Large companies are accelerating the speed with which they adopt game-changing technologies artificial intelligence, sensors and other Internet of Things gear, big data and analytics, and much more. As a result, many of them are pulling ahead competitively. Why have they been quicker to embrace these new technologies and new ways of doing business? One of their unsung attributes is their top executives ability to continuously relearn what they know about what makes for a great-performing business.
In other words, these companies are steeped in continuous learning at the very top of their organizations the senior executives who devise strategy, control budgets, shape key business processes, and design the fundamental business model. Their ability to constantly learn new things is what is keeping their organizations ahead of the game.
A growing number of companies are investing in change at the top of their organizations in programs that bring top executives up to date on the latest advancements in technologies, applications of those technologies, and business practices. That has helped them become agile organizations companies that can keep up with the speed of change in their markets.
With digital competition forcing established companies to change their business and operating models, their executives must come up to speed with this new world much faster than in the past. The occasional offsite meeting to leading universities and companies no longer is sufficient. Continuous learning is in order.
Companies need learning programs that help executives let go of previously successful approaches that are no longer relevant and learn new ones. Often, the longer a leader has spent in a discipline and the further up the corporate ladder he or she has made it, the more difficult it is to change his or her thinking.
In our work with large organizations across the world, we see a number of leading learning practices going on at the top. Five are crucial, as I discuss in the latest edition of our consulting journal Perspectives:
- Get the best educators from the best sources: Many leading organizations are attracting top-notch business school faculty to lead their executive learning programs.
- Make learning immediately applicable: Content should draw on real-world examples and let executives apply their learning promptly.
- Create education that is irresistible: Leaders must understand why the fastest learners among them outpace their peers, and how they learn.
- Make learning illuminating: Executives have day jobs and short attention spans, so learning must have a wow factor to retain their interest.
- Ensure its convenient: If leaders are to continually learn, the education must be highly accessible.
By putting in place high-quality executive learning programs and encouraging leaders to use them, companies can markedly improve their chances of success in a world that requires continual changes in business models and fresh thinking.