On a recent team call, I asked a group of our executive consultants, “What leadership development themes are you hearing when you work with our clients?” We had a robust discussion informed by their experience at a range of global companies across a range of industries and the following themes emerged:
- The “Matrix” is now the “Norm”: Multiple reporting relationships no longer make a company unique…it actually makes a company normal. The challenge with this new normal is that traditional leadership development is taught from a hierarchical perspective and traditional business acumen is taught from a functional perspective. The new organizational models and complexity demand an integrated approach to defining and learning skills.
- Financial Acumen is back in focus…and it’s more complex: Business acumen has always been the heart of business simulations. A leader learns about financial reporting, makes operating decisions, and sees how their operating decisions play out in those financial metrics. However, in the past, financial acumen training was generally reserved for the senior most executives, and programs were offered on an as-needed basis. With more functions focused on how they drive financial performance, the need for that learning has become more universal. Financial acumen is no longer reserved for MBAs and the C-suite. Instead, it is now a lever that most leaders in an organization need to understand. Senior leaders need to be thinking about the next generation of leaders and how to fill this emerging skill gap.
- Content is Everywhere: Content is no longer limited to what you can find in the “Business” or “Leadership” sections of your local Barnes & Noble. Between companies like Lynda.com, Pluralsight and other open content formats; searchable databases from top business schools; online publications from every research and consulting organization; there is literally more information about business and leadership in the world than at any point in history…until tomorrow, when there will be even more. The unintended consequence of all this content is that leaders often don’t know where to turn or which advice to listen to. Companies need to help their leaders navigate the ocean of content and be clear about the learning objectives they are trying to achieve.
- It may be everywhere, but delivering content effectively is HARD: With the explosion of content comes the challenge of delivering it in a way that it has a lasting impact. “Bite-Size” learning is effective if a leader needs to learn how to do something at that moment. However, without ongoing practice and reinforcement the bite-size lesson is quickly lost. Furthermore, the unintended consequence of bite-size learning is that we are losing our collective ability to pay attention, while expecting immediate results. Defining the intended outcome becomes the most important first step in creating impactful learning.
All of these trends point to the fact that corporate strategy, learning, and development requires increasingly experiential (to teach integrated skills and make them stick), engaging (to capture attention) and content-linked methodologies than ever before. It’s also clear that effective learning development is a significant strategic lever for companies and should be designed in that light.
Insight Experience’s partners and affiliates are a highly experienced team that has collectively led more than 1000 days of financial acumen and leadership-based business simulations over the last twelve months. They regularly interact with executives at some of the most influential companies in the world. There are few teams more qualified to speak to these themes.
Jamie Hayman is Vice President of Business Development at Insight Experience, a Boston-based firm delivering contextually rich, immersive business simulations and learning experiences to accelerate and integrate leadership, business acumen and strategy execution.