Category Archives: Organisational learning

Spot learning profile, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, based on CBA 2019 Annual Report

This is a summary Learning Economy analysis based on key Google searches about the company, and on counts of the number of pages on which the listed keywords appear (page mentions) in the document concerned. Please note that at this point this summary is strictly quantitative and not qualitative in any way. (That is coming.)

Google searches yielded: 

Learning report: no

Learning statement: no

Learning officer: no

Sustainability report: yes

The set of documents presented here appear instead of intending to inform a confusing attempt to muddy waters of reporting and to wear down even the most earnest and quizzical reader.

Page mentions found in report of: 

Learning strategy: 0

Transformation: 5 pages.

Agility: 1 pages.

Learning: 8 pages.

Learning and development: 0

Collaboration: 4 pages.

Knowledge: 7 pages.

Knowledge management: 0

Capability: 5 pages.

Capability development: 0

Continuous improvement: 1 pages.

Innovation: 15 pages.

Teamwork: 0

Organisational development: 0

NOTE

Please note the limited context of this report, but consider, in brief summary, that:

• If you are an investor, while you may back past performance, it is the future growth of your shareholdings that will most interest you.

• At a time of massive, fundamental structural change in the digitising economy, you will want to know that the companies you’ve invested in are fit for the future, and are ready and constantly preparing for whatever change comes at them next.

• In the age of pervasive digitisation, there is no possible single array of set and forget positions, and all companies will now be on a constant path of “becoming,” that necessitates persistent learning of how to sustain their capabilities and relevance.

For further information on a possible future form of investor reporting we consider better suited to its times, on which the above is based, please contemplate: “The annual learning economy report shareholders need,” at this link: https://thelearningeconomy.com/the-annual-learning-economy-shareholder-report-we-want-to-see/

An interview with Imagine Intelligent Materials’ Chris Gilbey

Chris Gilbey co-founded and is executive chairman of Imagine Intelligent Materials Ltd, a company that has developed large-scale surface sensing using graphene – “the industrial equivalent of skin.” 

Graphene is a recently discovered material made from honeycomb sheets of carbon just one atom thick, and it may be the lightest, strongest, thinnest, best heat- and electricity- conducting material ever discovered.

Imagine was the first commercial producer of graphene in Australia and has been manufacturing conductive coatings for textiles since 2016.

Chris is chairman of the Australian Graphene Industry Association (AGIA) and prior to Imagine, he was entrepreneur in residence at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Electromaterials Science, responsible for developing commercialisation strategy. There he spun out Aquahydrex, a low-cost water-splitting hydrogen production technology.

Before that, Chris was CEO of Lake Technology Limited, a digital signals processing company, which he sold to Dolby Laboratories. He then became global marketing consultant to Dolby, helping increase its licensing revenues ahead of listing on the NYSE. 

And his earlier career was spent in the music industry, shaping the careers of globally renowned acts such as AC/DC, InXs, Keith Urban, Tommy Emmanuel, The Church, and The Saints and managing the publishing catalogues of The Beatles and Elvis Presley in Australia.

He was co-founder of a music industry charity, The Golden Stave, and was awarded the Order of Australia in 1992. 

Chris and I have been friends for 10 years, and oddly, long before we made each other’s acquaintance, by previously unknown and total coincidence, we worked on the same musical acts at opposite ends of the planet. While, although also London-born, he was already in Australia, I worked in the London press office of WEA Records at the beginning of AC/DC’s career, and subsequently as a press officer at RCA Records for The Church and InXs.

What was it that made the idea of internet social literacy interesting to you?

Way back in the dark ages, before Facebook, there was no concept of social networks per se.

And that was even though academics had started writing about, and doing research on the concept of large networks existing, and how those networks acting together could create significant waves of change. 

And there was one in particular guy at the Royal College of Arts, Paul Ormerod,  a deep thinker about this early on who published something. 

There’s a kind of convergence here, if I think of several vectors, and social networks is one. 

The thing that has happened, where now people don’t read a manual, there is no room for a technical manual to support to support software, or pretty much anything, even the hardware of any car. There is an expectation by people now that everything should be instant and should be intuitive. 

And that, to me, is a kind of parallel converging vector to social network literacy. So social networks, we have become aware of have invaded our lives, and we willingly to a large extent accepted them. And as a result, we become literate about them. 

But there are, there are all these other aspects of the way that we have allowed ourselves to become socially re-engineered to, and to expect things differently. 

So there’s that aspect of behavioural economics.

I was talking to a guy I know who was at a lunch with the chairman of Telstra, who apparently talked about a product release Telstra had and was frustrated by the lack of take-up. He said, we built this product, we’ve engineered it to the needs of people and they’re not bloody or buying it, or downloading it, or whatever. 

This guy is with a very large, Japanese multinational company, and he said, these days, it’s all about the consumer, whether you engineer something that you want, it’s all about whether the demand is there from the consumer. 

And I think there’s also a component of this social network literacy. I think this is about us entering an era where the consumer is all powerful. And, they have become substantially literate with using these social networks, and whether or not that’s to the benefit of humanity, or the planet, I think, is in debate. 

What we’ve got now is this ability for people to hide behind this screen, and not necessarily to have eye contact with the other party, face contact, not even voice contact, but they can make comments now. 

And that’s one of the reasons why you get the trolling that takes place, and then this huge amount of ugliness that exists online now. 

And the way of course, speaking of the obvious, that way, people are becoming more and more polarised, is of course, epitomised by the US president, and the way he keeps on throwing, you know, metaphorical hand grenades out into the crowds to elicit negative and positive responses that are highly polarised. 

And some people occupy themselves that all of those things, rather than actually getting on with the detail and figuring out what truly is happening. 

So this has meant that we now have pretty much all of life now taking place at the surface. And the one thing we know about the surface is that’s where shit floats.

Deloitte’s Robert Hillard told me he felt that what is frustrating to customers is when collectively they know more about the product or service of an organisation than people who represent the organisation.

Do the people who represent a product or a business actually have an ability to really understand it will resonate with the customer’s problem? All products that are sold, axiomatically, need to solve a problem.

The end user has a very close, if not necessarily clear, need to solve a problem and a need to reduce pain. And if the person who is representing that product is not able to tap into and understand what that pain is, how do they truly provide decent service? 

And you know, you think about the times you go into a shop. I’m just thinking about going to a retailer and somebody comes up, and this happens to be in New York going to a particular store, and they just over-service the buggery out of you. 

But, you know, if somebody comes up to you, as just as you walked into a store, says, how can I help you, and you’re in there to, kind of, browse, and kind of semi-conscious of I gotta get a shirt, or I’m going to get a jacket. 

But, before you go to look at the jacket, you just want to have a look around and see if this store actually has fashions that suit you. You don’t want to just to be shown jackets yet, you want to get a feel. So you can find yourself getting over-serviced. 

And then of course, there’s the other times when you’re looking to buy a particular thing, and then there’s nobody to serve you. 

Businesses need to learn to understand their customers

I don’t think it’s just about social network literacy, but I think that may be the symptom, as I think there is a real need to get domain expertise for a company to be able to understand what is the specific expertise that needs to be present in this business in order to sufficiently understand the need, so as to develop that solution. 

And how companies and, of course, startup companies, I think, almost by definition, have to be nimble, and versatile and all of those other adjectives that show their ability to be responsive. 

Companies that have legacy businesses have inbuilt cultures that are very hard and impossible to shift once it’s established. So how do companies respond to these needs? 

There is a way to do it. And a lot of the really well managed companies that I find myself dealing with have – whether they state this as one of their capabilities and qualities – I think some of these companies have an ability to understand that they are not going to develop the solution in house, and that the way for them to do it is they have to bring the technology in from the outside. 

When I say technology, it could be any kind of solution, but they need to bring it in from the outside. 

And the best run companies also understand that you that if you acquire and bring that external solution into the existing culture, the probability is your existing legacy culture will swamp the incoming material and kill it off. All that made it great will be killed. 

I think the big companies that are well run understand that the best way to operate is to find a way for that true innovation, the kind of classic Peter Drucker innovation of definition, is it has to remain outside of the mothership in order for it to thrive. And the mothership’s role then is to provide a soft touch, together with money and access to customers. 

And the company that has done this, to my mind most extraordinarily well, and whether or not I like the company is neither here nor there, but it has bloody well nailed it, is Nestle. 

When Nestle brought in Nespresso, the history of that is just bloody extraordinary. 

In the mid-90s, five people within the company got this concept that they needed to arrest the problem with the decline of instant coffee sales, because of the trend developing towards real coffee. They came up with the idea that if they were going to enter the real coffee market, and they had to find a way of creating the perfect cup of coffee every time.

And they, as far as I recall, between the mid-90s and now have spent about a half a billion dollars building the brand, and building the devices and the methodology. And they now have 50 per cent of the global coffee market. 

And, I think it was early this year, or last year, they paid, as far as I recall, $US8 billion to Starbucks to buy the right to use the Starbucks brand in coffee products that would go on to American supermarket shelves. And that’s huge. 

And you’ve got to give it to these guys. What an extraordinary success story, and in the articles I’ve read about that is that the reason that was successful was because it existed as a business unit outside of the company. And it reported in at a very high level, but was given absolute free rein to to evolve itself.

