The increasing availability and use of technology to provide more flexible learning solutions in organizations has slowly but surely created a shift away from face to face training. As learning has moved out of the classroom it has become more about the individual AND we see a compelling trend towards creating a particular kind of customized learning for individuals.
Organizations are creating a large bank of modular – byte sized – chunks of learning available asynchronously through cloud based learning systems allowing their people to pick and mix from a personal development menu. On the face of it this makes great sense. After all, we are all individuals with different development needs and varied learning styles. Such an approach increases autonomy and creates accountability for the individual – all good things. Why shouldn’t this be both efficient and effective?
The problem is that while it sounds compelling and may indeed make sense for certain transactional learning needs, it doesn’t actually make sense for developing leadership capacity. Don’t get me wrong I am sure that you could acquire a great deal of knowledge about what great leaders do and what great leadership thinkers say is important about leadership. The challenge is that learning about leadership is not actually the same as developing leadership capacity AND by that I mean the capacity to do something better or significantly different. You can only really significantly shift the dial on developing additional capacity by actually DOING something differently AND you will only know if it is helping by getting feedback on the impact of your new ways of showing up.
Here’s the thing, leadership is a relational skill and can only be exercised in the presence of others. You can only practice leadership WITH others and you can only get meaningful feedback FROM others.
The best development approaches that take advantage of technology and the greater connectivity it provides will not just push curated content at us. We will start to see dedicated development applications that provoke us to stretch our leadership behaviours – a technological ‘pebble in the shoe’ to prompt us to try new things. These smart applications will not only suggest things to try they will have a social component that facilitates real time feedback from others on the impact of our new behaviours. We are likely to see a proliferation of these kinds of ‘side-kick’ applications as the understanding of how technology can do more than push content – technology has the potential to inform and provoke development.
So while we are all somewhat captivated by the notion that when it comes to development the world should revolve around our individual needs this may not be the most effective approach to building capacity. As our understanding of technology matures we will see it playing a different role and contrary to current trend provide greater interconnectivity rather than less. Development will become social again and we will all be the better for it!