Nick Van Dam’s article, The 21st century learning organization rightly emphasizes the growing relevance of learning and development for organizations – and the importance for value creation. Locating this at the top with a chief learning officer is an important signal and instrument.
Nick’s emphasis on 90% informal learning is intriguing because it considers employees as proactive learners. CLOs provide the conditions for learning and perform towards strategic impact. However, in a competitive environment, this will only happen if employees themselves, and collectively in teams and across unit boundaries, proactively engage in continuous learning. Learning has to become an organization wide capability.
The implementation of learning organizations is patchy. Learning organizations may thus not only aim for engaged talent at work, but moreover create motivation and energy for the strategic initiative of creating a learning organization itself – with what we call leadership for productive energy towards key initiatives in organizations.
Finally, research on complexity and change my colleague Dr Sharon Varney and I conduct at Henley Business School adds another direction. Similar to change in businesses, organisations and CLOs can only prescribe learning to a certain extent. Rather organizations learn through processes of self-organisation whereby patterns of learning and development are emerging. CLOs then should develop a key capability: Noticing and interpreting the learning, certifying knowledge creation and talent development that is emerging from within an organization. Then can they can adjust learning architectures that stimulate on-going learning and development for high-performing organizations.
Dr Bernd Vogel, associate professor of leadership and organisational behavior and director Henley Centre for Engaging Leadership, Henley Business School, University of Reading