How can companies use this resource, which is the social internet, to become learning organisations? 

My view is that we are at the nexus point in so many things. So many of the familiar rocks that we unwittingly build our belief systems on and the way we do things are being shaken to the core right now. And yet, perhaps for other reasons, people are not willing to embrace risk. Nobody wants to take undue risk. We all want to be able to operate with some level of certainty. 

I was recently on a plane and got talking to a guy and I said to him, there’s so much uncertainty in the world, and I actually think it’s a problem. 

This is a guy who’s very wealthy, who runs a quite large manufacturing company in Australia, and is a big investor. And he said, there’s no money to be made in certainty, we want uncertainty, that’s where the money is. 

And I thought, my god, you gotta have balls of steel, and you’ve got to have true insights. If you can look at what’s happening now and go, here’s something that I can use to my advantage, and have enough personal strength that you can say, I’m going to go in this direction, and this is sufficiently risky to me to be able to place a big bet … I don’t think a lot of people out there feel that.

And, I think the thing that companies need is an ability to learn and change because…

Every company must learn to become an information company

Look at Amazon, that what they do, and what they’ve done. As some book company, it’s an information company, right? They have more information about customers than anybody else, and that is the reason that makes them a valuable business.

On investing in insight and vision

I do absolutely the wrong thing in every respect. And because for me, first up, I’m not an investor in big companies. My whole rationale has been about startups and businesses that have absolutely ridiculous levels of risk associated with them. 

I’m a kind of momentum investor, if you like. I think that if it’s the right people with the right idea, and that’s what I’m interested in, and these people have some insights into a space for which they have the technical capabilities and the know-how… 

It’s a whole bunch of things, and you can’t know all of the answers. 

What you hope is that those people you put your faith in and your money behind, that those people really do know what’s required and are prepared to take the actions and not just talk. 

So, for me it’s about was about how big is the vision? And how, how will the execution work? 

One of the things I think, for businesses in Australia in my area of interest, in startups and early stage technology companies, one of the things that is hugely lacking here, is an understanding that we exist in a global market, and there is no national marketplace anymore, there is only a global marketplace. 

If you’re building a business, you’re building it to be a global business. Alternatively, you’re just trying to create a small business that replicates something somebody else is doing in order to create a wedge play that you can make money out of because you flip it to whoever the global business is that’s entering the country.

All of that gets down, in many respects, to learning. Because I think learning, learning can be broken into a number of subsets, too. 

So when we talk about learning, and business, you’ve got the need, just in a very simple terms, for management to learn, and adapt to extremely dynamic market conditions that are changing moment to moment. 

You need to have the workforce continuing to learn so that they can change and adapt and grow into these new things. 

And then, you get into the far more interesting area, which is machine learning, and how much will machine learning impact the way that businesses are developed to grow? 

I see something slightly different in social network learning, and if you like, engagement is about this conscious engagement of individuals with each other across networks. 

And then the machine learning is about the system itself, and its ability to learn and generate insights, and potentially predictive analytics. 

And then you have the ability for those to converge together, where you’ve got data that’s being extracted from a device and is utilised to create new insights, plus the way that humans interact with it. 

Very soon, machine learning will start to derive insights that humans don’t program, because the machines will program themselves to generate data and, and insight that humans haven’t thought of.

And what we’ve also got to consider within this is to make it as even more of a total fruitcake is that everything that there is within the next few years will be a sensing object – everything – there is not one thing that will not sense [the universe in which it operates.]

And, of course, everybody, I think, recognises that sensors are being deployed all over the place. But what’s also happening is that sensing capabilities are starting to be developed as an aftermarket product that can be put into everything that already exists and has been installed. 

So it’s not just about the new building, or the new vehicle. This is about adapting those pre-existing ones to be sensing, and that that starts to get very interesting.

And so the things I talk about to Anita Kocsis at Design Factory Melbourne about is what happens when you can go and use that kind of design thinking not just to design this end environment, but you do it, where you start at the molecular level, and you design the molecular structure of the materials you use, in order to build a building, or a component within that building, in order for that to be optimally realised, you know. Think that you do this at the molecular level. What happens then, what happens when you do this? That’s what we can do now.

We must invoke networked learning at the speed of thought

The essence I think of what you’re talking about, and social network learning is it is utterly dynamic and fluid and it is moving at the speed of human thought. And what companies really need to understand is that they need to act and respond at the speed of human thought.

That is hugely challenging for legacy businesses, because they have processes in place, which are quite logical, because they help de-risk things. 

But you’ve got to find ways to do that, because otherwise the shareholders will not forgive you. But they will not forgive you if you drive the truck over a cliff, either. 

Either way, you drive it over a cliff, because you didn’t respond to the market. You drive it over a cliff because you sat there waiting to get more information. 

Right now, we’re faced with the potential for the entire planet and the species on the planet, including us, to all die. We’ve got a president of Brazil, who is, if it’s possible, as ego-maniacal as Donald Trump, and wants to deny getting money from the Europeans to fight the fires, which he caused to be started in the first place because he wants to clear the jungle and turn it into a fucking cattle ranch. 

So, you know, how do we deal with these things? You can understand that the guy wants to create more economic gains for the country, so that he can have his hand in the cookie jar and make a load of money. 

You know, there’s a lot of enlightened people. Now there are a lot of people like that they’re out there, that are the Trumpists, and there are a lot of people who are just like deer in the headlights, and not doing anything, like the Democrats in America. 

And then there are a bunch of people who are smart people who are trying to figure out how to actually do things that could enable the planet to survive and thrive. 

I don’t know how the human race is actually going to be to get out of this mess at the moment. 

The social media is dumbing things down, but our universities won’t save us

One of the things that worries the bejesus out of me, to the extent of worrying, I mean, I worry because I have grandchildren that I would like to see or have the sense that they’re going to grow up and have happy lives. 

But I look around and I go, one of the biggest problems that we have now is that the socially networked, meta mind that that we have now has created, in many respects, a dumbing down of the world. 

How can this be? Well, of course it can be because that cultural tsunami of dumbness that comes with us relying on and being entertained by dumb media.

And universities, being revenue producing businesses rather than businesses that produce enlightened students, talk about producing students that are able to think deeply about things. 

Some may come out thinking deeply. But the true nature of the university system in this country, and elsewhere, for that matter is that they are money making machines. 

You know, when they say that, in Australia, the third biggest export in this country is education, you’ve got to say to yourself, the fact that it’s even being measured is problematic. 

That’s really the problem that we’re measuring teaching as an industry. It’s wrong. It is so utterly wrong.

Investor reporting for the age of internet-driven learning and knowledge capitalism

A background for interviews

The flawed nature of modern-day ASX annual investor reporting remains locked in alignment with views of organisational management that are past their prime in adapting to the realities of the learning age’s post-industrial businesses.

These businesses’ underpinning enterprise logic, and that of industrial capitalism, was originally built on structural foundations of bureaucracy and functional hierarchy. 

Based on military precedent, the traditional leadership model for business became that of command and control.

Under this model, power resided with the board and chief executive and devolved downwards through the senior executives and their reporting managers.

It filtered down through the hierarchy to the lowest rungs of the organisational structure, with those at the coal-face charged with interacting with the market, with customers, suppliers and rivals typically being excluded from decision making and strategy setting.

Against this view of the world, in hierarchical organisations, for those armed with it, the need to retain and lock down management control, can present a more powerful need and entrenched mental model than even the requirement that they produce profitable results. 

Moreover, the change it is imposed to counter is not now just quicker but also unpredictable and discontinuous. 

The challenge of an increasingly uncertain future

Insightfully, pre-internet even, in 1991, Charles Handy* contrasted discontinuous and incremental change in the following manner:

Thirty years ago [that company] saw the future as largely predictable, to be planned for and managed. Today they are less certain. Thirty years ago, most people thought that change would mean more of the same, only better. That was incremental change and to be welcomed. Today we know that in many areas of life we cannot guarantee more of the same, be it work or money, peace or freedom, health or happiness, and cannot even predict with confidence what will be happening in our own lives.

All these years on, such discontinuous, constant upheaval is clearly presenting ever greater disturbances for corporations and, as a consequence, on the theoretical frameworks we must apply to understand and operate in today’s organisations.

Moreover, there are those who still perceive digital innovation as a wave, when in reality the ride we are in for is most likely much more disruptive and as wild and capricious as the as yet unexplored edges of the collective commercial human imagination.

The “wave” view of digitisation suggests that once it subsides, everything will resolve to a new and predictable normal. Others, however, ourselves included, view internet-driven digitisation as a tide that is in perpetual and powerful motion, exacerbating precisely the discontinuity of which Handy wrote. 

Through the combination of constant network connections, colossal cloud-propelled computing power, constant data streamed and marshalled by predictive analytics and the endless attraction of apparently infinite investment capital is emerging a new era for business, whose essential quality is of consistent innovation, pervasive data-driven insights and ever-faster cycle times.

As a new commercial force, pervasive digitisation is therefore not a wave that will pass, but a surge of enabled, connected human imagination which is picking up intensity as technology evolves. And, alongside this reality, the definition of managerial work must evolve. 

