Why the HOW Institute?
The HOW Institute will help you answer your “How” questions
HOW to adapt your leadership and management style to a rapidly and constantly changing environment ?
HOW to become a learning organisation by applying new innovative learning strategies ?
HOW to switch from traditional learning to scalable & agile learning ?
HOW to best use the latest technologies such as learning experience platforms (LXP), virtual reality, augmented reality and gaming in your learning activity ?
HOW to upskill or reskill workers to guarantee their future employability ?
HOW to leverage future technologies throughout the value chain today ?
HOW to hire and retain the best talent in a competitive environment ?
HOW to improve worker’s ever more important set of soft skills ?
HOW to outperform your market by putting customer experience first ?
HOW to create a future proof company with sustainable ethics in mind ?
HOW to manage all that change efficiently ?
HOW to define your organisation’s purpose (your true north) in accordance with all stakeholders’ values ?
In summary, HOW to become an agile and learning organisation by innovating and delivering steadily more customer value, in self-organising teams that collaborate together in an interactive network, whilst providing a meaningful shared purpose and an outstanding workplace experience ?
A complex world
The world we live in has become ever more complex since 30-40 years, with yet another considerable acceleration since the turning of the century. This situation has pro-pulsated us in the midst of multiple exponential evolutions and disruptions at different levels: technological, economical, political, social and environmental. As these evolutions are now all exponential in speed and at the same time mutually interacting and amplifying, the planning space has switched from linear to complex. As a result, organisations need to radically adapt their way of leading, managing and learning in order to stay resilient in this highly dynamic and complex environment.
In this VUCA world, most situations are now complex or even chaotic – in personal life, business and in community management alike – in contrast to obvious and complicated situations and thus need different type of attitudes and governance models to deal with. This requires new management paradigms (Agile & Lean) and adequate complexity management frameworks such as the Cynefin model (which draws on research into systems theory, complexity theory, network theory and learning theories).
The rising complexity and exponential transformations that we witness at all levels, create new risks for our societies and economies.
These risks include major environmental threats, geo-economic tensions, large migratory movements, multiple technological vulnerabilities and rising social inequalities that together form a real threat to democracy, economic prosperity, well-being and social peace. The World Economic Forum publishes an annual global risk report that identifies these risks and illustrates the way they interact.
A series of axial shifts
As a result, the landscapes of politics, economics and education have changed. MIT Professor Otto Scharmer, the author of Theory U, a widely acclaimed social technology for managing transformations of all scales and kinds, describes these new realities as a series of axial shifts that require a new matrix of learning and leadership.
Practically, this means that our legacy management and leadership models based on foreseeable planning and strict hierarchies, that all derive from a linear understanding of the world and of business, become obsolete and are being challenged in many ways.
Digital Transformation, AI & Robotisation
Rapid intelligent automation and robotisation of many work tasks and jobs require new types of competencies and skills. At the same time, it will be increasingly difficult to exactly know what to learn as many jobs in 5 years do not exist today.
Also, digital transformation doesn’t work without understanding the interrelationship between digital technologies, people’s behaviours, management culture and processes as well new business models.
As a result, scalable learning is replacing scalable efficiency as the main economic paradigm and the ability to constantly unlearn and relearn will be key in personal and organisational resilience in the digital era.
New organisational models
These fundamental shifts, or how John Hagel calls it, ‘The big shift’ , ask for radically new organisational and leadership models as well as management practices. Agile, Lean, Self-Organisation, Servant & Distributed Leadership, Design Thinking, Cynefin…etc are only a few of the keywords here.
From scalable efficiency to scalable learning !
In the 20th century, large organisations existed to provide scalable efficiency. They existed to make the same widget or execute the same process repeatedly. This size of scale drove down costs, led to greater efficiency and created competitive advantage.
But a world shaped by almost constant exponential change creates near constant disruption; the things we did yesterday won’t be effective tomorrow. We need to constantly adapt. A world of near constant disruption requires near constant innovation. In a world requiring near constant innovation, doing the same thing repeatedly is a recipe for obsolescence. But the mindset, approaches and institutional practices we use, mostly continue to be linear.
As a result, organisations are increasingly being confronted with new and unexpected situations that go beyond the textbooks and operating manuals and require leaders to improvise on the spot, coming up with new approaches that haven’t been tried before.
Skills have a shorter and shorter half-life. While skills are still necessary for success, the focus should shift to cultivating the underlying capabilities that can accelerate learning so that new skills can be more rapidly acquired.
At Google for example, recruiters mainly ignore titles and diplomas. During the recruiting process, candidates are presented a problem to be solved. The way a candidate solves the problem is the only capability that is evaluated, along with social competencies necessary for efficient and engaging team work. In other words, only the capacity to rapidly acquire new skills and capabilities even in areas where the candidate has no prior knowledge along with social and emotional competencies are evaluated. Continental, the tire manufacturer, just to mention another example from a more traditional industry, has adapted its recruiting process in a similar fashion. This way of doing is based on the assumption that hard skills can be rather easily acquired whereas capability gaps and characters trait gaps are more difficult to address.
