Learning

Will We Ever Learn?

1WillWeLearn_Image_DD_Alt_flat-1024x683-1
In today’s fast-changing world, we tell ourselves that learning is the most important skill anyone can develop.

Why, then, don’t more organizations encourage their employees to embrace continuous learning?

We’re living in an era of disruption. Yesterday’s print co-ordinator is today’s SEO expert. Bank tellers are financial consultants. Executive assistants are now project managers. And who knows what new skills and outlooks we’ll have to learn next!

Most companies now know they have to change, quickly and constantly, to adapt to new opportunities, technologies and consumer behaviors. But the people who will actually transform these organizations, from the front lines to the executive suite, aren’t getting the tools they need to embrace and lead effective change.

Yes, I’m biased. I’ve spent 25 years helping organizations raise their people’s performance levels through strategic learning and development. I’ve seen companies evolve from offering rote, task-oriented training (with titles such as “Effective Customer Service,” or “Excel for Non-Accountants”) to creating whole libraries of self-guided content that focus not on tasks, but on professional habits and attitudes.

Most organizations, however, still see “learning” as “skills training.” And while they might insist it has always been a priority, “training” has usually been seen as a low-impact, reactive cost centre. So it comes as no surprise that most businesses lag when it comes to helping employees learn the new attitudes and perspectives they need to become agile, creative contributors in the changing digital workplace.

Today’s business world demands that employees, managers and executives all understand and embrace new tools, techniques and models for creating business success. Growing emphasis on innovation, time to market and error-free service requires that all staff know how to create ongoing, exceptional value for customers, and remedy problems on the fly. But you can’t pick this up in a “lunch and learn.” Organizations today have to make perpetual learning, at all levels, an ongoing priority.

We can’t afford to get this wrong any longer.

In 1990, MIT systems scientist Peter Senge wrote The Fifth Discipline, a book that explored businesses’ need to become “learning organizations.” His logic was flawless: As businesses become more complicated, management must move beyond skills training to personal mastery – a discipline that includes clarifying and deepening one’s personal vision, focusing one’s energies, and developing patience. Then, said Senge, business must go several levels deeper and focus on building shared vision, emphasizing team learning, and adopting systems thinking.

Unfortunately, few businesses mastered these new ways of tapping employees’ full creativity and engagement. Which explains in part why aggressive young companies such as Amazon, Google, Facebook and Tesla now have so many established industries on the run.

As more and more companies face the challenges of technological and market disruption, senior management has to try again. True leaders must take over the file for organizational learning. What’s the point of developing a bold new strategic plan if you don’t invest in the learning and the culture that will enable employees to carry it out?

At Icicle Learning, we work with C-suite executives to develop custom-learning solutions. Whether you are rebranding, striving for innovation and intrapreneurship, or gearing up for tough new global competition, we use applied learning to support your whole team with new tools and new ways of thinking, focused directly on your changing needs and strategies. This increases employees’ resilience and buy-in, making your transformation more solid, successful and enduring.

When companies embrace perpetual learning, anything is possible. You can turn on a dime, innovate, and delegate. You can explore new frontiers with confidence. The sky is the limit because you are constantly building and reinforcing alignment, resilience and trust.

In the weeks ahead, I will be writing more posts on this topic, giving examples of the transformations I have been involved with, and outlining the steps you can take to master business renewal. It starts with one idea: your employees are partners in change. They want to know what the next step is, and how they can help.

Don’t let them down.

Next month: The Challenge of Innovation: Why learning must become an essential part of corporate strategy.

No comments

Shining a Spotlight on Barry O’Grady.

Screen Shot 2018-01-11 at 2.54.47 PM

Our Vice-President, Marketing and Brand Experience, Barry O’Grady brings global, award-winning marketing expertise to Spyder Works’ clients.

Everyone knows that the toughest battles in marketing are fought in the grocery aisles. If you can win market share from Procter & Gamble and Colgate, you’ve got what it takes. Barry has done both while managing domestic market and global marketing responsibilities for brand powerhouses like Unilever and Mars Incorporated.

His goal is to help your company connect with its markets more deeply and personally, using the best strategies, storytelling and interactive marketing tools. “After running major brands for multinationals, I now help clients find the true potential in their businesses,” Barry says. “It’s all about helping you see an exciting, achievable future.”

Barry is a decorated marketing veteran, having fought bravely in the Cat Food Wars and won the Battle of the Soaps. The minstrels still sing of his work for Dove Beauty in Canada, which had long languished behind Ivory, the market leader. He says he’ll never forget the day Dove passed Ivory as Canada’s No. 1 soap brand. More importantly, his work on “Canada’s Classic Beauty” which valued the holistic beauty of real Canadian women set the stage for Dove’s ground-breaking “Real Beauty” campaign. Coming out of Canada and spreading around the world, that campaign not only sold more soap, it redefined how marketers engage with their target audiences. “Dove was 20 years ahead of its time,” says Barry. “It was exciting, fresh, different. We weren’t playing a conventional marketing role. We were empathizing with the reality of everyday women.”

Empathy drew Barry into consulting. He loves putting himself in his clients’ shoes, to understand their struggles and the needs of their customers. “I stand for input, dialogue, consensus, and high-trust relationships,” he says. “My clients sleep better at night knowing the consultants they’ve engaged are solving the real problem, not just putting words on paper.”

Barry’s rigorous approach to marketing and brand strategy is a catalyst for customer engagement. Or as Spyder Works CEO Ken Tencer puts it: “Barry transforms consumers into brand advocates in an age where the voice of the brand is increasingly coming from the mouths of its customers.”

“Spyder Works solves clients’ real problems in unique ways,” explains Barry. “I can start the change process by helping clients write a new strategy. The rest of the team can take it further, through design to production and leadership development. We’re operational and strategic.”

Barry’s dedication shone brightest the day he enrolled in a course on “Fundamentals of Digital Marketing” at Sheridan College. He was probably the oldest student in the class. He was by far the most experienced. But he was delighted when his prof, aware of
his background, con rmed that the role of digital media is to uniquely amplify all the principles of great marketing – establish connection, interaction and loyalty – that he learned from working with the world’s best consumer-product companies.

What else can we tell you about Barry? He’s into yoga, and mindfulness. And he’s happiest when the Toronto Blue Jays are winning.

But the wins he likes best are those of his clients. A few years ago, he was hired by an independent producer of creamy salad dressings to develop strategies for addressing consumers’ growing appetite for healthier foods. Soon after, the company was acquired by a major U.S. food brand. Barry was over the moon to learn this multinational had bought his client mainly for its strong position in the wellness segment, which would now be exported to the rest of its international divisions. Talk about impact!

Says Barry: “It blew my mind that I had created that much value for the client in eight months.”

We could tell you more: about the way Barry turned around the Whiskas cat-food brand in the United States for Mars, Inc.; how he launched six products for Green Giant; how he restructured the sales teams for M&Ms, Skittles and Snickers; and how he re-energized a whole division by implementing a “50 Day Challenge” that generated 300 new product ideas. But we think you should hear it from him.

Give Barry a call at <a href=”tel:9056088845″>905.608.8845</a> x 32, or email him at <a href=”mailto:bogrady@spyder.works”>bogrady@spyder.works</a>. Put all that success, experience and empathy to work for your brands.

No comments