Like Handy, even 30 years ago, in 1989, Rosabeth Kanter** argued that contemporary managers needed to rethink the ways in which they conceived of managing in the post-industrial era. 

She wrote that:

  • Strategy is no longer the exclusive province of top management and limited to officially sanctioned strategic plans. All organisational participants are now expected to think and act strategically in their day-to-day work.
  • Position within a hierarchy has become a tenuous basis on which to build authority and power. Increasing numbers of organisational participants are expected to be – and expecting to become – empowered and responsible for their work. Moreover, many organisational participants have significant intellectual capital and expert forms of power.
  • A master-servant mentality has little relevance for many management issues that now involve spanning and regulating inter-organisational boundaries, regulating transactions with long-term partners, contract workers and external stakeholders. Collaboration is becoming a new form of control.

As Kanter pointed out, the “distinction between managers and those managed is diminishing”; second, career paths have become “less intelligible”; and, third, “carrot and stick” models of motivation are no longer seen as the way forward. 

Consequently, as the power of hierarchy and command and control structures are undermined by changing conditions and attitudes, managers need to re-evaluate their tool kit of resources for managing.

Efforts to put a lid on this force for change are unlikely ever to work out well for those who attempt to do so.

The reality is of managerial resistance to change

Against this, in established organisational cultures, in denial of the need to change, standard enterprise logic remains organised to reproduce itself at all costs, with executives aiming to protect their salaried self-interest through hierarchical status and position, and by adopting risk-averse and conservative positions and practices.

Where they exercise it, the primary source of effective resistance to change by managers remains the functional hierarchical structure, even when it may no longer make profit-generating, shareholder value-maximising commercial sense to do so.

The consequence is that structural and cultural inhibition of change persists in many organisations.

It is by adhering to established processes, so often undiscussed and beyond discussion, that even when they proclaim themselves to be changing, organisations defy the need for necessary root and branch adaptation to patent emerging circumstance.

Even when the world itself is transforming dramatically beyond the walls of the business, managerial articulation of change may remain rhetorical only. 

In many organisations, such entrenched enterprise logic has become so deeply taken for granted that it is no longer visible. 

And thus, when shared mental models of “how the world works” become embedded, and without curiosity being exercised and with orthodoxies remaining unchallenged, neither managers nor workforces are likely to question assumptions they no longer see.

This is even worse for external investors and owners who see even less.

This legacy model of organisation seemed fixed and eternal until the arrival of the internet and its accompanying technologies enabled the success of completely new and unimagined business disruptors – Amazon, Google, Facebook, Airbnb, Uber and so on – over the past 20 years or so.

Shareholders deserve better

Annual shareholder reporting, taking the unquestioning rearward view of congratulating such old style hierarchical behaviours, is still stuck in a bygone age.

And, just as those legacy structural forms, it too reflects an outmoded backward-looking form of enterprise logic, when change had the appearance that it was just more of the predictable same and an incremental extrapolation of the familiar past that could be controlled.

In spite of the increasing signs that functional hierarchical structures are inhibiting mission-pertinent learning in organisations, this organisational form persists.

Investors simply need to be warned that this thinking is clearly no longer appropriate to the current age.

In the new world of knowledge capitalism, such blockages to learning can not endure without killing the organisation they are designed to protect. In this world, it is the cancer of ignorance that is going to kill any business.

At a time of massive, fundamental, structural change in the digitising economy, any investor will want to know that the companies they have invested in are fit for the future, and are ready and constantly preparing for whatever change comes at them next.

As the world changes unpredictably and discontinuously around them, without a better expression of how companies are preparing for where they are going than of where they have been, investors are at risk of being shortchanged.

Just as the hierarchical structure is a legacy of past times, investors now need to understand how the companies they will invest in are preparing through learning for the structural upheavals and persistent evolution required to compete in the years of full-bore knowledge capitalism ahead.

Except for those that fail, the future for investors really does look nothing like the past.


* Handy C, 1991, ‘The Shamrock Organization’, The Age of Unreason, Century Business, Great Britain, ch. 4, pp. 70– 92.

** Kanter R M, 1989, ‘The new managerial work, Harvard Business Review, vol. 67, no. 6, pp. 85–92.

A request to interview you for this site and as part of a program of continuing research on the necessity for shareholder-focused declarations of organisational learning

Dear Allan

Apologies, as I contacted you via LinkedIn and you replied, it was inappropriate for me to ask you to send me an email address, as even though you know who I am by my LinkedIn profile, I could be anyone wishing in some way to scam you. 

This is not my intention at all, which is why I wanted to post this message here, where nothing is hidden.

To explain, I am of the view that Australian shareholders are in great potential jeopardy and in need of protection as the economy shifts to one that is entirely digital, presenting new and certain impacts of whose potential risk most investors will still simply be unaware.

The scale of the problem makes this an issue of national vulnerability and competitiveness, not least given the consistently growing amount of funds Australia has invested in superannuation.

My aim through this site is to bring to the awareness of all investors, mum-and-dad retail and professional alike, the need to invest only in businesses that have a strategy for learning they can articulate and declare to their shareholders about how they intend to address this unknown future.

Without such conscious and deliberate preparation, businesses’ failure is almost certain, taking their investors’ funds with them.

To this end, I’d like to interview you to seek your views and opinions on the best way of alerting your members to their need to invest only in companies of whose plans and undertakings for this now-certain future they are confident.

In this, I’d like also to seek your views concerning the form and nature of reporting ASX-listed businesses can offer their shareholders to provide them with the comfort they seek that those in which they invest are taking the necessary steps to survive.

My interest in this is not driven solely by pessimism, but also the opposite. This is also a time of great promise and unprecedented opportunity for many businesses able to grasp the power of their digitally capable, enabled employees in harnessing the power and potential of such learning.

To heighten awareness of this future, my first supporter and interviewee on this subject was Robert Hillard, chief strategy and innovation officer of Deloitte.

But neither Robert nor I are alone in our fears or concerns. As this BusinessInsider piece from August, citing the work of Ken Dovey, at the University of Technology in Sydney and his academic partner, and, in turn, Bain and Company partner Laurent-Pierre Baculard and colleagues, says: 

“Many describe digital innovation as a wave, which implies that once it passes, everything will resolve to a new normal. But we see it as a tide that is in constant and powerful flux. Hyperconnectivity; massive, cloud-based computing power; streams of data tamed by predictive analytics—all are colliding with trillions in investment capital to produce a new era for business, characterized by constant innovation, the prevalence of predictive analytics and dramatically accelerating cycle times.” 

The BusinessInsider piece concludes: “That would easily overwhelm a centralised command-and-control business structure, making this kind of changed enterprise logic a must-have for a successful digital transition.”

Having studied similar matter for my own MBA (Technology) from UNSW, this is exactly my preoccupation. My belief is that neither our businesses nor the ways in which they report on their learning to investors are sufficiently set up for this inevitable future, and their shareholders, most likely without having studied this, are also mostly unaware.

However, by applying the right kind of attention to them, we can contribute to the greater chances of survival of the majority of ASX-listed businesses, rather than the few, and it is to this that I’d like to draw your own focus, and to discuss with you, if you are interested.

Thanks for reading this, and I look forward to the prospect of speaking with you.

Kind regards

Graham Lauren
0416 171724
graham@thelearningeconomy.com

What will surprise us about what the minds in our business can learn together?

I’ve been asked to provide a solid example of what a business could learn from such an exploration of its diverse collective intellect. But, as Einstein was quoted, “education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.”

That aside, here is a brief selection of deliberately provocative early questions we might put to some of your own or your investee organisations’ executives to test for diversity of opinion, and for what they know, believe and might subsequently learn together to add value to their business.

  • What must we do to become the business that will put ours out of business?
  • What is the business that looks most likely to do that at the moment, and in what ways, and why?
  • On what assumptions is our business currently built, and which of these are most vulnerable to change?
  • Every business faces external forces that are disruptive or threatening, so what are those on which we should focus most clearly?
  • What will unfold as the most critical success factors in our business’s future survival?
  • In what specific ways is our business experiencing change in:
    • Consumer preferences?
    • Evolving or emerging distribution channels?
    • New competitors or forms of competition?
    • Access to factors such as materials, the right skills or people?
  • What else not addressed above do our directors and key stakeholders think we need to learn to compete most effectively in the new economy?

If you’d like to see how this can work, and the surprises it can yield for all concerned, and therefore the opportunities it will point to for future learning, I’d be delighted to show you in an early test to demonstrate how this can be applied to focus the executive mind in a real management reporting exercise.

 

An interview with Deloitte Australia chief strategy and innovation officer, Robert Hillard

The fourth issue of The Learning Economy newsletter is the first to include a feature interviewee, and Robert Hillard kindly accepted my request to participate. This is that interview.

Robert is chief strategy and innovation officer of accounting, finance and management consultancy Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, in Melbourne, Australia.

In this age, information doesn’t just provide a window on the business, increasingly it is the business, and as the author of Information-Driven Business (Wiley, 2012), Robert gets this, more than most. We spoke in early August 2019 for a free-ranging conversation, with a limited formal prior agenda.

In his role, Robert positions his firm to tackle the disruption of technology, new competitors, challenging economic conditions and changing regulatory priorities.

