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Cris Beswick

Author, Speaker + Strategic Advisor on Innovation

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Mobile Learning and Building a Culture of Innovation


When was the last time you used an app? If you’ve got a smart phone or tablet the chances are that you use apps on a regular basis so… congratulations you are a mobile learner! Now for the follow-up question: when was the last time you encouraged the use of mobile learning within the workplace? If the answer is never then you are one of the few organisations that have yet to grasp the vast potential that opens up when apps meet business.

In a survey in 2013 by Brandon Hall Group 73% of organisations were actively involved in mobile learning of one sort or another and 87% planned to increase m-learning use within the following year. More interestingly, 100% of high-performing companies surveyed used mobile learning to a sophisticated degree. In truth, unless your organisation actively bans the use of smart phones within the office then it is hard to escape some form of mobile learning.  What differentiates high-performing, innovation-led organisations from the rest is the way in which m-learning is harnessed as a force for improvement.

As an innovation consultant I’ve often written about innovation drivers and the way in which organisational structures have to change so that the culture of innovation infuses every person and every process. Out go silos and ‘knowledge secrets’ and in comes an open collaborative way of working. Partly this requires a change of ethos, a fresh way of looking at interactions but partly it comes from opening up knowledge pathways and what better way to do this than using technology and mobile learning.

We live in a time in which customers are looking for swift responses and instant solutions and yet 68% of UK Corporates take just as long to innovate and get products to market as they did five years ago. If businesses want to stay ahead of the game then they have no option other than to embrace innovation and that requires embracing Adaptability; in other words increasing the focus on agility which enables business to execute better and faster. And when you want to get your message across fast, when you want speedy responses to problems, what better way than to leverage instant communication for both your customers and your people.

As an aside, ‘Adaptability’ forms part of my latest thinking and working with some of the world’s most successful organisations on what it’s going to take to drive innovation-led growth for the future. It’s something I call the ‘Next Generation Organisation’ and it boils down to three core attributes - Intelligence, Collaboration and Adaptability. The first challenge for organisations is ‘Intelligence’ and moving away from traditional approaches to data and insight. The second challenge is around ‘Collaboration’ and the re-design of cultures, networks, strategic partnerships and increasing co-creation. And the final challenge ‘Adaptability’ focuses on speeding up the commercialisation of innovation in order to bring bigger ideas to market faster.

Click here for my free whitepaper on building a ‘Next Generation Organisation’.

So developing innovation capabilities runs hand in hand with developing new ways of learning. To start off with, organisations may simply encourage access to certain widely available apps but in time as the appreciation of the potential of mobile learning grows companies need to move towards creating their own apps and content which can sit on an internal app store. And thanks to technology the possibilities are endless. ‘How to’ videos may be the start but what about games which teach processes as they are played? Why do assessments have to take place in a formal setting?  How could QR codes be used to take employees instantly to guidance or training materials? And what about delivering innovation workshops virtually so employees from around the world can learn in unison. The online or ‘virtual’ space is also particularly useful for delivering cost effective and efficient innovation programmes and challenges as it more easily promotes collaboration and involvement. This helps when organisations want enterprise-wide participation in innovation and want to benefit from the ‘wisdom of crowds’ and latent knowledge, creativity and skills that in many cases lie hidden inside organisations. In terms of knowledge, learning and participation, mobile platforms also allow people to dip in and out when it suits them, ‘pausing’ their learning or contribution at any time. As we all know, creativity and resulting innovation cannot be summoned or delivered at the flick of a metaphorical switch so allowing flexible contribution, participation and learning is crucial for driving valuable innovation.

Also, using ‘virtual’ tools helps widen the input of insight, ideas and opportunities, especially around innovation challenges and solving problems. That ‘wider’ input can be used by all participants to evolve and iterate ideas so they become fully rounded and scale up. This is essentially what designers do through the design process in terms of sketching, re-designing, mock-ups and small-scale development prototyping.

