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Kerryn Kohl

The Coaching House


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Building a SADEL organisation: the individual learner


Building a Self-Directed, Agile, Digital, Exponential, Learning (SADEL) organisation is critical to survival in a digital world. In part 3 of a 5-part series, organisational behaviourist and learning strategist Kerryn Kohl takes an in-depth look at the framework required to build this type of organisation.

In part 2 of this 5-part series, I outlined the model of the SADEL organisation. Over the next few instalments in this series I would like to drill down and bring each element of the framework into clearer focus. In part 3, my focus will be placed on what lies at the heart of this model: the individual learner.

Recently I had the pleasure of assisting a client in developing a digital learning path for their operations area. The learning path kicks off with an orientation session in which we deliver some hard messages about the future and how we can be ready to embrace industry 4.0. Although I don’t know if I am fully ready for this yet!

While we know that AI is not going to be able to do everything as well as humans, especially when it comes to complex decision making, machines are becoming increasingly capable of learning. As such they are set to transform our lives, and at this point we have no idea to what extent our world of work is going to change, nor how quickly this will happen.

Keeping ahead of the game

In my view the only way we can stay ahead of machine learning is to become learning machines ourselves. We have to be able to learn, unlearn and relearn at pace if we want to stay relevant.

Our ability to adapt at pace is what will determine our survival in this new world. We are living through and co-creating the Fourth Industrial Revolution and our ability to learn lies at the heart of this revolution. It is about how we as a species will adapt.

(If you haven’t yet seen the World Economic Forum’s documentary on the 4th Industrial Revolution, you can watch it here.)

We need to realise that people need time to learn and that, yes, learning happens at work. It should not be seen as a separate external event.

Biologically, adaptation is a natural learning process that we do instinctively. The question is, if we can do this naturally on an individual basis, how can we use our learning teams to mimic this natural human ability to learn at scale within our organisations?

We are already seeing the rise of the new breed of learner, we (and I am speaking from the vantage point of the X generation) are ourselves already transforming into this new breed of learner, we are supreme multitaskers (often to the point of adrenal fatigue), we are “always on”, we expect feedback and service to be immediate, we want our learning to be on demand and just in time – everything we need to know needs to be one click away!

There are three core groups of learners

When we think about how to enable our learners and their learning at scale within our organisations, we need to consider that there will always be three groups of learners that we will encounter. The first group refers to those that don’t want to learn. They are comfortable with the status quo and nothing we do will shift them. I do not know what future lies ahead for them.

The second group of learners are the minority who just get it. These are the high flyers. They know what they need to do to stay ahead of the pack and find a way to do so regardless of barriers.

The third group of learners, the majority, sit somewhere in the middle of these two groups. To enable these two groups we need to drive a culture of self-directed learning.

In our future world of work, defined by sudden and continuous disruption, multiple careers and fast-paced advancements, we need unlimited, unrestricted access to learning. However, before we can embrace and benefit from unrestricted learning at either an organisational or individual level we need to develop our ‘self-directedness’ and we need to be empowered to do so.

Self-directed learning is paramount

The potential to be self-directed exists within us, but the capability must be developed and enabled. While self-direction is a skill and a learned behaviour, its development is often stifled within organisations, especially hierarchical ones.

We must focus on allowing learners to develop their self-directedness, and enable it through true empowerment practices. This is easier said than done.

When you overlay the accelerated learning methodology with a digital learning platform and include predictive analytics, learning becomes supercharged and hyper-individualised.

In the 2015 Towards Maturity Annual Benchmarking report we see that 76% of learners learn online in order to do their jobs faster and better and 75% for personal development. However this seems to be a great balancing act as 63% lack the time for self-study. For me I see this as our biggest stumbling block especially when it comes to operational environments.

To build self-directed learning capability we need a shift. We need to realise that people need time to learn and that, yes, learning happens at work. It should not be seen as a separate external event, instead learning should be seen as a continuous journey delivered through crafting sexy accelerated learning paths driven by digital platforms that offer hyper-individualised, just-in-time, on-demand learning.

Harnessing the accelerated learning methodology

Using accelerated learning methodology overlaid with a digital learning platform is a key enabler for learners. It is about adopting a systemic approach that speeds up and enhances both the design process and the learning process. And it is effective because it assumes that we are natural learners and taps into this natural way of learning.

Our potential as natural learners is unlocked through this whole-brain, whole-person, whole-system approach. This methodology maximises the four Rs of learning – Repetition…Recall…Review…Reinforcement.

One small caveat here is that repetition needs to be varied to promote deep learning with understanding.

When you overlay the accelerated learning methodology with a digital learning platform and include predictive analytics, learning becomes supercharged and hyper-individualised, because by its nature digital learning reinforces our natural learning ability. It gives us as learners control over what we learn, how fast we learn, when and where we learn.

In essence digital learning overlays the four R’s mentioned above with the four Ps Preference…Pace…Place…Path. This together unlocks our potential as natural learners because it encourages autonomy, curiosity and self – paced learning! All characteristics of our new breed of learner!

I would love to hear your thoughts and insights on the above. Let’s start a conversation!   


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