He was previously managing partner of Deloitte Consulting, more than doubling the size of the business during his tenure, and was, at the same time, a member of the Global Deloitte Consulting Executive.

I previously interviewed Robert in relation to the nature of the evolving workspace in my role as a director of Shiro Architects, researching “what lies beyond activity based working?” The text of that conversation is here.

I’ve also cited his work before in two previous issues of this newsletter, in Innovation is a collision of learning and The new division of labor: On our evolving relationship with technology

As he explains beneath, by background, he is not only a technologist but an information management specialist, and he has strong and instructively formed views about how knowledge is best formed and managed by leaders and teams across an organisation, using the most powerful tools ever invented for the task. 

What follows is edited for brevity and clarity, with its topics broken up by my own subheadings.

Enjoy, and, as usual thanks for reading.

Graham Lauren
graham@thelearningeconomy.com

 

Our capacity for knowledge sharing may be new, but we must be wary of implicit bias

We now have knowledge sharing unprecedented in human history.

The need for my own memory, in my own head, has dramatically reduced because I have global resources.

But, what is interesting is that you can treat the global repository of knowledge we have access to either as a resource for knowledge extraction or as a resource for knowledge collaboration.

On the latter, what is interesting is in the research we’re doing, talking to everyone from millennials, right through to end of career people, almost nobody has formal training on how to maximise the collaboration by using these tools of virtual collaboration. 

And therefore, if you say in the absence of formal training, people are doing it in different ways, and to a large extent, doing it somewhat inefficiently. There’s a lot of inefficiency baked into the ways things are done right now. 

The knowledge repository is absolutely fabulous, but it has bias, and there is very poor understanding of how that bias works and what that bias is, which most of the time doesn’t matter.

When I want to know what the population of China is, it’s a relatively straightforward fact to find out. 

If, however, what I want to do is find out about the social activities of a corporation, there are biases depending upon whether they are a controversial organisation or not, and who that information is by, how it has been edited and who’s likely to have had access to edit it.

We must be deliberate in our use of the internet for learning and knowledge

People don’t understand yet how SEO [search engine optimisation] enables you to perpetuate information that may be either completely wrong or at least have a particular slant to it.

And I think that that’s going to matter an awful lot more, particularly when information is power, and power starts to get even more hotly exercised.

I am talking about the internet as a learning tool, as a knowledge tool, and we actually need to move to the next level, the next generation. We actually have to be far more deliberate in our use of tools than we have been. 

I think a better understanding of their strengths and how those tools work is really important. So, we should be creating far more formal syllabuses for people, particularly those coming into organisations. 

If I look at policies and procedures organisations had in the 1970s and 80s, when you joined as a graduate or a new employee, the procedure you used to manage information in your job was really thoroughly coded. You were told where information got filed and you got told where to get information. 

Now, we have put all of these tools into the hands of our people and we have provided them with almost no guidance. That means that when I go into an organisation, what I find is if there are 1000 people in it, there are 1,000 different ways of managing email. 

There’s also 1,000 different ways of getting access to research, even where they’ve used formal subscriptions to the major services. They are inconsistently used, because we’ve lost that sense that there is a formal structure to it. When we try to find information in a crisis, we find it really hard to know where people have put it, or even to have certainty that information that should have been kept has been.

And again, I think that that’s something that we will come back to far more. 

Meeting the expectations of the socially internet literate customer 

One of the assumptions must be that your customers are engaging with each other in ways that they’ve never done before. 

And I think customers are incredibly frustrated when they deal with an organisation that knows less about their own services and products than the customers do by engaging with each other. And that happens quite often. 

Then, effectively, customers form self-help groups. It doesn’t matter whether or not it’s in energy, utilities, or in certain financial services sectors.

And customers develop a community perspective, and then they get on the call, or they walk into a branch. And they talk to the staff, and the staff actually know less than the combined wisdom of a customer.

And that certainly is frustrating. We we’ve seen that a lot, particularly in airlines worldwide.

But quite often, that wisdom of the crowds is really, really strong, so much so that the customers are actually instructing staff on their own policies. And so that’s something that clearly, as a minimum, organisations need their staff to be as engaged in, in the knowledge community, across the internet, as their customers are.

A good example from an unexpected source

Have you seen Telstra’s CrowdSupport service? You’ll see it’s described as “people like you, questions like yours.” And it is a gamified interface for actually leveraging that crowd capability to be able to answer common questions, because Telstra has so many [different varieties of mobile] handsets that people could be using. It’s fabulous, if you can actually get people, other users of those handsets to provide feedback on how to solve problems, for instance. 

Now, what’s been interesting with that is to see the engagement that people have. People, actually are prepared to help other people. They’re enthusiastic about it. It’s gamified. So you get points. 

But what’s been interesting is it’s been a great way of engaging Telstra staff, because a lot of Telstra staff are actually engaged on that platform. 

And that comes to my point, which is that it is actually helping Telstra staff to have a better sense of what their customers want and what the customers are doing. 

I think it’s an absolutely fabulous example of an organisation doing what it is doing the right way. 

Across the workplace, Australia needs new learning

We just did the report, Building the Lucky Country on the future of work and skill. 

We did an analysis, all based on Australian data, in which we looked at a number of data sources to try to understand how people’s skills were developing, what skills they were going to need, and what skills employers wanted. 

What we observed was that Australians are showing every indication of wanting to stay with their employer for a long time, quite contrary to perceptions of current staff turnover. 

But employers are identifying that employees are on average, nearly two skills short of the portfolio of skills they need to do their job. What’s more, employers are reporting that they really only want people who have held their skills for three to five years. 

We think that employers aren’t doing enough to work with employees to ensure that people are 23 again. By that, I mean people that seem to hit their peak employability between ages 23 and 25, because on average, they’ve held their prime skills for three to five years. 

In fact, you are able to reset to 23, you are able to be 23 again anytime in your life, and you saw this with the car industry, where as a country, we had a tremendous motivation to reskill workers. 

It was the only time that in Australia we have offered a tax deduction for training for a job that you don’t already have. So, for you or I to get a tax deduction on training, we have to actually be able to demonstrate it in the job we’re doing today. 

But, for the car industry, we said if you are an auto industry worker, you could have a tax deduction in order to make you more employable for the job you wanted tomorrow.

What we found was that the unemployment headlines were way overblown. People got new jobs, and at a far greater rate than anyone expected, so much so that many of the people who took early retirement are now regretting it, because they’ve seen their former colleagues get employment. 

And that’s unfortunate, and where the headlines are wrong. But, why does it take an industry shutting down for us to intervene like that?

What we should be doing is making sure that all the stakeholders, the employer, the unions, and professional associations, and all of us as the people who do the work are motivated to treat our careers as part of lifelong learning, so that we are never getting ourselves out of that three-to-five-year window, because what happens after five years is quite depressing. 

If you have from three to five years’ experience, in almost every skill, there is more demand than there is supply.

But, once you get beyond five years, it flips, and there is more supply than demand, so much so that if you have had a skill for nine or more years, there is eight times supply to the demand.

Clearly, so clearly getting a skill, and, say, you get a welding certificate, nine years later, you are in all sorts of trouble.

Keeping workforce skills current is everyone’s responsibility

So, how do you keep on refreshing and reset the clock? 

Too many employers, when quizzed, when we talk to them about their learning roadmaps, when you put up the hypothetical of, you have an employee who comes to work each day and they do their job really, really well, they’re happy, and they are not asking for new learning, what do you do? 

And the response is that you leave them alone. If they’re doing a great job, just let them keep going. 

So, what you end up with is stranded assets – this person who is no longer in demand within their organisation, let alone outside. That’s tragic, and I think that’s dereliction of our responsibility to our people.

But, one of the things that we know is that people learn in different ways, and we get that. But we don’t do enough to actually help people to understand their own learning styles. 

So, a lot of people work really well with guided experiential learning, and that’s where online resources are fabulous, and it ranges from using unstructured resources in a deliberate way. And that can be true, just by reading and experimenting and playing. And we need to do more of that. 

Some people operate well if you give them structured training in an electronic form, so again, it’s the same idea, but now instead of saying go out and find, instead, we are curating for you and encouraging you to search, encouraging you to follow a particular curriculum, and giving you direction to some of the resources out there. 

But other people actually really only learn well if they’re part of the group in a collaborative session. That doesn’t mean that they don’t use the same resources, but there’s also got to be other support out there to do it. 

And I think understanding those styles and and the circumstances in which we learn in different styles is crucial.

Too many bosses is not too much leadership

So, I think what a lot of people don’t know is they have a sense that there’s a lot of information out there, but it’s overwhelming. And how do you apply it to do the things that you want to do to try it?

So, in Australia, for instance, as we know from our report, you’ll see there is an over-supply of managers but an under-supply of leaders. Why do we know that? It’s because we teach a lot of management skills quite early on in careers. We’ve got more people with management skills than we actually need managers. 

But we teach leadership skills, quite formally, through the mid-part of people’s careers. And there’s been less take up of that.

Now, there are a lot of leadership resources online, and there is a lot of leadership support available. But we don’t formally communicate that to people. And we don’t have any way of measuring how well people are taking it up. So, we need a structure that is a whole lot more to the point and more deliberate in teaching people.

