Tag Archives: Lynda Gratton

The one where we’re fiddling while Rome learns

So you’ve all heard the one where the Finance Director asks the CEO, “what if we invest in our people and they all leave?” to which the CEO retorts, “what if we don’t and they stay?” I don’t know who started it but it beautifully sums up the paradox faced by every organisation in considering how and when to invest in their people.

A few weeks ago I attended an event entitled “Democratising Learning” hosted by an emerging business in the learning simulation space Ososim attended by a load of Heads of L&D and OD from a variety of organisations.

The speakers (well at least the first two) were preeminent, London Business School professor Lynda Gratton and former Schools Minster Lord Knight of Weymouth. You can find Professor Gratton’s slides here which are worth a read to see the work she’s done on emerging global trends and the perceived people priorities businesses face. You can find Lord Knight’s slides here and he makes some interesting points about the role of technology in learning and how technology has really driven fundamental changes in less developed parts of the world.

The speakers in the afternoon were myself and Perry Timms and as we didn’t use slides I can say you missed a great show!!

One of the discussions held in break out was what the learning organisation of tomorrow looked like and the summary of the responses looks something like this: (thanks to Leon at Ososim for the summary)

  • Accessible to all
  • Tech savvy
  • Bottom up
  • Collaborative
  • Learning as part of working
  • Covert not overt
  • Sharing across boundaries
  • More than internal
  • Empowering…personal choice
  • Informal and flexible
  • Open, innovative and dynamic
  • Team based…peer to peer
  • Fast, forgiving and fun
  • Focussed on skills, behaviours and application
  • Engaging, inspiring and brave

The next discussion topic was what barriers existed to creating this new learning organisation and the classics appeared feared/lack of courage, resource, funding, buy in, support, resistance, etc, etc and we all moved on and had a biscuit.

The day was really enjoyable and I met some great new people (and reconnected with some I hadn’t seen for a while) but I came away from the day with a lingering notion that we were missing the whole point.

Learning is being democratised whether a bunch of suits sit in a room and decide it or not. People are learning informally and across boundaries. Teams are finding their own learning. Peer groups are using whatever tools available to them to share and challenge each other and let’s face it people are voting with their feet if their work isn’t giving them an opportunity to learn.

A great example from the organisation I work in just last week – we’ve employed 20 new apprentices and before we could get them together to ensure to help them start supporting each other and sharing they’ve already formed a private group on a social network and are communicating with each other. Way ahead of us!

As much as technology is disrupting organisations (and the rest of the world) I can’t help thinking that what we were discussing was not the democratisation of learning but actually the democratisation of learning investment – two very different subjects. I can’t help reflecting that those in our organisations who really want to learn and drive their own careers won’t wait for ‘the machine’ to catch up with them they’ll just get on and find ways to do it whilst the rest of us are writing slide packs to reassure the FD that investing in our people is the right thing to do.




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The one where it’s only just begun

Yesterday I mentioned watching a TEDx video of a session delivered by Professor Lynda Gratton of the London Business School. If you want to watch it just flick back one post. I talked about it starting two streams of thought and here goes with the second.

In the second section of the session Professor Gratton begins to talk about how the states of existence that we can choose from and how they can inform our role in the future. She uses some great pairs to illustrate the polar options. The 3 pairs are:

  • Fragmentation vs. co-creation
  • Isolation vs. Connection
  • Exclusion vs. Engagement

And uses all of them to illustrate three shifts the second of which is towards greater collaboration which she illustrates like this:

o|o vs. o-o

Her thoughts caused me to reflect on my own experiences with social media and networking both online and in-person but also how we as HR professionals have such an important role to play in helping people and organisations in getting over their barriers to move from the left of those pairs to the right.

For me personally the last 4 years have been transformational in the way I engage with people generally but more specifically now my network has grown and keeps growing. Whilst social media has played a huge part in that the really great stuff has been when those online people have become real and have been part of a conversation whether it be just for fun or about something more grow’d up. Yes, social media was part of it but the great stuff was real!

For organisations, with respect to social media, I think we in HR can either kill experimentation stone dead with a well crafted policy and a culture of fear or we can help the organisation ‘blow the doors off it’ by empowering and supporting the education of those within the business to understand how they can use it both for their own and the business’ benefit. Lots written about that and no need to rehash it here

The real shift that will need support I believe is going to be helping individuals within organisations to collaborate both internally and externally. Helping them overcome the barriers – internally power and politics and externally the competitive edge and business confidentiality, to understand how people and organisations can and on occasion MUST work together. This is not just for the ‘right on’ reason of being more collaborative but the absolute necessity of survival.

Professor Gratton talks about recent changes in technology as the biggest shift ever seen (she admits to it being bigger than the industrial revolution her previously highest ranked shift) and my personal opinion is it’s only just begun. Coming back to the thoughts of yesterday you can either walk into blindfolded or have a carefully crafted future but whichever you do people’s capability to adapt and deal with what’s coming has to be key to the people professionals.


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The one with the removable blindfold

Through a random sequence of events this evening I will be having dinner at the House of Lords. Not because I’ve snuck in a peerage whilst no one was looking (next year maybe) but because a group of people need to have a conversation and one of them has a brother who is a Lord… (I’ve polished my shoes)

One of the guests at this dinner will be Professor Lynda Gratton and given she is an eminent individual I thought I would do a little light googling and at least understand a little about her thinking. Luckily for me, last year she participated in a TEDx conference at London Business School and the video of her session is linked below. Having watched it I have been recycling the content in my head and it’s sparked two streams of thought – the second of which comes tomorrow!

In the first section of her session she talks about the notion of considering what kind of world we can construct and goes on to offer the opportunity to stop and think about the kind of life you want to construct. She then lays out two options – the first ‘walk into your future blindfolded’ with no choices or the second to be more thoughtful and have what she terms a ‘crafted future’.

The two options reminded me of a conversation with my then boss a few years ago when she asked me what my career goal was. I ummmmm’d and arrrrrr’d for a few moments to which she replied (in her inimitable fashion) “As I thought this is all happening to you by accident”. She went on to ask me some more questions and challenged me to really think about where I wanted to go and she ended with the following metaphor, “you may want to end up in Edinburgh, you may want Glasgow, you may want Manchester – but at least stop driving around the M25 waiting for a junction to attract you – get on the M1”

If you stop and think about all the decisions you make in your day to day life – which clothes to wear, which parking space to use, what to have for lunch, what to say or not say in a meeting, how to feedback to a given individual etc etc these probably absorb some of your brain space and in some cases may absorb all of it!

Then think about bigger decisions like where and when to take a holiday, where you live, what car to buy etc etc these are probably longer considered but still only partially absorbing.

Then think about the huge decisions – relationships, family, work. How much time do you actually spend thinking about them? If you’re anything like me the answer to that one may horrify you a little bit.

Walking into your future blindfolded? Anyone?

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