Developing a learning organisation through Collective Intelligence

How Living Systems helped a fast growth software company to rebuild its leadership development programmes by fostering a culture of turbocharged learning through Action Inquiry.

The Challenge

One of the world’s fastest growing software organisations needed to drastically overhaul its leadership development programmes. To date, leadership and management development had been based largely around didactic training and skills development and were delivered either through the classroom or individual remote learning. It had become clear that this approach to development was no longer fit for purpose and as such they wanted to develop as a learning organisation which would better equip their global cohorts of high potential managers to succeed in a fast changing and uncertain world.

The Solution

We began by developing a roadmap for the organisation’s front line managers. We designed a programme that focused not only on knowledge transfer and skills acquisition, but also on developing self-awareness and ensuring learning is translated into action. We designed a leadership journey that integrated face-to-face and remote learning sessions with regular peer learning groups, who meet between events to focus on continuous application and learning, via action learning. While on the surface this may sound like a familiar approach, it was what we did in these sessions that was very different.

Many leadership programmes pay a lot of attention to classroom workshops and online learning, and leave the action learning part to take care of itself. At Living Systems, however, we believe the action learning components of programmes are as important as the classroom and the computer. Action inquiry is an approach to problem solving that involves taking action and collectively reflecting upon the results – a kind of turbocharged approach to learning. By developing the participants’ capacity for Collective Intelligence during these sessions we turbocharged the effectiveness of the Action Inquiry process,  transforming individuals’ awareness, along with their ability to read, assess and intervene more effectively in group dynamics and organisational systems, all whilst working on a live business challenge.

The Outcome

The impact scores and metrics on this programme were amongst the highest the organisation had seen for any development programme globally. By rolling out the leadership programme in this way and developing the mental, relational and task agility of participants, we established the organisation’s capacity for Collective Intelligence. The process of action inquiry became embedded as a fundamental part of the organisational culture, and the organisation has developed its ability to collaborate and innovate across organisational boundaries. As a result of these achievements with the managerial population, Living Systems was then invited back to also partner on the organisation’s global Executive High Potential programme.

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