Leveraging immersion & experiential learning for leaders

How we designed a revolutionary high potential leadership development programmes for one of the world’s most well-known, fast growing technology companies, resulting in a major cultural shift towards greater cross-boundary collaboration and integration.

The Challenge

One of the world’s most well-known, fast growing technology companies recognised a need to introduce new development programmes for its Global Executive high potential leaders and EMEA high potential managers. To date, training for these two key groups had been built on a didactic, classroom-based approach and they believed a new approach was required to equip their current and future leaders for an increasingly volatile and complex landscape.

The Solution

Living System was tasked with designing and running a number of leadership development programmes that emphasised learning-by-doing and experiential learning, focussing on both vertical and horizontal development.

For high potential managers we introduced the practice of Action Inquiry, a supercharged form of action learning. Over the course of the first three years of the programme we helped to establish and embed a learning culture in EMEA, with Action Inquiry supporting real-time learning and development whilst working through live business issues with peers.

For the high potential Executive cohorts we went even further. Working in partnership with the Executive we designed a year-long programme that integrated work on real business projects with leadership development, introducing Action Inquiry as a practice for integrating personal development with work on live priorities. At a time when there was an emphasis on collaboration across organisational silos, we put leaders into small groups of 6-8 people formed to ensure a maximum mix of diversity across functions. We then designed activities to help these leaders broaden their understanding of the business to incorporate the perspectives of other functions and develop more robust systemic leadership capability.

Over the course of each of these programmes, we helped leaders develop their capacity for Connected Intelligence. We introduced the principles of whole system change and developed the ability of leaders to facilitate Collective Intelligence in groups. We enabled leaders to learn how to codify patterns of language, making the invisible architecture of communication visible. This was supported by an intense programme of 1:1 sessions, developing vertical capacity by building mental, relational and task agility.

The Outcome

Over the course of these programmes, the ethos of learning-by-doing and experiential learning became (and remains) central to the evolution of the organisation’s leadership culture.

The EMEA high potential manager programme received some of the highest scores ever seen for a development programme in the organisation, and our Action Inquiry model has become firmly embedded as a practice within the organisation’s DNA.

The results of the Executive programme exceeded all expectations. Over the course of four years, it was responsible for a number of significant cross-functional innovation and transformation initiatives. By developing connections across functions we improved collaboration between the key functions of Engineering and Sales and Marketing, and helped to develop a reflective learning culture. The programme was a key catalyst for much of the well-publicised change which would lead to the organisation making a major cultural shift towards greater cross-boundary collaboration and integration.

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