Friday, August 05, 2011

How A Coffee Guy Learns From A Computer Guy - Via Conversation

I am listening to Onward by Howard Schultz. It is about the return of Howard Schultz to Starbucks as CEO. There is no high drama in the book. However there are some very interesting things from a learning and development point of view.

Looking at this picture makes me long for cold coffee...
When Howard Schultz wanted to learn about the experiences of a second time CEO, he reached out to Michael Dell, someone who returned to Dell Computer as CEO for the second time, and had a conversation with him. After the conversation, Howard even borrowed the 'Transformation Agenda' document from Michael to use it during his second stint as CEO of Starbucks. Howard was doing two things. He was learning by conversation with an expert on the topic. Howard was also borrowing artifacts that Michael created for use as a template or guide.

I was delighted to learn about this because I strongly believe that conversation is the best learning technology on earth, people copy what other successful people do and people want other successful people to mentor them on specific topics or assignments.  Some of these beliefs significantly influenced the design of Career OnDemand.

For several months now, my colleagues and I are thinking about building a framework for informal learning. A framework that will help people learn from the right person at the right time in the right context. We also wanted to ensure that the learner and the teacher get credit for this learning relationship. We wanted all this to be embedded in the fabric of every day work, rather than tucked away in a system called the learning management system.

With help from tens of customers and hundreds of people who helped us, we believe we have designed a simple and effective framework for informal learning in-context and on-the-job. We may not get everything right in the first attempt. But I am very pleased with where we are today. We still have a long way to go before we can get this to customers. We will get there. One day at a time.

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