ago not many would have imagined that high-street banking will die and all those beautiful bank buildings on the high street will become cafes, bars or boutique shops. Because of the shift towards online banking, the banks with the best online banking products, solutions and service and security will survive and win. Similarly, not many imagined that you would not have to buy a newspaper or watch television at home to keep pace with the world and its news. Today, I don’t buy a newspaper and watch television for news!! Look at what’s happening to the retail sector. I had never imagined shopping suits or shoes online, but today I do and it works well. Hence, make sure you have team members who are tech savvy and have the necessary skills and competencies for leveraging the best in class technology and social networking/learning platforms.

Moving from Instructional Design (ID) to Learning Experience Design (LED)

Companies and vendors still talk about instructional design (ID) as the core of learning content development. ID was at the core when the dominant medium and channel of learning was the classroom, where the belief was that the instructor or teacher is detrimental to one’s learning. Charles Jennings, my good friend and the father of 70:20:10 learning principle and framework helped me understand and learn how important and fundamental this learning principle and framework is. 70 +20 = 90% of your LED should be on the job with leader led support and just 10% should be formal (Classroom + E-learning). E-learning modules, even if they are available on the mobile, are categorized as formal learning offerings. One of my biggest learning was in the area of designing action learning offerings for people to learn on-the-job. The difficult part in doing this is designing and ensuring a standardized way for the leaders to coach and support their employees whilst they are in action learning mode. I must say that I continue to learn in this area every day. Another important learning for me was that the company has to make some clear strategic choices about what they will do themselves versus what they should buy from vendors especially in the area of learning content development. We built a small but a powerful content development organization in Pune for the Philips University and they are more a COE, where they do develop some of the learning content for Philips University but their primary role is to ensure quality of learning design and content for all learning offerings of our company and develop strategic vendors for the bulk of learning offerings. It works very well and I am blessed to have a fantastic team of highly competent and skilled people who are making a huge difference.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast

I had once blogged on this topic and in my opinion it’s important when it comes to learning too. You can create the entire infrastructure and build all the technology platforms, but if you don’t work on creating a learning culture, culture where learning is sought, supported and celebrated – you will fail in achieving the desired impact of learning in any organization. Leader led learning is a very strong trait of any organization’s culture. It’s when leaders of the organization own, support and drive learning versus the Learning COE. Learning COE should be the enabler and the value creator and not the owner of learning. Building a learning culture is by far the most difficult thing when you are transforming learning and one my learnings is that it takes time to build the culture. It’s a journey – but you have to be at it.

1. Don’t confuse learning with leadership development. Learning is a sum of many parts, while leadership development, talent management, culture building, capability building, leveraging technology are some of the important parts. If you don’t embed leadership development under learning and treat and manage it separately – you might end up confusing the organization and there might be duplication of efforts.

2. Run your learning like a business. Most progressive companies invest significantly in learning and as the Chief Learning Officer you are managing significant budgets. Business acumen, the ability to manage P&L and be operationally excellent are pre-requisites for any CLO. Fortunately, I had done line roles in the past and had the experience of managing P&Ls and large budgets, but I learnt how to run learning like a business, which creates value for its stakeholders and measure its impact on the organization and its eco-system. The five practices of excellence—Project Management, Process Management, Change Management, Performance Management and Continuous Improvement—are fundamental in managing a large scale learning transformation program. Make sure you have the best-in-class people owning and leading each of the above-mentioned practice and apply lean and design thinking as you build the ‘Learning Machine’ for your company and run it like a business.

In conclusion, learning is indeed a very specialized subject and it has some very specific technical nuances, which one needs to learn. However, it’s not rocket science if you have a strategic mindset, are operationally savvy and have the will and wherewithal to learn and innovate. It takes time to transform learning and create a learning culture and in my experience it takes about two to three years to manage a project well. The transformation journey has its moments and every moment and experience over the past two to three years has been learning for me. If I was asked to do it all over again, I would say a BIG YES and will be able to do it more smartly because of my learning about learning.

I am re-blogging this article, which was carried by People Matters, a leading HR Magazine and learning resource for Human Resource Professionals. The original article can be accessed at http://goo.gl/VnUIsF 

What’s going on in the windmills of your mind?

Windmills

In the windmills of your mind…. this iconic song from the Thomas Crown Affair movie (1968, Steve McQueen & Faye Dunaway) was originally sung by Noel Harrison. As often found common with other rare melodies, this one has a touch of Mozart (The opening is borrowed from his work) is composed by legendary French music composer Michel Legrand, English lyrics by Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman. In the re-make of the movie (1999, Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo) it is sung by Sting. This song has been on the playlist of almost every well-known chamber, symphony or philharmonic Orchestra. Other celebrity singers such as Barbara Streisand, Tina Arena, All Angels, Eva Mendes, Neil Diamond, Petula Clark, etc, have sung and recorded this song in various versions and languages (Lyrics and tune remain the same). It’s an epic!!!

When I like a song and if it stays on my playlist for years, it’s often coz of its terrific composition and seamless blending of superb lyrics, music, vocals, tune, harmony and the overall rhythm of that melody!! And this one has it all. In the movie the song is playing in the background and shows how the protagonist is dealing with his own thoughts and emotions, Thomas Crown is a rich and accomplished person who is seemingly bored with his life and for thrills sake he plans and executes heists and does it in style and challenges himself in order to challenge others who are in the pursuit of catching him. A smart mind leaning towards or flirting with the dark side and yet isn’t dark!!  One thing you wished is, if you found out and knew what and how other people think, especially the ones with whom you have little or no communication. Having communication with a person isn’t a guarantee to accurately know how he or she thinks!!!