And then you go to a lot more of the structured problems that people who are formally qualified face in a career. This is where we want people to have certificates or some form of certification. 

But we combine the certification process with the learning process, and, you know, if there is one thing we know about the internet, it has been all about unbundling. But education is probably the last bastion of unbundling. 

We still say at the moment that whether it’s a degree or short course, the process of training and the process of certification are combined. So, isn’t it time that the internet unbundled those two?

The internet delivers new forms of leadership

I think that we are more able now to use the technology well to have situational leadership in a way that we didn’t in the past, and I think as a society, we are far more open to situational leadership.

Situational leadership means that if that if you separate the hierarchy, you can end up with a 25-year old taking the leadership on a program or a problem and leading a group which includes senior executives of the organisation. 

But, the majority of the time you flip the other way. And they’re running under the leadership of those same executives. When you identify the best person for the job at the time, it gives you the ability to better identify who is able to [do that job].

The shift to non-routine and data-centric work

The other thing we’re seeing is a change in work which favours the use of these tools, which is a move from routine to non-routine. So, in the past, what the majority of people did each day was predefined and routine.

The year 2019 is the year, by our measure, that the majority of work in Australia was actually non-routine. 

So, we’ve gone from the people approach of processing mortgages to automating the mortgage origination process, then having the people managing the exceptions, and then spending more time, ideally, with the customer, matching what their needs are to the product that they are signing up for. 

That shift suits itself very well to an investigative approach and people taking leadership on a problem, because you know, rather than running around a process, you are then centred around the information. 

And in fact, so much so, that if we look at organisations, historically, old-style organisations are process-driven organisations. They run a whole lot of processes and then they are governed by the data that comes out of those processes. And that data by the way, feeds into your learning resources, into the intranet and internet’s resources.

Increasingly, though, if you look at any organisation that is engineered from the ground up in the 21st century, they are far more data-centric, with people taking situational leadership, and product and services being driven through the data, and then using process to govern them. 

So, it is flipping information and process on their head.

Across the workplace, we can now ask better questions

I think this actually goes back to the definition of what management consulting is all about.

The idea is that we are looking at, increasingly, a services based economy. A lot of what we need is advice in how to solve a problem in investigative support. 

The problem is actually not finding the information. 

So, for my own business, if I go back 20 years, a major part of the management consultant’s time was research to come up with the answer to a client’s question. 

Now, the majority of the time, if not always, the client can do that themselves, but for the majority of this you’ve got [to have] privileged access. We have privileged assets that are unique that we can use to bring it, but the majority of information, as you say, is out there. 

Where the greatest value is, in fact, is actually finding the right question to ask. 

And almost invariably, any management question that comes up is using a question as a way of describing the symptoms of the problem, not actually defining the right question. 

And you then need a number of passes to find the right question, which, as you know, when you’re doing any investigation on the internet or an intranet, getting the right search terms, takes you most of the way there. 

Not every problem can be searched

By the way, one of the challenges we have is the difference between the data I can search and deep data that is the deep web. Now, the deep web is not to be confused with the dark web.

The deep web presents all those parts of the internet that are not searchable. And, within an organisation, just as much as there is on the internet, the majority of data deep in an organisation is not searchable. 

So, a major part of the exercise that organisations have is, how do you make more searchable, more accessible, more of the information that you hold? How do you engineer your business to do that? Then, for the internet, how do you help people actually to understand how much data that is out there is actually searchable and findable, because you can find so much, it feels as if you can find anything, and it just simply isn’t true. 

We tell our kids be careful about what you post, be careful what you put on social media because it will follow you forever. Actually, if you try to find something from five years ago, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to find it. It’s gone. 

Now, it’s not gone from any record, but it’s moved from being visible on the web to needing digging in the deep web. And it’s it’s out of sight. It’s gone from the indexes. 

Now, a major part of the problem we’ve got is that the algorithms that guide the search engines are amongst the most secret. They’re more secret than the Colonel’s secret herbs and spices or the recipe for Coke, because they are deemed actually to be the power of the search engines.

But we’re depending upon the algorithms to give us answers and to guide us to ask the right questions, because they are suggesting the question that we should be asking. But not understanding those algorithms is potentially a risk. 

By background, not only am I a technologist, but I am an information-management specialist. So I spent my career thinking about working on problems to build big databases to be able to manage large amounts of data.

Ten years ago, I wrote a book called Information Driven Business, on how organisations could make the flip from being process-driven to being information-driven.

So, certainly not understanding the principle behind the algorithms puts anybody who wants to do any of these investigations at a significant disadvantage.

As the power of questioning information shifts, how do management consultants stay relevant?

The very nature of management consulting has been changing for a long time, and despite predictions that it would become less valuable, and a number of disruptive companies have appeared, ranging from internal consulting services to Expert 360, these are actually very useful and important organisations. But they haven’t displaced the management consulting organisation. 

Effectively, I think every job, management consulting included, can be split into those that activities you do that are high-value and those you do that are low-value. And typically, you have had a higher quantity of a low-value activities and a lower quantity of the high-value activities, simply because there’s been so much routine work you’ve had to do. 

In management consulting, a lot of that was the processing of numbers, the sourcing of data. And what’s exciting is a lot of that is disappearing and being replaced by the high-value activities.

The challenge is, you have to engineer your engagement around them. 

One of the biggest questions that people have is, surely, what happens now? Without the low-value, high-quantity work, all clients want to do is pay for the single experts who will add to their question. 

My response to that is, that’s not management consulting. That’s great, but it’s not management consulting. The problem is that you’re not getting the response to the right question. You’re asking a question, you’re getting a response, but how do you know it was the right question? 

And, actually, there’s enormous value to the management consulting approach, which has a number of junior people supporting a senior person, and that senior person explaining and re-explaining the problem and getting challenged.

And there is some really good research about the medical industry, which shows that if you have a health problem that is well defined – a really good example is a hernia. If you have a hernia, it is unpleasant, and it requires surgical intervention. But unless you have a complication, you’re not going to die from it, and the procedures are very, very well defined. 

So, if you get a hernia, and you’ve got private health insurance, go to a private hospital, get the surgeon of your choice, and a private room.

However, if you’ve got symptoms that are ambiguous, where they don’t fit neatly into any of the buckets of a standard major disease, you are better off to go to a public teaching hospital. There, you can see the same specialist, but when they have students and they’re explaining the problem to someone else, they will deliver a better health outcome than if they do it on their own, without having to explain to anybody else.

To teach is to learn

The process of teaching is as much an integral part of learning. That’s why the medical profession talks about the idea of watch one, do one, teach one. You watch it, then you do it. And then you teach somebody else. And it’s not until you’ve taught somebody else that you truly actually understand it, and more to the point, in that teaching, you actually challenge yourself as to whether you’ve got the best approach.

I remember as a pretty self-confident consultant at the turn of the century, I thought I pretty much knew what there was to know about information-management consulting. And I was pretty cocky about talking to my clients. 

And I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to set up the information management master’s course for one of the universities. And I configured and worked on the course. And I taught the course for the first semester. And it was one of the most valuable exercises I did, because what I found was the students forced me to really explain how did I know what I know? 

There’s some things that I knew were right. And I was sure that they were the right way of doing them. But I hadn’t really understood why I knew that was the case. And what I found was that then I brought that back to my consulting. And it challenged me to think deeply on behalf of my clients that whether a particular technical solution was actually solving the right problem for the client.

To learn best, you need politics and the competition of ideas

Or another way of describing it is when you talk to clients. When you talk to fellow executives within an organisation, typically there’s a power tussle, which means they’ll never let you go very far without challenging you. But they will tend to accept your advice once they get past that power tussle. 

Students, on the other hand, and junior staff, when you’re teaching, tend to accept what you tell them without tussle, so you get the whole idea out fully formed, but then they demand evidence to back up what you’re saying.

You need both. You actually need the competition of ideas of executives, the competition of politics, politics being a very positive thing in organisations when exercised for the interest of the organisation. But you also need the learning organisation which is going back to the premise of this discussion. 

How does pervasive internet social literacy change the organisational learning equation?

I actually don’t think it changes it. I think it just allows us to do more. I think that the executive community is still the executive community. Organisations are constrained by the resources that they can apply as constraints. 

The politics of an organisation are about the tussle between executives to be able to argue the case for that limited capital to be applied to the thing they think it should be applied to, and the politics should bubble up about where the greatest opportunity is, if a competition of ideas is played on a level playing field. 

But the social literacy, the information and the democratisation of information means that playing field is more level than it was not that many years ago.

Again, the democratisation of information means you are more likely to have somebody who does not have traditional situational power fighting as a near equal for a share of that capital to solve a problem.

There is a lot of political power to be gained in managing internet social literacy

I think internet literacy has the ability to enable more people to be engaged in social democracy and in the running of countries, and in the ability to be able to find policy solutions and to come up with better answers. 

The problem we’ve known for some time is that the vast quantities of information and the way we share it tends to lead to selective channeling of information. So you end up with groups just becoming an echo chamber for the information that they care about, the information they want to hear on subjects, or aligning to the belief that they already have, and there’s no doubt that that’s been an unhealthy development.

