Recently we* facilitated a two day learning event for executives from companies around the globe. The purpose of this event was to create collective awareness across various disciplines and to establish initiatives for sustainable innovation. This is a global company that brings a wide range of innovative solutions and services to almost every sector of business. Technological innovation and a drive for change is in the DNA of the company culture and structure.
Transformation for growth
As with many companies there is a transformation phase in the growth curve of every business. In this case the enabler for the transformation to a higher level over performance is social innovation. Human success factors, such as leadership, collaboration, learning and knowledge transfer greatly influence the ability to outperform the competition and increase added value to the business ecosystem of this multinational company.
The tangible side of business
The tangible outcome of this learning event was to identify global en local initiatives that align with the companies strategic priorities. The underlying objective was to focus the group attention to the interdependency of social and business innovation. For instance: innovating the project delivery is not only about systems, processes and information, but also about leadership, collaboration and continuous learning.
The human side of business
The intangible outcome of the learning event was to experience, to get a sense of, some of the human success factors that enable further growth. The structure for the learning event was quite straightforward: In two days the action learning teams, guided by a team captain, followed a timeline of nine consecutive dialogue sessions that represented the full business cycle from sales to delivery. After that they integrated the output of all sessions into a comprehensive list of global and local initiatives for further follow up. Each dialogue session started with a plenary input presentation and ended with a plenary exchange of principles, practices and initiatives.
The best of both worlds
In the weeks preceding the event the five team captains had set up three questions for each breakout session. These questions addressed strategic challenges in certain parts of the business process. This was combined with a human success factor scan for leadership, collaboration and learning (see figure).
Each session focused at exchanging best practices (group learning), finding the answers to the questions (problem solving) and identifying enabling human success factors (deep learning).
What were the effects of this all?
First of all the tangible outcome was there. But this was not the most important effect. It is the intangible outcome that counts. Participants experienced a high performance interaction, stretched their model of the world and ‘superfocused’ on the added value for the bigger business ecosystem. You could say that in some way they have been “in the zone” , the flow state, of their future way of working.
Why did we get that effect?
Implicitly this learning event was designed from the principle of authentic change: “be the change that you want there to be” . The three selected human success factors were present in both the overall approach, the content and the working structure during the event. For example: one of the fifteen detailed success factors was: “We team up with others to improve our work”. The learning event was prepared, facilitated, and completed as a team. During the event each team went thru the same process and we all adapted our way of working. In the dialogue sessions one of the content items was to assess this success factor and to decide if we need more in our company.
What makes the difference?
What is the specific learning point that you could take forward in these kind of situations? In my blog I always try to avoid to share specific details that might identify a certain individual or company. My contribution to others is grounded in the trust that information, and especially feelings, remain in the context in which it is generated. So to answer this question from a meta position I would say: inspiration, interaction and a focus on human success factors.
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* The COO, five managing directors, the management assistant and I jointly prepared and facilitated the two day learning event.