Training is dead; long live the Chief Learning Officer

The old way of training is becoming obsolete and so very 20th Century. Organisations need a Chief Learning Officer sitting in the C suite that will stimulate real organisational learning in order to, not just survive, but to thrive. The Chief Learning Officer will embrace a metalearning approach which will enable people to talk within and outside the organisation, learn, problem solve, innovate and collaborate. These skills may be learnt in a classroom but real learning happens outside in the workplace (Cross, 2009).

Metalearning is learning about the way that you learn. Metalearning improves the chances of surviving in hard economic times and to be top of your game in great times (Cross, 2009).  Mastery of the skills of collaborating and connecting creates innovation to deal with new and challenging situations. Innovation is created in collaboration of motivated and supported people, whilst repetitive tasks are being automated. People need to make quick decisions which means “knowing how to learn” and “learning on demand”. There will not be the luxury of time to work matters out. Workers need to be resourceful.

Think about these questions in relation to your workplace (Cross, 2009);

  • Are your people working, talking, gossiping, bragging, coaching, bargaining, learning, competing and playing? 
  • Are colleagues, employees, customers, stakeholders, partners, prospects, and total strangers talking, learning, problem solving, collaborating and innovating together?
  • Are people sharing or keeping information to themselves?
  • Is learning a separate activity to work or part of work?
  • Do people treat each other with respect and integrity or is there huge political playing?
  • Are people very busy or is there time for reflection?
  • Do rules drive the business or can people take risks?
  • Do people work on their own only or do they collaborate?

Controlling management is also dead as all stakeholders believe that “we’re all in this together“ (Cross, 2009). Silos and boundaries diminish as values of the network, transparency, peer power, togetherness, authenticity and risk taking creates a participative corporate culture. Learning is shifted from events to processes, to quick learning and an ongoing fascination with learning. The organisation accepts mistakes and learns from them.  The mantra is ‘Let’s not lose the lesson of the mistake’. A clear vision and inspirational leadership, along with multiple accesses to networks, will ensure agility and speed and in turn, enduring success.   

The Chief Learning Officer needs to enable all of this.


“It’s OK to lose, if you don’t lose the lesson”

(Cross, 2019, p. 51)


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