Looking at Learning through an Innovation Lens

Do you wear glasses? I’ve had spectacles for more than 20 years. And I confess I’m not always appreciative of what they do for me. Sometimes when I can’t remember […]

Do you wear glasses? I’ve had spectacles for more than 20 years. And I confess I’m not always appreciative of what they do for me. Sometimes when I can’t remember where I put them, for example, they feel like a nuisance. Every time I get a new pair, I become a bit disoriented, a bit self-conscious, and it takes a while to get used to seeing myself in the mirror. But the truth is, without them, I would have a hard time doing what I need to do, whether it’s reading my e-mail or driving the car.

According to historians, simple reading glasses were invented in Italy about 1350, and lenses that corrected both nearsightedness and farsightedness were first produced around the beginning of the Renaissance in the mid-15th century. The timing might have been more than coincidental.

In his novel “The Name of the Rose,” Umberto Eco singled out the invention of eyeglasses for having a major impact on the advancement of learning. The connection? Eyeglasses extended the working lives of authors and scholars who labored over hand-lettered books and faded scrolls by the light of flickering candles and smoky torches. It doesn’t take a huge leap of the imagination to wonder how many myopic, medieval artists, authors and philosophers never developed their talents or shared their vision because they lived before glasses were invented.

In business, as in the arts, invention and learning always have been closely connected with successful performance. For companies in the 21st century, it’s all about knowledge creation. Emerging, evolutionary corporations satisfy organizational needs and create value through innovative learning processes that enable learners to adapt to change, renew perspectives and creatively generate competitive advantage.

Anyone watching the world of enterprise education over the past decade or so would certainly understand the impact and import of innovation. Take a look at the Table of Contents in this issue. Ten years ago, you wouldn’t have seen articles about outsourcing the learning function, analytics dashboards or using podcasts to improve organizational effectiveness. You definitely wouldn’t have been reading about the historic learning and development challenges presented by having four distinct generations represented in the workforce.

While all of this might be a bit disorienting to the rest of the world, the members of the CLO Business Intelligence Board (BIB), who participate in our bi-monthly surveys about industry trends and issues, clearly recognize the evolution of innovative workforce development as both a reality and a strategic imperative for today’s businesses. In the “2006 CLO Business Intelligence Industry Report,” they identified the top five issues that deserve more attention from the learning and development industry. The issues they identified (content, delivery methods, measurement/evaluation/analytics, leadership/manager development and succession planning), are exactly the kind of far-sighted topics you’ll find discussed inside this and every issue of Chief Learning Officer magazine.

The global business environment compels every organization to constantly re-evaluate products, services, business processes and culture in light of new capabilities and to sharpen its focus on enabling innovative performance through learning. One of the best ways to do that is to share the view.

More than 350 learning leaders will be gathering March 12-14 at the Spring 2007 CLO Symposium in Huntington Beach, Calif., to engage in face-to-face discussions about “Producing Innovation in Your Organization.” We will be examining creative opportunities for optimizing the business impact of enterprise education, sharing best practices and gathering insights from industry experts and their peers.

I hope you can join us. For a look at the CLO Symposium agenda, go to www.cloevents.com. And if you’d like to talk to me about how innovation and enterprise education look from your perspective, send me an e-mail at Norm@clomedia.com. I’ll be sure to wear my glasses.

Norm Kamikow
Editor in Chief