The truth is that people have moved on from quill pens and into the digital age so isn’t it about time that organisations stepped up? Ofcom research recently revealed that digital news is now more popular than reading newspapers. Millennials are increasingly looking for a blended lifestyle and BYOD is on the rise. To ignore mobile learning is to ignore progress and we all know where that approach leads! 

Innovation is one thing; building a culture of innovation is something else again.  Collaborative and adaptable, delivering exceptional customer experiences and game changing performance it could almost be said that mobile learning and innovation culture go hand in hand.

Every organisation needs to be driving innovation-led growth but few actually do. If you want to be one of the few and a ‘Next Generation Organisation’ and you’ve got a question ask Cris on or visit for more information.

One Response


    I am currently evaluating an exciting new project called MLEARN, funded through the EU'sLifelong Learning programme. MLEARN’s  vision recognises technologies are becoming commonplace within everyday lives but can also be used as powerful tools for learning and development in and outside of the traditional education environment. The project aims to challenge traditional thinking of how education should be delivered in schools.

    MLEARN is an international project to embed mobile technologies within mainstream learning by providing training on hand-held devices for teachers. New technological developments have the power to transform society, the way we learn, work, play, communicate and interact. Teachers are crucial change makers in this process, and it is important to see how they interact with new technological environments (mobile/handheld technologies) in both their engagement and delivery practices.

    Skills gaps identified within teacher training (initial teacher training and in-service training / (CPD)) provide our innovation baseline. Innovation includes new products, a new way to learn (for teachers and pupils) and new potential in harnessing the latest mobile technologies for learning purposes. Innovation includes a model to promote ongoing cascading of new ICT skills within schools supported with formal recognition / accreditation of their new skills within initial teacher training and in-service training/CPD so sustaining the learning within mainstream education. MLEARN moves away from adhoc project based use of handhelds relying on individual teachers’ own passions and skills towards a more strategic and sustainable model


    The aim of MLEARN is to use mobile technologies to aid teaching and learning, embracing rather than discouraging the use of handheld technology in the classroom. Teachers are crucial change makers and, if trained to use mobile technology confidently and effectively in the classroom, can transform learning and teaching in every subject area. The project will challenge teachers to think creatively about mobile learning and develop their confidence to try new ideas within the whole school curriculum. MLEARN aims to:
    -Integrate the use of handheld technologies as a recognised and accepted learning tool within school education (primary, secondary and special schools)
    -Embed the use of handheld technologies within teacher training programmes
    -Pilot the training programme with teachers in primary, secondary and special schools
    -Enable teachers to use their new skills and competences by piloting handheld technologies inside and outside of the classroom in a school based project in subjects and activities of their choice

    The MLEARN Programme will deliver:
    · A training needs analysis to establish need and guide development, now completed by the University of Lancaster, their full research report available on the Titan web site at
    · Training for 5 expert teachers (1 from each country) who have knowledge and experience of integration of ICT in the classroom. This too has just been delivered, but 12 teachers were involved from all partner countries.
    · Equipment (handheld technologies) to be provided for each partner country, to be shared with the teachers and schools recruited into the piloting phase.
    · Recruitment of 10 teachers in each country from primary, secondary and special schools to be trained, in at least 5 different subject specialisms using mobile technologies who in turn will train teachers in their own schools.
    · Case studies of the teachers experiences
    · National accreditation for the teacher training programmes
    · Insertion of the teacher training programme on ECVET
    · Handheld technologies being used in 10 different schools reaching at least 150 pupils in each country to provide evidence of comprehensive testing
    · Sharing the results of the project with at least 100 teachers from schools and teacher training organisations in each partners own country.
    · A transnational conference in Brussels in February 2016.

    Digital technology offers opportunities to engage young people in new, more meaningful/relevant ways and enable their participation in building a more resilient, flexible and creative approach to learning and teaching. These impacts won’t come from the technology alone, but from the way a service is designed, and the values built into it.


    For further information about the MLEARN project, please contact:
    Titan Partnership
    St Georges Community Hub
    Great Hampton Row
    B19 3JG
    United Kingdom

Author Profile Picture
Cris Beswick

Author, Speaker + Strategic Advisor on Innovation

Read more from Cris Beswick

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