That’s actually part of the reason why being really deliberate and understanding how being socially literate and socially data-literate means you actually understand where those changes are. And you step into uncomfortable places to be able to share information, rather than stay within your comfortable place, and you’ve got a social responsibility to do that. 

Just as we want the tussle for capital within organisations, we want the tussle for the capital of ideas to be on a level playing field. And there’s a risk at the moment that it is not, because people are choosing to be comfortable within limited communities. 

Learning Economy research: Would you invest in any organisation without a plan to get smarter?

[Important disclosure: I referred Robert to my own research of the lack of disclosures on organisational learning in the annual reports of Australia’s ASX-listed financial services companies.]

I think a more important perspective is we want investors and journalists to be asking the question [about listed companies’ learning undertakings]. I think there’s a lot more good things happening than are necessarily being reported. 

I know, having been involved in the generation of annual reports for different organisations, they tend to put the information in there that investors are asking for. And there’s so much more going on in them. 

But, what we have seen is that the community cares a lot about the disruption of new technology. And there have been too many cases where executives have talked about the need to transition and to exit certain types of staff and bring in new types of staff, as opposed to saying, how can we transition the skills, and how will we do that over a long period of time?

And I think that should be a priority, and that’s exactly where the questioning should be. Because we know that is actually a much more cost-effective approach. Losing corporate history has a cost, and you don’t want to lose that.

One Learning Economy goal is to build an index of ASX-listed companies’ declarations of organisational learning

[Disclosure: Again, this wasn’t on the initial agenda for our discussion, but I’ve included it here because Robert’s response was apparently so interested and supportive.]

I think that is an audacious goal and I love when people come up with audacious goals. So, please go for it. I think a lot of our people would be delighted to see that as something that is a priority, and getting people to respond.

I think it has to be cultural. I think it has to involve a number of players. At the moment, employees are not asking the question. They’re looking for a secure job, rather than looking for a job that will grow them, and I think we need that demand. 

This should not be something where employers say learning is unpleasant, but you’ve got to take your medicine. That is not a great response.

There’s a risk if you grow an index, so that should be part of an answer, not sitting as an answer on its own. Yeah, I would love to see that as part of an answer. 

I also think that people are capable of far more than they’ve ever been capable of in the past. So I think that any index needs to be about how are you going to take more of your people on more of the journey in the future. 

And I think our labour organisations have a role to play in this as well. So, I think unions and also professional associations can be part of enabling their members to be part of the next generation. We spend far too much of our time worrying about protecting, and not enough time about speaking about growing. 

Now, I’m not saying for a moment that we don’t want to protect jobs. But actually, one of the problems we have is that we have poor data.

I think we need better data to encourage people to say, well, where are the priorities? What are the skills of the future? And how do we enable more people to have those skills and involve them in that process? 

How do we reduce the level of angst that people have? Am I doing this learning because I fear I am going to lose my job? Or, am I doing is learning because I’m excited by what it’s going to unlock for me?

Best of luck. I look forward to seeing something come out of this.

 

Learning Economy newsletter 02, July 15, 2019

To what ends should we direct our now wholly connected intelligence and collective internet social literacy?

Like any publishing endeavour in its early stages, this project is, naturally, attempting to find its voice, form and, huh, audience. However, above all, the question it aims to pose and promote is, Facebook entries aside, to what other, better outcomes can we direct our now wholly connected intelligence and collective internet social literacy?

I have an ambition that this newsletter should reach as many like minds as possible, and in seeking answers to this question, I aim to populate future editions with exclusive interviews with the brightest emerging minds with answers to this enquiry.

I aim to complement this with a range of unique insights from prominent society and business thought leaders on the growth and possible applications of internet social literacy.

And I will couple the above with a selection of valuable and related writings about where the internet and our growing abilities with its technologies are taking our society next, sourced through research conducted daily from across the web.

Subscribe at: https://thelearningeconomy.substack.com/

I especially want to reach out to Australian shareholders

A change in human behaviour as fundamental to our progress as the shift to a socially connected online world is as profound, and possibly even more consequential, as was the uptake of the telephone.

Because it therefore has an effect on the ways in which we trade and on how we both market and buy goods and services, the ability with which businesses organise what they know and can learn therefore also has an effect on which companies are deemed investment worthy, and for those we’d trust with our investment dollars.

My experience to date is, strangely, that the mainstream investment media is not ready or curious enough to give time to this thinking about the effects of internet social literacy on shareholder value. (Admittedly, we are still in very early days, however.) So if anyone has suggestions as to the best way to reach the widest base of those with investments through, say, their superannuation, to persuade them of the merits of investing only in smarter, faster learning businesses, I’d be appreciative of any pointers.

Australia first

Because we are beginning here, I’d like to play my part in making the Australian economy the most productively internet literate in its region and on the planet.

And as, in the beginning, the audience for this newsletter is likely also to be predominantly Australian, I’d like to find introductions or ways of getting at this stage the thoughts of some of its more influential citizens and business representatives.

So, if you know, or can connect me with some of the following to open the door to a conversation, I’d be most appreciative.

First, I’d like to talk with Harvey Jones, workplace collaboration lead at Atlassian, who in this piece said, “Our mission is to unleash the potential of every team, and we do this by making products that help teams to function more effectively… We enable them to communicate, share, and find information to track projects and activities.”

I believe harnessing some of the attention and energy of internet social literacy can help Atlassian achieve that goal, and if someone can make that introduction for me to Harvey, or even better to Atlassian leaders Mike Cannon Brookes or Scott Farquhar, I’d welcome the opportunity of helping them sell its Confluence workplace wiki into more organisations across Australia, and the world.

Although he isn’t strictly speaking an Australian, but he and his Virgin brand have a prominent reputation and presence here, and the spirit of his piece I have linked to beneath, encouraging people to “embrace the side hustle” is definitely in keeping with the startup spirit of the age. Moreover, as I think he could make a really valuable contribution to its connected thinking, can anyone help me get to Richard Branson to interview him for his views on how he might use internet social literacy? Again, any connections or introductions will be gratefully received and acknowledged if you can help me achieve this.

To catch their views of the potential of this emerging phenomenon, I’d really like to be able to interview both Steve Vamos, chief executive of Xero (and former boss of Microsoft Australia), and Daniel Petrie, another former leader of Microsoft here.

From the realm of Australian politics, I’d like to seek the views of recent former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and his subsequent independent replacement in the eastern Sydney electorate of Wentworth, Dr Kerryn Phelps.

Among local Australian city leaders, I’d also like to talk with Clover Moore, mayor of Sydney, which is where I live. She has long set her stall out on making the city sustainable, something which can’t happen without drawing on and creating new knowledge.

From the Australian media, I’d like to talk with Ita Buttrose, newly appointed chair of the ABC (that’s the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, for overseas readers), and therefore someone likely to be able to bring much to this discussion. Within the ABC itself, I can add to my wish list of interviewees the host of its RN (Radio National) show Late Night Live, Phillip Adams, and Geraldine Doogue, presenter of its weekend broadcast, Saturday Extra.

In anticipation, thank you for your assistance in getting to talk to these people.

General

As a general and possibly recurring note, I intend that this newsletter will most likely comprise from six to 10 links as I find items I consider interesting enough to pass on, and its themes will be much as you see beneath. If you know others likely to be interested, please pass this on to them.

And, if you are able to suggest additional links, content or sources you find interesting and believe will fit both your own and other readers’ purposes, please let me know at graham@thelearningeconomy.com.

In anticipation, thank you, I always love to be better informed, and thanks for reading. And in this instance, please forgive my indulgence in linking to one of my own posts first, but I do so in the belief that it points to one argument for organising knowledge in a familiar and structured way that most businesses can adopt as a usable platform.

That aside, I hope you enjoy the content I have linked to beneath.

Graham Lauren

News links

How capturing internet social literacy, the raw energy of the most naturally abundant, connected, powerful and transformative management force for change the post-Facebook world has yet seen, to grow the Wikipedia of what your business knows and can learn, will make you twice as much money, more agile and better prepared for the certain disruptions of a fully networked, digital industrial revolution

Graham Lauren, The Learning Economy

In its own page, The essence of Wikipedia, Wikipedia explains that it is based on the idea that, “No one knows everything, but everyone knows something.” Emulating this principle within your own organisation to extend what it knows beyond which anyone within it can imagine is an entirely reasonable and achievable proposition. This post outlines how this may be done to increase the effectiveness with which your business competes, using the knowledge it both already has, and can build and attract.

Embrace the side hustle

Richard Branson, Virgin

Richard Branson: “Not being able to quit your job shouldn’t mean you have to quit your dream – instead, it should complement it. Some of the world’s most successful companies began as side projects, with their founders working evenings or weekends to turn their ideas into realities. Virgin is a prime example of this – all of our Virgin businesses started while we were working on something else.”

Help Employees Create Knowledge — Not Just Share It

John Hagel and John Seely Brown, Harvard Business Review

Without diminishing the value of knowledge sharing, we would suggest that the most valuable form of learning today is actually creating new knowledge. Organizations are increasingly being confronted with new and unexpected situations that go beyond the textbooks and operating manuals and require leaders to improvise on the spot, coming up with new approaches that haven’t been tried before.

