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Jon Kennard


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TrainingZone interviews: The OEB keynotes


Ahead of the 21st OEB in Berlin (2-4 December), we got a few choice quotes by way of a rapid email exchange from two of the event's keynote speakers.

Ian Goldin is Professor of Globalisation and Development and Director of the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford. He was Vice President of the World Bank (2003-2006) and prior to that the Bank's Director of Development Policy (2001-2003), and David Price, OBE, is a learning futurist and co-founder of We Do Things Differently, a culture change company. He is a Senior Associate at the Innovation Unit, in London. His recent book, 'OPEN: How We'll Work, Live and Learn In The Future' has been an Amazon best-seller since its publication.

Ian Goldin

What are the three main business challenges in a world of rapidly changing technology and how can L&D teams help? 

  • Understanding the technologies – need immersion and explanation
  • Learning to drink from the fire hose of information – learn to distill information
  • Understand the new interdependencies arising from globalisation – build resilience in connectivity and understand nodes and networks

How has your work with the World Bank informed your views on this? 

I have learnt that both governments and the private sector need to work together.

What are the negative technology trends we need to look out for to avoid a dystopian future brought about by globalisation? 

Automation of jobs could exacerbate unemployment and inequality, DNA sequencing could lead to the spread of new deadly pathogens, robotic weapons could increase the risks of lethal wars.

David Price

Your consultancy is called ‘We Do Things Differently’. What everyday things can businesses do differently to accelerate their shift to improved performance? 

Focus on culture because studies show it is the single biggest determinant of innovation and improved performance - above strategy or other factors. On one level culture is formed intentionally, but on another, it is everyday water-cooler conversations, attitudes, telephone calls to customers - how engaged their workers are. There's no simple actions that businesses can take, but if they're not functioning the way they'd hoped, they should look at their working culture. 

Technology is changing and improving so quickly, but businesses are significantly slower at adopting these changes. What are the future risks for businesses that fail to change quick enough? 

They'll be out of business! The churn rate of companies appearing and collapsing is faster than ever, so not changing isn't an option. Change is not an occasional necessity, but more a mindset. Technology is of course vital in that process of change, but only as far as it levers other - human - values, actions and results. Too many expensive mistakes are made by people investing in technology because of the 'wow' factor. Innovation only happens when the technologies have almost become ordinary, commonplace within the organisation. And that's because they're facilitating the bigger actions, not getting in the way of performance. 

Is what you do now the culmination of a lifetime’s work or did you make a sudden change based on frustrations at the OD of previous employers? 

We can all see our careers clearly looking at the rear-view mirror. I had no career plan, but, looking back, I realise that I was always fascinated in engagement, because not being engaged in your work (and that's most of us) is a terrible waste of human potential. The second thing that drove me was looking 'outside' particularly when it came to learning. We're seeing an explosion in social learning, but formal education and training isn't incorporating it into its structures and philosophy.

Which other speakers at OEB are you looking forward to, if any?

I've heard Cory Doctorow talk before - he's always thought-provoking. I'm also looking forward to hearing Ian Goldin, but half of the pleasure of events like OEB is the people you hadn't heard of, but turn out to be unexpected surprises! 

Author Profile Picture
Jon Kennard

Freelance writer

Read more from Jon Kennard

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