‘Small Is Beautiful’ – A popular quote, derived from the book of the same name, is synonymous with the world-renowned British Economist E F Schumacher,who picked it up from his teacher Leopold Kohr. The 4-part book (‘The Modern World,’ ‘Resources,’ ‘The Third World,’ and ‘Organization and Ownership’ captures the brilliance of the economist, who believed in effective use of technology for sustainable development) was published in 1973, where Schumacher set the context for using smaller and appropriate technologies that were aimed at empowering people. That a title of a book would go on to be listed among the 100-most influential books published since World War II bears testimony to its relevance even now!
Numbers back this as an established fact with research reports and data indicating that the power of ‘small’ is growing ‘big’ in the learning domain. Though Big Data and Internet of Things are terms that are fast becoming the lexicon of learning, the delivery of knowledge or learning solutions has become mobile,small, and handy. Cloud-computing, virtual, immersive learning and augmented reality too are catching up in a big way. These trends have made learners more eager to get into the continuous learning mode.
With information overload, learners need to sieve relevant content. However, in a digitized world of doing business, people have to stay updated on a continuous basis. Hence, content, authoring tools, and learning platforms are also undergoing swift changes with the advent of emerging and disruptive technologies.
It is not surprising therefore, that the mode of learning will see a skewed preference to tablets and smart phones especially with learners remaining keen on exploring all avenues to leverage latest technologies and improve their efficiency and performance at work.
By 2017, usage of tablets and smart phones will rise by 16.5% and 70.5%, respectively, over big brother desktops. Interestingly, according to a Forrester report, 18% of tablet sales are from big buyers rather than for personal use. The not-so-handy and not-so-mobile desktop usage is expected to decline to 13% in 2 years’ time (from 28.7%). Small, trendy, and platform-agnostic smart phones have made the ‘bring your own device’ concept popular. It’s a clear win-win for businesses and people (employees) as a single device is able to offer the ease of a seamless learning experience.
Organizations are evaluating their employees in the continuous learning category on several parameters as the direct benefits are too many to ignore. For instance, employees who are in the continuous-learning category have been able to improve their efficiency and performance by adding more relevant skillsets required for the diverse nature of their jobs. Apart from structured training programs within the organization, the power of technology allows the learners to ‘learn’ on the move and make the best out of the ‘anywhere, anytime’ convenience.
As regards businesses,continuous learning has helped in strengthening the leadership pipeline, core competencies in people, and providing a progressive career path for performers. Employers are therefore willing to look at continuous learning as a strategic component of learning and development as results show 96% positive impact on jobs. Take the case of Nike, a globally well-established footwear brand, which has focused on building great leaders and great team members. The views of its CLO, in a newsletter, highlight the ways and means adopted to put its people in the learning path. Below are a few excerpts:
Nike CLO Andre Martin, who joined the company in April 2014, believes that growth provides incredible opportunity. “But it also creates a space in which there’s no shortage of things you have to do to be a success.”
“As you become better and more focused on how learning plays a part in your growth, you start looking to develop internally the concepts, experience and tools that will be unique to Nike and the ways that we work.”
Martin is still learning through countless hours of research he hopes will kick off a new approach to team skill building — a program that outlines how to be a great team member.
“Everyone loves to focus on leaders: If you build great leaders, you build great teams,” Martin said. “But part of it is focusing on the members of those teams. How do we continue to build leaders who can lead high-performance teams and think harder about core skills of what a team member needs to bring to the table?”
Martin’s team has been able to see what people need to transition between jobs as well as be successful from day one and apply it to a different kind of learning — one that relies very little on skill- and competency-based modules.
According to Martin, Nike’s talent development mission — i.e., his job — is to bring a similar inspiration and innovation to all employees “to unleash human potential and help employees own their own career and get them ready for key transitions so everyone in the organization can do more work that matters.”