These new essential capabilities include curiosity, critical thinking, willingness to take risk, imagination, creativity, and social and emotional intelligence. If we can develop those learning capabilities, we should be able to rapidly evolve our skill sets in ways that keep us ahead of the game.
What does this mean for learning ?
Basically, there is a paradigm shift happening from Scalable Efficiency to Scalable Learning. In the 21st century, learning will no longer be an auxiliary function in corporations; rather, it will be the primary reason for all kinds of organisations to exist.
Consequently, developing a scalable learning strategy is one of the most strategic things an organisation can do, as it will be the biggest competitive differentiator in the 21st century. The institutions that will succeed in this Big Shift are those that help everyone to accelerate learning and offer faster learning opportunities to both employees and partners rather than restricting it to a privileged few. An organisation that is not learning faster, will rapidly fall behind.
The way efficient learning happens under these new circumstances is very different from traditional learning paradigms, as we knew them from the 20st century.
It is increasingly about learning on the job and raising the level of work performance. And this is difficult to achieve in a scalable efficiency model.
That new kind of learning is best done in small workgroups that bring together people with diverse skills and perspectives and that help them to form deep, trust-based relationships with each other so that they can feel comfortable trying new things, even if they might not work, and reflecting collaboratively on what worked and what didn’t work.
Learning is not restricted anymore to sending people to training programs. Many studies show that after traditional classroom learning sessions, adults typically retain only about 10%, versus nearly two-thirds when they learn by ‘doing’. Also, most employees say that they don’t have the time anymore to leave work for days of seminars.
Scalable learning also means redesigning the whole work environment in a systematic, holistic way. Not just the physical environment and virtual infrastructure but also the management systems, compensation systems and various other processes. More generally, the digital age asks for a maximum of self management and self organisation, both at the individual employee and the company level.
Also, in the current war for talent in general and for millennials in particular, creating an environment that develops talent and learning more rapidly, will attract the passionate people. Your organisation will be the place to go to learn faster and you will retain your workforce longer as they will be challenged to keep getting to that next level. Organisations that will learn the fastest are those that manage, catalyse, and amplify the passion of the people involved in that institution.
Agile Learning as a new paradigm
The new learning paradigm that emerges as a reaction to these new realities is often referred to as ‘Agile Learning’. So what are the (many) different characteristics of Agile Learning ?
Here’s a non exhaustive answer :
- Agile Learning consists of different learning formats, digital and non-digital, within a designed frame of possibilities, where learners can define their individual learning curricula following emerging and contextual needs, where they can learn autonomously, alone or in groups of peers from the inside and/or the outside of the organisation where each member of a group helps the other one to achieve his/her competence target, all in the flow of work, under the loose supervision of a learning path coach when needed.
- Agile Learning increases employee satisfaction, motivation, experience and performance
- Agile Learning changes the role of the traditional classroom teacher to the role of a learning path coach
- Agile Learning is blended (digital and non-digital) and social (mostly happens in groups)
- Agile Learning consists of micro-learning (short tutorials on demand), macro-learning (larger curricula mostly for certification), classroom learning (usually only a small percentage of total learning activities) and individual coaching and mentorship.
- Agile Learning makes extensive use of new collaborative and distributed technologies such as LMS (Learning Management Systems), social collaboration tools and more recently highly engaging Learning Experience Platforms as well as consequent learning analytics.
- Agile Learning requires external expert content as well as user generated content
- Agile Learning embraces new innovative learning frameworks such as WoL (Working out Loud) circles (and Learn OS circles as an extension), Communities of Practice (CoPs), learning expeditions, job rotations…etc.
- Agile Learning is part of agile management which is the new management paradigm for the VUCA world: constantly creating customer value in self-organising teams, connected through transparent interactive (open) networks, within loose hierarchies and using the latest collaborative technologies. Agile Learning thus requires the agile mindset to work out.
- Agile Learning increases an organisation’s or an individual’s intellectual capital, thus raising his/her/its market value.
- Agile Learning is an essential lever for becoming a true learning organisation in the sense of Peter Senge’s ‘The Fifth discipline’
- Agile Learning favours social learning and experiential learning which prove being significantly more efficient than formal learning
- Agile Learning will be the most strategic activity within HR departments and cross-functional HR value-streams, and these will become the most strategic activity within organisations as a whole knowing that scalable efficiency (accounting & finance departments ruling) is being replaced by scalable learning as the main driver for organisational performance and development.
See how we at the How Institute can support you in becoming a true learning organisation by embracing scalable learning and by designing agile learning environments & curricula.