Shifts in Learning

"Similar to the way sales are customer centered, the new approach to enterprise learning is employee-centered. There's a change in focus. Learning is not an event but an immersion experience in the company's information, vision, business model, teamwork, culture and values. Gaining an edge in the competition for talent means aligning the company's learning experience with the employee's desire for lifelong learning.The learning experience must be a dynamic experience."

– Kevin Wheeler, Global Learning Resources

The "Window into Talent and Learning" offers a view of the learning landscape 2001-2005. The implications for enterprise are significant. First, a company's approach to learning may be as important as salary and benefits in winning the competition for talent. Second, learning can make the strategic difference in developing an efficient, innovative workforce at a time when workers are increasingly likely to cycle through many different enterprises during the course of their career.

This website examines many features of talent support and learning, beginning with the major shifts in what it means to learn -- effectively -- in the 21st century. Industrial era corporate training focused on "how to do" but in the information age the focus is "how to think." Competence today includes the ability to continuously learn, work across demographic and geographic boundaries, and create meaning along the way. Instead of passive receptacles for information, learners are active participants - learning by solving real world problems.

The goals, techniques, and motivation for learning are radically changing. Some schools and universities are altering their curriculum, but many people will not be prepared for the workforce -- and those who are prepared will be looking for engaging learning opportunities on the job.

The following four "shifts in learning" are changing education, learning and talent support for the 21st century:

The New Literacy: From the 3 r's to the 5 c's

The "basics" in industrial era education were the old fashioned 3 R's: "Readin' Ritin' 'Rithmetic." Future competence requires mastery of the 5 Cs: Content, Conversation, Connectivity, Collaboration, and Context. Connectivity and bandwidth enable enterprises to develop competent and innovative workforces within learning environments that promote instant information access, peer support, global teamwork, critical thinking and skill development. The following list outlines the shifts in learning programs that embrace The New Literacy:

From: The 3 R's To: The 5 C's

Rote learning

Competitive approach


Receiving Information

Fast Delivery

Classroom OR Virtual

Standardized Tests

Following guidelines


Formal learning

Looking for the right answers


Iterative Learning

Collaborative Approach


Navigating Information

Continuously available

Face-to-Face AND Online

Personalized Evaluations

Critical thinking


Informal learning

Asking the right questions


Back to top

Continuous Learning: From Static to Dynamic

In their new multiple-enterprise career trajectory, workers will be dealing with ongoing change in work processes, knowledge, technology, environments and regulations. Some may be prepared for the workforce in school but many will be learning new competencies (along with the psycho/social attitudes) on the job. It will be up to individuals to continuously learn. They will be attracted to enterprises that support them by understanding the nature of continuous learning. The following list reflects the shift from the old "fill 'er up" notion of delivering training to ongoing learning efforts that support lifetime learning:

From: Static To: Dynamic

Discreet Skills


Packaged Solutions

Linear road (K-12,college,workplace)



Defined Skills

Set Menu


Corporate Ladder


Individual Competing



Adaptive Skillsets


Seamless Connectivity

Critical Path (learn,regroup,learn,regroup…

Active/Integrated with work

"How" and "Why"

Evolving Competencies

A la Carte


Personal Network


Team Collaborating


Back to top

Re(de)fining Culture: From Inherited to Emerging

Studies have found that stock prices increase for mergers that successfully blended cultures and the reverse for those that did not attend to cultural cohesion. At Iowa State University, Professor Sam Demarie cites research pointing to the strategic value of defining culture, including an article in Organizational Dynamics in which Toby J. Tetenbaum states, "companies that managed their cultures well versus those that did not showed revenue increases of 682% versus 166 %, stock price increases of 901% versus 71% and net revenue increase of 756% versus 1 percent.". (Autumn, 1999)

Individuals and networks are weaving new culture with chosen components of the past. Anthropologist Geert Hofstede has defined culture as "a pattern of thinking, feeling and potential acting a person learns over the course of a lifetime". Enterprises -- particularly involved in mergers -- can do so consciously, weaving a unique culture that resonates with customers and with workers who are looking for new patterns in an increasingly themeless world. The following list outlines some features of re(defined) cultures:

From: Inherited To: Emerging



Consultants who describe culture

Historic Cultural Traditions

Cross training





One Way

Tolerance of different Cultures

Workplace versus Life Culture




Culture Analysts who dig deeper

Mix and Match/Blend Traditions

Expose people to different ways of thinking

Intensity and Frequency of Interaction




Many Ways

Embracing different Cultures

Home/Work/Life blur


Back to top

Global Perspective: From Multi to Inter

Stories abound about fateful cross-cultural missteps leading to broken trust and awkward communications. Most enterprises have made the shift from "mono" to "multi" in terms of tolerance and appreciation for different ethnic and geographic groups of people. The next phase is "inter" in which a deeper connection occurs among people across geographic, cultural, ethnic, and economic lines. The challenge for companies is knowing what they do NOT know about other cultures, so they do not fail due to ignorance.

Learning programs increasingly are building in sensitivity to diversity. New "translators" are being used by many e-learning companies to present information and employee manuals in such a way that the context is clear to people who have not grown up with the assumed knowledge of the home office culture. The following is a snapshot of the shifts in perspective that are driving successful global enterprise:

From: Multi To: Inter
Home Office Translates Ideas


Verbal communication

Enterprise translates learning program

Stakeholders centralized


Translate language

Cultural Esperanto

Work norms reflect home office culture

Tolerance for diversity

Unifying cultures

Assume understanding of "bottom line"

Local Interpretation of Enterprise


Attention to gestural/subtle cultural cues

Enterprise revises learning for culture

Stakeholders dispersed geographically


Translate context

Weaving in diverse cultural symbols

Understand different meanings of "work"

Embracing diversity

Recognizing value of differences

Question premises

Back to top

Back to Window into Talent and Learning