Overcoming Challenges Through Continuous Learning

Last week, I went to a fantastically informative event, hosted by the Churchill Club, Melbourne. It was about “Developing the Tech Talent of the Future”. New technologies and shifting customer expectations are shifting the business game. In the same way, new platforms, products and services, business models and other emerging creative surprises are, disrupting the learning game. To promote this “sold out” event, The Churchill Cub shared “keeping up with our changing world of work requires access to continuous learning and micro-credentials to attain the bite-sized chunks of knowledge we need. It’s about access to the right content, at the right quantity and quality of choice, in the right time and context and, at the right price”.

How can organisations, academic institutions and especially schools ensure that people have the skills for today, to deliver these types of digital transformation? To also develop the skills required to surmount future challenges, so what then, is the role of continuous learning?

The world has turned upside down

According to Steve Blank, the 20th century was the golden age for corporations. Today, companies face five challenges they never had to deal with previously:

  • Challenge One – As companies are discovering every day, the web has changed everything.
  • Challenge Two – Large companies are dealing with start-up’s that are funded with unimaginable capital.
  • Challenge Three – Today, investors willingly fund start-ups to do anything on day one. Anything. Including break the law.
  • Challenge Four – In a start-up, 100% of the company is focused on innovation and entrepreneurship. In a large corporation, 99% of the company is focused on the execution of the current business model by building repeatable processes and procedures.
  • Challenge Five – In a start-up, if you win, it’s a payout of billions of dollars. In a large company, for the individual, there is no such payout.

A mismatch between supply and demand

So how do we redesign an approach to learning to continuously uncover and cultivate the emerging skills required to confront these challenges?

Where, The Churchill Club stated that already “our largest tech firms report that they are struggling to find the right talent and have resorted to recruiting overseas, or investing in internal boot-camps and academy training for those they do hire locally”.

One of the key points raised at the Churchill Club event, with tech industries represented by realestate.com, and carsales.com, is the growing mismatch between the supply and demand of skilled talent. Especially in developing the capability to design and deliver digital transformations.

If technology is now at the core of everything we do now and will be more so in the future, how can we ensure that talent will be open to continuous learning?  How can we resource them to develop the new and emerging skillsets, innovations and start-up business models to survive and thrive in a VUCA world?

 A new model for education

Interestingly, the panel was hosted by Kee Wong, Managing Director, e-Centric Innovations. Who presented a new model of education, launching soon in Victoria. Aimed at “equipping our talented workforce with the skills required by our domestic tech industry, and more broadly to support our aspirations as a global tech city”.

Based on a simple eco-system concept, it links universities (flexible academic learning), with tech companies (onsite practical application) and content-rich, online learning platforms (data and knowledge). Designed to speedily close gaps between “theory” and “practice” by cultivating commercial acumen, via onsite real-world experiences and open the “glass doors” between experience and performance, and create the space for continuous learning.

New best practices

According to McKinsey, to make a digital transformation more likely to succeed they identified five “best practice categories” which link, essentially to the “basics”- leadership, capability building, empowerment tools, and communication, yet reframed and renewed for digital world success:

  1. Having the right, digital-savvy leaders in place.
  2. Building capabilities for the workforce of the future.
  3. Empowering people to work in new ways.
  4. Giving day-to-day tools a digital upgrade.
  5. Communicating frequently via traditional and digital methods.

Their survey results confirm that developing talent and skills throughout the organization – a fundamental action for traditional transformations – is one of the most important factors for success in digital change efforts.

“Companies that can bridge the gap between the skills they currently have and the skills they’ll need in the future increase their odds of a successful digital transformation by 170%”.

Building core capability

A question raised at the event introduced the notion of defining a set of core capabilities, necessary, for talent success in any current, or likely future job role.

As I am deeply committed to continuous learning and have many years of experience in developing adult learning-based, corporate learning programs, I decided to explore this idea further.  When designing courses, I always centred the meta-design around defining an agreed set of desired core emotional states (feel), mindsets (think) and capabilities (act). I played with integrating this knowledge and skill-set, with my experience in designing corporate transformational leadership and innovation curriculum.  I then researched options as to what this might mean in light of the panel discussion and McKinsey categories and Steve Blanks perspective.

Creativity, agility, resilience, tenacity, and curiosity

Here’s what Steve Blank suggested: “I think innovation and entrepreneurship will become the liberal arts of the 21st century. With the nature of work changing, the core skills entrepreneurs need to know to become practitioners are actually core skills that everybody will need to know to get a job: creativity, agility, resilience, tenacity, curiosity”.

The new war with start-ups for talent

In the past, organisations, acquired university research via the transfer of technology, becoming magnets for the best and brightest students. In the upside-down world that is emerging, this is not always the case.

As evidenced by the high tech panelists at the Churchill Club event, “companies are no longer competing for this tech and talent with their corporate peers, but with start-ups”.

Remember – In a start-up, 100% of the company is focused on innovation and entrepreneurship. In a large corporation, 99% of the company is focused on the execution of the current business model by building repeatable processes and procedures. In a start-up, if you win, it’s a payout of billions of dollars. In a large company, for the individual, there is no such payout.

Emerging skills are evolving faster

The future will involve constant change and unpredictable disruption, being able to sense and respond to shifts as they appear, to thrive and flourish is crucial.

Here are some of our thought starters; what if your organisation invested in…

  • Adopting a systematic approach to identify, measure, and develop emerging skills, by building a learning culture that attracts and engages current as well as next-generation talent?
  • Embracing collaboration and applying eco-system approaches, that potentially link universities (flexible academic learning), with tech companies (onsite practical application) and content-rich, online learning platforms?
  • Developing digital-savvy and people-savvy leaders?
  • Developing a deeply connected core, through effective human interactions and communications, as well as through technology and digital channels?
  • Teaching talent how to cultivate and sustain creativity, agility, resilience, tenacity, curiosity?
  • Coaching talent to apply these core skills “on the job”, continuously learning how to enact the human and commercial acumen that organizations need to succeed?

Join the next free monthly innovation webinar in our Making Innovation a Habit Series – “Adapting and Growing your Business through disruption” It’s on Thursday, 18th July 2019 at 8.00am Sydney & Melbourne, 10.00am Auckland, 7.00pm Buenos Aires, 11.00pm London, 6.00pm New York. In just 45 minutes learn how the business playing field has shifted, and how to lead the way by enabling organisations, leaders, and teams to collaborate, survive and thrive through an exponential change in a VUCA world. Register now.


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janet-sernackJanet Sernack is an ICF ACC accredited executive coach, corporate trainer, group facilitator and culture and change consultant with some of Australia’s and Israel’s top 100 companies. She is the Founder of ImagineNation™ an innovation education company that provides innovation e-learning programs including The Coach for Innovators Certified Program™ experiential learning events including The Start-Up Game™. Follow @JanetSernack

Janet Sernack

Janet is the Founder of ImagineNation™ a coaching, education & culture consulting company who leads the way and helps businesses achieve their innovation goals by challenging businesses to be, think & act differently to create a world where people matter & innovation is the norm.




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