Why Every Company Needs a Chief Experience Officer

Denise Lee Yohn, Harvard Business Review

A good customer experience (CX) influences brand perceptions, affects business performance and makes a person five times more likely to recommend a company and more likely to purchase in the future. But the employee experience (EX) also significantly influences business performance, with those high in employee engagement outperforming others, experiencing lower employee turnover and developing more successful innovations.

Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System

Donella Meadows, The Donella Meadows Project

This celebrated piece may be one of the clearest and well known articulations of systems thinking. In it, the now-deceased Meadows discusses why delays in feedback loops are critical determinants of system behaviour, and a reason why a massive central-planning system, such as the Soviet Union or General Motors, necessarily functions poorly.

Here’s What Most People Get Wrong About Minimum Viable Products

Greg Satell, Digital Tonto

What is often missed is that a minimum viable product isn’t merely a stripped down version of a prototype. It is a method to test assumptions and that’s something very different. A single product often has multiple MVPs, because any product development effort is based on multiple assumptions.

Five moves to make during a digital transformation

Jonathan Deakin, Laura LaBerge and Barbara O’Beirne, McKinsey Digital

When considering a response to digital disruptions, organizations face many critical choices. Should they transform their existing business model or build a new one? Should they drive down costs or focus on customer engagement? Which areas of the business will require more investment in digital initiatives, and which will need to defund their own initiatives to free up resources for the ones that perform well or reflect higher-priority objectives?

5 Signs of Killer Business Strategy

Jasmine Bina, Medium.com

Visionary founders have a hypothesis about where the world will be in 5, 10 or 20 years and place their bets on that vision. You can solve a problem that exists today, but that doesn’t take into account the fact that your target audience is dynamic and always changing. Our cultures and beliefs are evolving with increasing momentum, and great businesses are built around a forward-looking point of view. That means inherent risks are involved. Placing bets on the future should feel risky. WeWork has made huge bets on the future of how we define our work lives, where in the world we will be working, how we much we will be willing to pay to work the way we want, and how fragmented the workforce will become as the gig economy continues to replace corporate careers. They’ve even expanded that hypothesis to WeLive. Ask yourself if your brand strategy dares to look into the future, and if what you see there is informing your approach today.

The new division of labor: On our evolving relationship with technology

Peter Evans-Greenwood, Robert Hillard and Alan Marshall, Deloitte Insights

Putting technology to effective use isn’t only about recognizing the superiority of a new tool, or even just about learning how to use it. It’s also a matter of emotional acceptance and social validation—factors that are at least as important as the intellectual understanding that the new technology is “better.” This is true for much more than word processors. From shipping containers3 to smartphones,4 both work habits and social norms had to change before the core technology could have a transformative impact.

3 Simple Habits to Improve Your Critical Thinking

Helen Lee Bouygues, Harvard Business Review

A lack of metacognition — or thinking about thinking — can make people overconfident.

Advanced social technologies and the future of collaboration

McKinsey Global Institute, McKinsey & Company

Tools should follow—not lead—new ways of working. Most companies have begun adopting digital tools, including social technologies, or even transforming their businesses with digitization in mind. But a mistake that many make is choosing the tool first and then expecting change will follow.

Open-Source Spying

Clive Thompson, New York Times

The Internet flourished under the credo that information wants to be free; the agencies, however, had created their online networks specifically to keep secrets safe, locked away so only a few could see them. This control over the flow of information, as the 9/11 Commission noted in its final report, was a crucial reason American intelligence agencies failed to prevent those attacks. All the clues were there — Al Qaeda associates studying aviation in Arizona, the flight student Zacarias Moussaoui arrested in Minnesota, surveillance of a Qaeda plotting session in Malaysia — but none of the agents knew about the existence of the other evidence. The report concluded that the agencies failed to “connect the dots.”

Shaping technology to be a social benefit to all

Paul Barclay, ABC Radio National, Big Ideas

Apologies, this is a link to download an Australian radio broadcast of a show called Big Ideas. In it, Geoff Mulgan, chief executive of the United Kingdom’s National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts (NESTA), talks of amplifying human intelligence by combining AI, and CI, or collective intelligence, the latter being an expression I’d never previously heard described as if formalised by its acronym.

Thanks to these writers: Richard Branson;  John Hagel and John Seely Brown; Denise Lee Yohn;  Donella Meadows; Greg Satell; Jonathan Deakin, Laura LaBerge and Barbara O’Beirne;  Jasmine Bina; Peter Evans-Greenwood, Robert Hillard and Alan Marshall; Helen Lee Bouygues;  McKinsey Global Institute; Clive Thompson; Paul Barclay.

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Which professional investor in Australian equities wants to stand out by backing pervasive post-Facebook internet social literacy as the management innovation with the greatest power ever to drive value-growing workplace learning and transformation in the third, disruptive, fully networked, digital industrial revolution?

If the headline describes you, we should talk

If you’ve come here by following a link from another web destination, say, Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, and this is the first you’ve seen of this site’s work, I should explain my primary aim in this post.

My goal is to point out the opportunity open to an investor both hungry, opportunistic and prudent enough to take money and reputation from those perhaps currently better known, but less deserving of either.

And I apologise, if you subsequently read on and find some of these concepts repeated elsewhere on the site, as they are its themes up to this point.

However, for those with the inclination to capitalise on it, great opportunity now exists for such an investor to claim, in pervasive internet social literacy, its recognition of an emerging, latent management resource with, arguably, unprecedented power to drive workplace transformation for power and profit.

Let me justify that claim.

Where it used to be hard, if not impossible, to capture workplace knowledge, no one now has to be trained to use private workplace social technologies in order to contribute to the intelligence of the business in which they work what they know, believe and have experienced.

Through that universal platform of capability, the power now exists for leaders and managers to gain access to unprecedented depths of hitherto unknown, unreachable and, hence, underused, but now wholly connected, networked intelligence.

This most potent new force is now a management opportunity simply waiting to be exercised in many businesses, as in parallel, we also have in an overwhelming number of them the best private social technologies ever invented for capturing, developing and disseminating knowledge across any organisation, community or network.

Thus can be enabled the potential of distributed minds working collaboratively in unison towards a greater goal, connected at digital-network speeds, learning, self-correcting and rewriting the script as they proceed.

This is now both predictable and inevitable and those best able to manage it are now the businesses we should all know about and be investing in.

What makes this all the more persuasive and powerful is that the newly enabled individual bearing this gift is now also the only kind of employee or customer that any business has.

There will be a lot to be said for, and about, an investment business that gets out ahead by using the business and mainstream media to communicate the message of how it has seen, is on top of, and is the first to be learning and investing deliberately for this change.

And that is my invitation. Step forward, contact me, let’s talk, and I will show you exactly how this capability is enabled in businesses at the individual level.

Then, if you can see the opportunity in what I am saying, we will work on making this work to the benefit of your own company and its reputation, and for each of those in which it invests.

The power of network-driven business learning

Because the encroaching third, fully networked industrial revolution is an era in which no company yet has ever traded, those that do not adapt to its new, digital ways of competing will fail.

Against this unstoppable reality, network-driven “organisational learning” is an irresistible force that will change the world.

It will do this if only because when a commercial organisation’s knowledge is not joined up, but is seen to be in others, companies will quickly leak money, opportunities, people and value for their shareholders.

This is why this mix of technology and technique is so threatening to those businesses which have no agenda, understanding or strategy for how to use it for this purpose.

Yet, the step change in human capability and potential this represents is both obvious, foreseeable and the power of networked learning at speed pretty much a given, even in businesses that haven’t yet figured out their artificial intelligence (AI) strategies.

Organisational learning as strategy

So far, through this site, I’ve been trying to draw attention to two things.

The first is the need for all businesses to adopt strategies to learn in this way, given the ability of the available tools to boost the power of, and to organise, their collective intelligence (CI) in ways never previously possible.

The second is the profound and perverse contrast in an Australian investment community that doesn’t seem yet to get this, to the degree that not one of the ASX-listed financial services organisations we’ve surveyed declares to its investors that it has a “learning strategy” of any kind.

Why a lack of declaration on investor learning matters

I have never met an investor, nor am I one myself, willing to invest in any stock whose management isn’t telling the world how either the business it manages or those in which, in turn, it invests, intends to learn and get smarter.

And if I am to entrust my money to any party in the investment community to invest it for me, that is at the top end of my expectations.

Its annual shareholder report is its self-published communication in which any company is beholden and most likely to put its best foot forward to those who will read it.

If I read one and find no such commitments, I am bound not just to be disappointed, but also never to become an investor in that business.

Yet, I have found no evidence in the most recent implicitly declared learning profiles contained in any of the top 25 Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) Listed Investment Companies (LICs) that reports to shareholders on how they are learning deliberately to make themselves smarter.

You can find the names of these companies and a link to this research beneath at the foot of this post.

Thus, in not reporting on how either its own business, or those of its investments intends to learn to become more intellectually agile, we are witnessing how these LICs may magnify, not mitigate, risk for their shareholders.

If ever there was an opportunity for clear, public, popular marketing differentiation, here it is.

