"You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future." — Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs, arguably the best inventor of the future, recognized the importance of looking to the past. I'd like to take this opportunity to reflect on some of the biggest trends currently impacting the broader L&D industry as a whole, notably business-oriented leadership development and content curation.
Business-Oriented Leadership Development
Lately, we've saw more organizations look to leadership development as the core — but not the ultimate — goal. In a very real sense, leadership was seen as the means to an end and not the end itself: positive customer experiences requires effective leadership; market growth requires effective leaders; increased productivity requires effective leaders. Effective leadership was viewed by many clients and prospects as a tool for achieving real business goals. For instance, one client's recent business strategy focused on improving the customer experience. While technology, data analytics, automation, business processes, policies, staffing, and other tools were also leveraged, our client determined that developing specific skills in leaders was equally critical.
As a result, we've seen programs that focused leadership development with specific business goals integrated in — and driving — the training. This focus not only helps leaders apply leadership skills in business-impacting ways, it also helps organizations see the payoff — or lack of payoff — of these programs. I project that business-goal-focused leadership development programs will continue to be a priority.
We've also seen many organizations re-evaluate their content strategies. Curation has been a big buzzword lately for many of our clients and prospects — identifying what learning content is accessible and exploring how it can be leveraged. Content is no longer viewed as the mitigating variable in effective leadership development programs; USING the content to help drive behavior change is now emerging as key. Organizations are evaluating models and learning activities as key to initiating and sustaining behavior change in leaders. Assessments, 360-degree surveys, technology-enabled feedback, and other tools help otherwise complacent (or simply unaware) leaders embrace the need to change and improve. Simple models, engaging learning activities, and collaborative interactions with peers are a few of the techniques that help leaders adopt and sustain behavior change. And all these tools are being assembled in thoughtful, planful ways that address the needs of leaders and overcome the limitations of geography and time that make leadership development as unique as the organizations that implement them.
In 1909, Henry Ford stated that customers purchasing his Model T automobile "can have any color they want as long as it's black." For years, providers of leadership development programs have largely followed Ford's strategy: "what you get is what we have." 2018 will see forward-thinking organizations create leadership development programs, tools, and processes that reflect the uniqueness — and the business needs — of the organization. Something Entelechy's been helping our clients do since 1992.