Culture Is King

I would imagine that you, like me, spend a good portion of your time meeting with customers, partners and vendors. I have spent much of the summer traveling the country, […]

I would imagine that you, like me, spend a good portion of your time meeting with customers, partners and vendors. I have spent much of the summer traveling the country, and even parts of Canada. Everywhere I have gone, I was thrilled to take part in real-world conversations with chief learning officers and those who support the CLO’s efforts.

As you might imagine, the topics of discussion are defined largely by the immediate needs of those at the table. That’s great, of course, providing an instant reality check on the issues and ideas learning executives are faced with. I’ve taken part in talks on learning technologies and on learning locations, on problems and on solutions, on talent management and on talented managers.

After all these conversations, after all those cups of coffee, a common link is coming to the surface. Here’s a revelation of sorts for you, a nugget of gold I’ve picked up on my travels: It’s not all about learning.

That’s right. Learning, I’m learning, is secondary to the corporation. It’s absolutely mandatory, make no mistake, but learning is a state of transference—the means, not the end. More and more conversations are coming down to the CLO’s role in creating cultures where learning, with all its empowering side effects, flourishes.

Naturally, that’s no small challenge; in fact it’s a conflict with many fronts. In a growing global marketplace, the CLO must juggle a variety of cultural issues for a multicultural workforce —not to mention the customer base, partners and suppliers. But that’s culture at its most basic definition.

The more difficult, long-term challenge is creating the internal culture for education, where learning and development aren’t add-ons or just-in-time solutions, but an expected, lifelong bonus. Chief learning officers, perhaps unique of all corporate executives and managers, offer the entitlement you want the workforce to demand.

In those conversations around the country and around the globe, I’ve heard your peers extol the benefits of that culture. Your HR partners feel it too: Companies with an ingrained learning culture are better able to attract the best and the brightest, and your efforts support retention of these productive learners. That alone adds millions in value, even if it’s not part of your ROI equation.

Of course, creating a culture isn’t as easy as rolling out learning opportunities. It takes time for attitudes to adjust and for the seeds of knowledge-seeking to grow. It takes internal and external marketing for the cultural roots to take hold. And it takes your careful nourishment, both of the efforts you lead and your own development.

As chief learning officers, you’re in the business of impacting lives for the better. As learning executives, you’re at the center of the spinning wheel, the axis of creation. Whether your company makes widgets or engineers solutions, learning is the lubricant for the engines of business. With proper involvement at all levels, everyone benefits, from the entry-level employee to the small shareholder.

We’re back to those conversations again, but this time I’m hoping that you do the talking. If you’re not already actively involved in the widening network of learning executives, it’s time you were. Interacting with your peers gives you fresh ideas, new perspectives and community support. In other words, you gain all of the benefits of multicultural perspectives.

This is an exciting industry, and the benefits and rewards continue to grow for everyone involved and affected. But it’s important that we continue the momentum and build on our successes.

I look forward to our next conversation. We’ve got a lot to talk about.

Norm Kamikow

Editor in Chief

October 2005 Table of Contents