We expect our financial services organisations to lead, not lag, public expectations as to how they will look after our money by becoming ever more intelligent in doing so than we are.

We expect those same institutions to demonstrate how they themselves are future ready, and will only put money into, or lend to, businesses that are also adapting to new and emerging realities.

For such businesses, the third, fully networked industrial revolution should represent an opportunity, not the crisis they appear unwittingly to be heading towards.

Yet, in their reports to shareholders – even as their own teams, to an individual, are entirely themselves socially internet literate – they leave such a gap for a hungry competitor.

They have not seen the possibility that in a digitally connected age, both the possibility of amplifying the intelligence of the human workplace and the entire spectrum of disruptive possibility lie within the possible arc of diverse, individual, internet socially literate human workplace contribution.

Management has a new, different and better tool to play with. And if they have a learning strategy to apply it too, it will propel their business’s competitive advantage and future.

Backing collective intelligence delivers proven benefits

Over recent years, we’ve witnessed internet exercises harness and mobilise human intelligence at large scale in citizen science, with vast numbers of people scanning for new stars.

We’ve seen voluntary human “cognitive surplus” create, in Wikipedia, the world’s most trusted and used encyclopedia.

In business, products such as Google Maps employ the crowdsourced data of thousands to add value.

As an emerging field with huge potential, in any system we care about, it appears that to make the whole system intelligent, you need to combine diverse elements and perspectives.

Digital technologies may be good for observation, in enabling storage and updating a record, and in creating predictive algorithms, but they lack personal experience and perspective and human skills of judgment, wisdom, or for bringing an ethical dimension into decisions.

The combination of the human and machine is key and it may need thoughtful design to reinforce any system’s ultimate intelligence. But, it is completely within the realm of human capability to deliver that within any organisation that decides that learning deliberately to become smarter is simply in its competitive interest.

And that aside, we simply need the businesses we invest and work in locally in Australia just to get smarter, in our own collective interest.

Time to step forward

I want to begin a conversation with a professional investment body willing and interested in taking a public stand to draw to the attention of an interested media the shortcomings of its rivals.

The negligible cost of the modest package of research it may require to achieve this might even be funded willingly by someone else.

But a conversation costs nothing, so if this possible outcome is of interest, contact me now.

Graham Lauren 0416 171724 graham@thelearningeconomy.com

Footnote: The companies in our research

As the benchmark for comparison, the 25 Listed Investment Companies in our survey comprise, in alphabetical order: Absolute Equity Performance Fund Limited (AEG), Acorn Capital Investment Fund Limited (ACQ), Amcil Limited (AMH), Argo Investments (ARG), Arowana Contrarian Value Fund Limited (AWQ), Australian Foundation Investment Company Limited (AFI), Australian United investment Company (AUI), Bailador Technology Investments Limited (BTI), BKI Investment Limited (BKI), Cadence Capital Limited (CDM), Carlton Investments Limited (CIN), Clime Capital Limited (CAM), Concentrated Leaders Fund Limited (CLF), Diversified United Investment Limited (DUI), Djerriwarrh Investments Limited (DJW), Future Generation Investment Fund Limited (FGX), Milton Corporation Limited (MLT), Mirrabooka Investments Limited (MIR), NAOS Small Cap Opportunities Company Limited (NSC), Ophir High Conviction Fund (OPH), Perpetual Equity Investment Company Limited (PIC), Plato Income Maximiser Limited (PL8), WAM Capital Limited (WAM), WAM Leaders Limited (WLE), Whitefield Limited (WHF)

Find our research at: On the basis of its understanding of the Learning Economy, which of these top 25 Australian Listed Investment Companies would you give money to invest for you?

 

Amid pervasive, post-Facebook internet social literacy, network-driven organisational learning is a force that will change the world

In a Learning Economy, the coming power of distributed minds working in unison towards a declared greater goal, at digitally connected network speed, learning and self-correcting to script as they proceed, is as predictable as it is inevitable.

In an internet socially literate world, therefore, network-driven organisational learning is a force that will change the world, because when knowledge is not joined up, companies leak money and value quickly:

  • In not making the most of the intelligence they contain
  • In running sub-optimal practices and processes
  • By building weak and ignorant workplace cultures
  • In marketing opportunities lost to others
  • In missing out on recruiting the smartest and most self-motivated learning staff
  • In lost opportunities for innovation and NPD
  • In lost opportunities for favourable publicity and media attention
  • In lost reputational advantage for advances on sustainability
  • In lost opportunities for integration across divisions post M&A activity
  • By failing to sense the future
  • By failing to create new business models
  • By failing to capture and to feed to leaders, investors and owners key information on which those at the helm can make better decisions

To counter this, they must focus on objectives, such as:

  • Building an inquisitive, learning-driven management culture that adapts to the future
  • Sensitising the business for strategic agility by understanding better the detail of the constantly shifting environment in which it trades
  • Driving objective-led learning across a business’s value-adding and value-chain processes

 

Which one of these non-learning Australian Listed Investment Companies’ teams will lose its Learning Economy investors’ money first and fastest?

How well are Australia’s ASX-Listed Investment Companies (LICs) representing the interests of their shareholders in preparing for the certain upheavals of the unfolding third, digital, industrial revolution’s learning economy?

I conducted research to answer this question, based on the published learning undertakings – which we now call declared learning profiles – in the most recent annual reports of the top 25 LICs by capitalisation (according to Morningstar, January 2019).

The premise of this work is straightforward.

To this point, workplace knowledge has been difficult and often impossible to capture, but things have changed, and the means to address many of the unfolding age’s challenges is now already with us, obvious, and staring us in the face.

Post-Facebook, it exists in the pervasive, connected social internet literacy now accessible in every mind in every workplace. No one now has to be trained to use social technologies in order to contribute to workplace intelligence what they know and have experienced.

In parallel with this universal behavioural footprint, we also have in a great number of businesses the best private social technologies ever invented for capturing, developing and disseminating knowledge across any organisation, community or network.

Adding those users’ familiarity with these technologies to the impetus of businesses to get competitively smarter gives managers across a workplace an entirely new resource, capability and opportunity to contend with.

It presents access to unprecedented depths of hitherto unknown, unreachable and, hence, underused, but now wholly connected intelligence.

The coming power of distributed minds working in unison towards a declared greater goal, learning and self-correcting to script as they proceed, at digitally connected network speed, is as predictable as it is inevitable.

This makes network-driven “organisational learning” an unstoppable force that will change the world. It will do so if only because when a commercial organisation’s knowledge is not joined up, but is seen to be in others, companies will quickly leak money and value for their shareholders.

This is why this mix of technology and technique is so threatening to those businesses which have no agenda, understanding or strategy for how to use it for this purpose.

This, however, doesn’t yet appear to factor into the published calculations of those LICs investing in Australian equities, and is therefore is probably not used as a criterion by which their estimation of the value of their investee organisations is calculated, refined or sold to their own shareholders.

Essentially, what investors most need to know is also precisely what these companies are not reporting to shareholders, either in the form or the content of their most recent annual reports.

The fact that not even one of Australia’s top 25 ASX-listed LICs articulates or even mentions the expression “learning strategy” in its most recent annual report, suggests that it neither possesses one itself, nor cares sufficiently to ask such questions about the propensities for learning of the companies in which it invests.

Yet, because as much as investors may back past performance, it is the behaviours and future growth of their shareholdings that will most interest them.

As such, they should be rightly cautious when not being able to articulate a strategy for learning reveals those businesses not to be attempting to master an essential survival skill.

At a time of massive, fundamental and unprecedented structural change in the digitising economy, shareholders will want to know that the companies they have invested in are fit for the future, and are ready and constantly preparing for whatever change comes at them next.

The ability to drive fast organisational learning should be a guiding managerial competency of digitisation among, at minimum, publicly offered, investment-ready companies.

Yet, the top LICs seem to be telling their investors that neither their own businesses nor those companies in which they invest are geared up to learn much from what is so evidently changing around them.

Nor do their reports suggest even an awareness of those changes.

Again, the original story on which it is based is here and some questions appropriate to interrogations of those organisations’ representatives here.

Footnote

The 25 LICs included in this list, in alphabetical order, are: Absolute Equity Performance Fund Limited (AEG), Acorn Capital Investment Fund Limited (ACQ), Amcil Limited (AMH), Argo Investments (ARG), Arowana Contrarian Value Fund Limited (AWQ), Australian Foundation Investment Company Limited (AFI), Australian United investment Company (AUI), Bailador Technology Investments Limited (BTI), BKI Investment Limited (BKI), Cadence Capital Limited (CDM), Carlton Investments Limited (CIN), Clime Capital Limited (CAM), Concentrated Leaders Fund Limited (CLF), Diversified United Investment Limited (DUI), Djerriwarrh Investments Limited (DJW), Future Generation Investment Fund Limited (FGX), Milton Corporation Limited (MLT), Mirrabooka Investments Limited (MIR), NAOS Small Cap Opportunities Company Limited (NSC), Ophir High Conviction Fund (OPH), Perpetual Equity Investment Company Limited (PIC), Plato Income Maximiser Limited (PL8), WAM Capital Limited (WAM), WAM Leaders Limited (WLE), Whitefield Limited (WHF)

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