In a market environment in which industries are being challenged by digitalization, automation and an unprecedented speed of change, companies can not only survive, but also innovate and thrive by unlocking the potential of their people. This was the message of the first of a two-day virtual summit hosted by IMD and Collegial, a Stockholm-based learning technology company.

Conceived around three objectives, the summit aims to address the importance of continuous learning for societies, organizations and individuals; to understand digital as a both a reason to change and a means to make learning happen, and to share the views of multi-industry speakers and delegates on how organizational culture can realign around principles of curiosity, exploration and innovation.

Both industries and nations must push innovation

In his keynote address, Marcus Wallenberg, Chair of SEB, the Swedish financial group, outlined the importance of industries to commit to an innovation-driven approach.

He gave the example of the founding of SEB Campus, the Swedish bank’s online digital university, sourced from Collegial, as a strategic decision to foster in-house capabilities and re-skill and up-skill the bank’s employees in the face of increasing digital disruption in the banking sector. SEB Campus aims to give employees the opportunity to improve their competencies with online content provided by internal and external learning partners.

However, a national program of research-led innovation also offers a key competitive advantage, said Wallenberg. He described the foundations set up by the bank’s founding family in order to support Swedish education and training enterprises and encourage homegrown innovation and research and development (R&D). From autonomous systems artificial intelligence (AI) and life science to wood science that researches the materials that can be produced from tree fibers, the focus is on generating more innovation and more ideas for society, but also for businesses to develop for the future.

“Research & Development are absolutely key. If you don’t stay ahead, you can’t innovate. And if you don’t innovate, you cannot become relevant”, said Wallenberg, and emphasized the importance of staying curious, as nothing stands still.

By reinventing their people, organizations could reinvent themselves

Without a multi-stakeholder approach aimed at enabling individuals and societies to meet the skills requirements of the fourth industrial revolution, the potential for continuing skills crises and high unemployment will remain a significant issue for individuals and societies, said Jean-François Manzoni, President and Nestlé Chaired Professor at IMD.

“Technology will lead two major waves: job creation from new organizations and professions and also a massive destruction of jobs – human jobs, that will become automated,” he said.

While humans have adapted organically to revolutionary industrial changes over the course of their history, and while some governments are attempting to plug the digital skills gap with ad hoc educational policy, Manzoni said the extraordinary speed and magnitude of change in the digital age requires an equally unprecedented approach to skills training.

Manzoni outlined his view that, in such unprecedented times, both the state and the individual must take up their respective responsibilities. Governments should do so by creating a regulatory complex among education providers to offer content that is fit for purpose, and a schedule for citizens to periodically reskill themselves.

Individuals, for their part, must understand that employability is an asset in a changeable world and they must actively invest time and effort in learning opportunities as a way to become more employable, efficient, effective and innovative in their work, he said.

The organization’s responsibility in this multi-stakeholder pact would be to support, encourage and reward continuous learning in the workforce, offering both time and financial support but also an organizational culture that helped people practice new skills. This, he said, would build capabilities within organizations. It would help meet the immediate challenges and build agility and resilience into teams to meet the trials of the future.

 “Organizations must support learning across their teams. They must realize that what they are pushing for is not just the exploitation of today’s capabilities but the exploration of future organizational capabilities,” said Manzoni.

Redefining professional engagement across the organization

Ronald Bernette, CEO at Collegial, highlighted the ways in which organizations could signal cultural shifts around continuous learning among their teams. From expectations regarding professional educational engagement being part of the job description to clear and frequent communication that reinforces that learning is permitted, encouraged, expected and supported across the organization.

“In high-development culture organizations from the board level down, we see supportive leadership teams and programs for managers to become coaches to their direct reports. And the purpose needs to be clear. That is, one of inclusion – we’re all on the same journey,” said Bernette.

Bernette stressed the need to apply qualitative rather than quantitative metrics to learning programs in order to avoid a disconnect occurring between ‘the learning environment’ and ‘the workplace’.

“Frequent learning opportunities are more important than immersive learning opportunities. Recognition of achievement is key to positively nudge individuals in their continuing efforts,” he said.

Organizations must honor their pasts while defining their futures

In his keynote address, Jean-Philippe Courtois, Executive Vice President, and President of Microsoft Global Sales, Marketing & Operations at Microsoft described the current pandemic-led crisis as a crucible in which severe trial leads to transformational outcomes.

Courtois then outlined Microsoft’s transformation from software producer to a cloud-based computing provider, citing five key factors as having driven the company’s transformation.

 

  1. Mission and purpose were deeply embedded in the transformation and across the organization.
  2. Innovation, strategy & roadmap enabled the company’s tech innovation agenda – always in service to its customers – to drive the transformation.
  3. Operating and business model driven by building trust, inclusivity and sustainability with its customers.
  4. Skills and talent defined by customer success – that is, building digital services and products around customer needs.
  5. Culture of organization encouraged through the growth mindset. The core values of respect, integrity and accountability underlined leadership and management approaches and commitments to diversity and inclusivity, a customer-centric approach and a whole organization outlook became cultural cornerstones.

The five factors provided the foundational elements for the creation of a digital loop enabling Microsoft to create a shareable body of data across the organization, able to be used to inform and improve customer engagement, transform products, optimize operations and empower employees.

“Customer, employees, operational and product data and insights all have a special part to play in developing a digital feedback loop for successful business transformation,” said Courtois.

A redefined concept of work

Arturo Bris, Director, IMD World Competitive Center and Professor of Finance offered a provocative view of the future of work.

Using the definitions of jobs outlined by the anthropologist David Graeber in his book Bullshit Jobs, Bris argued that automation would create a jobs deficit and a fundamental redefinition of work. In addition, the scale of job losses to technology would, he said, invariably lead to the rollout of Universal Basic Income, leading to a fundamental shift in the way work is perceived.

“Self-fulfilment is becoming more relevant than salary in young people’s lives,” said Bris.

Coupled with the monetization of data, which companies such as Lympo are already at the forefront of, will enable individuals to have a selection of income streams to service their lives. However, none of these income streams will necessarily provide what is understood to be vocational satisfaction.

“Technology will not create many new jobs but it will redefine the concept of work and pay. This is important to understand. Our old approach was productivity, the new approach will be fulfilment,” he said, challenging organizations to consider how they might offer fulfilment to their prospective future talent.

The second day of the Learning Summit: unlocking people potential is scheduled for 20 October 2020.