This song is very poetic and allows us to interpret it – in our own unique way. This song is a classic depiction of how a human mind deals with its own motivations and temptations. Motivation and Temptation are two things (and not just words) that most people need to be aware of and deal carefully with. Motivation is generally understood as “the basic reasons that drive our acts and behaviors”, whilst Temptation is generally understood as “Inclination towards a sin”. The core meaning of both is very close if not similar.

One cannot, at least yet explain how the human mind works. There has been massive scientific research and now there is a reasonable understanding about the human mind but they are merely suggestions and there isn’t yet any conclusive explanation or finding. Hence as they say, Human mind is a very complex organ and as David Rock says, every brain thinks like a map yet it thinks very differently. Many are or have tried to study and interpret the human mind by observing and understanding human behavior and feelings and then they extrapolate or correlate those to how they must emanate from a thinking process of an organ know as mind (brain). Of course what seems to be clearly established is that, the way you think affects the way you feel and the way you feel affects the way you act and behave. The Think – Feel – Act & Behave chain of links and process.

I like the work done and presented by Stephen Covey, in which he clearly explains the way you can change and influence your and others behavior by influencing their thinking. If you want to change a behavior or a habit then change the way you think and the behavior will in-itself change.

What’s goes on in the windmills of the mind of senior leaders and employees of a corporation or an organization can impact the culture, performance, value system, existence and perpetuity of that organization. Yet we are so focused on assessing, evaluating, rewarding behaviours and the results (which we term as How and What of Performance Management). In fact the fountain head of How (Behavior) and What (Results) is the mind. Thinking is what happens in the windmills of the mind of every person. Organizations that focus, work and believe in shaping the thinking of the employees via using cognitive learning techniques are likely to prosper as opposed to others.

So, listen, feel and know what’s happening in the windmills of your mind… and live and enjoy the song and music of life.

A song that beats the “Windmills of your mind…” the one for me is, “Tusi Na Cosa Grande Pa Me…” have you heard it, if not, do listen to it 🙂

Image Above is Courtesy: A Pic of the Video Clip on YouTube by Petula Clark – Windmills of Your Mind

Astachal and My Art and Habit of Self-introspection

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I enjoyed this view almost every evening for about a decade (from 1975 to 1985) at the Gwalior Fort in India (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gwalior). I was then studying at the prestigious boarding school in India, The Scindia School Gwalior (http://www.scindia.edu/). Whilst at school we had a very important and a beautiful ritual, which was the evening prayer congregation of fellow students. This congregation used to take place at “Astachal” the amphitheater of the school. The setting was very serene, scenic and simply beautiful, the amphitheater has a large size statue of Mahatma Gandhi which further overlooks the city of Gwalior with the hills and the sky in distant background (http://www.scindia.edu/asthachal.php). The timing of the evening prayer congregation at Astachal was usually synced with the sunset time of the season.

What I learnt and imbibed as a young student at Astachal was something unique, which serves me well even today and its become my daily habit of doing silent introspection. Whilst introspecting, I look within myself, get in touch with my own feelings and emotions and I ponder over my day; what went well, what didn’t go well, what I did for and to others, what others did for and to me, what made me laugh, happy, exited, sad, etc, etc. I hand over my sad and bad part of the day to my god and during the process of introspection I make resolutions, promises to self and plans for the next day. Every evening after the introspection, I feel the lightest and second best. The day after when i wake up and get ready for the day, I feel the best!!

Since I seem to have achieved some success (at-least my wife and children think so – coz we have grown up together!!) in my career. For the past one decade or so I have been operating as an senior executive in the corporate world – the pressures and stress has only increased and trust me, its always high. There are various things that help me deal with the pressure and stress and this ritual and habit of silent introspection that I imbibed at the Astachal is my daily antidote.

Today I live and work based out of three cities and two continents, every month at a minimum I travel to at least four countries in four different continents, I have a beautiful family that I love, a terrific team that I care for and a fantastic career that I value and to keep it like that, I have to work very hard, make efforts to stay physically and mentally fit and be sincere and true to myself and others. I guess, everybody needs a spiritual fix these days and may be this is my fix, which, I found and imbibed at the Astachal. Last week, when I was having a session with my coach and mentor, I was made to realize that this silent introspection habit is a strength and not many can do it effectively. When asked, how I do it well and effectively. I answered and gave the entire credit to my school, my fellow students, teachers and the ritual I picked up at the Astachal 28 years ago!! so what does this silent introspection help me achieve? it is helps me achieve the five following things:

1) In a meditative form in just 20 mins, I can re-cap my whole day and assess the positive and negative happenings and the related emotions (today not at Astachal but on a flight or in the back seat of my car). I get in touch with my feelings and emotions everyday. Hence, I let go off my negative feelings and emotions every day and I don’t carry them forward.

2) I feel chuffed about my positive feelings and emotions and plan to make them a part of my next day. Helps me stay positive and bright.

3) I apologies to people without any ego, if I have caused them grief and I thank and appreciate people who have helped me and made me feel good, and on almost a daily basis.

4) Most important, I am ready and prepared to have courageous conversation with people who have given me grief and have tried to erode my esteem. I don’t take it lying down!

5) I have a very peaceful and a light evening and enjoy my drink 🙂 and go to bed with reduced stress and pressure.

I dedicate this blog to Mr Chatterjee, our school music teacher who used to often lead us at the Astachal and sing songs such as “Door kahin jab din dhal jaye…” and “Surya asth ho gaya, gagan mast ho gaya…” I still know all these songs by heart. Simply beautiful!! 🙂

Here are a few more pics of Astachal (Courtesy some fellow school boy who clicked them and put them on the web. Thanks mate!!)
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