Life hike week: Envisioning the future of learning

The rapid pace of technological changes made learning a core focus of every organization. Being part of skill development for many years, I recently got the opportunity to participate in Life Hike Week, a week-long event focused on developments in learning & development. Organized by Own the Room, which is well-known for personal development training, this event had some excellent speakers & sessions. I had to sit out on many sessions due to the 10+ hour time difference. Each of the sessions I participated in gave me a unique perspective on the future of learning.  

Like hike week kicked off with Jodi Rabinowitz (Zoom) having an interesting conversation with Adam Grant (University of Pennsylvania) on different aspects of learning. An expert in the field, Adam provided excellent insights and busted several misconceptions. Defining what constitutes learning, why learning is meaningful to any organization, and how to link outcomes with learning were some of the key takeaways from this session. Along with excellent moderation by Jodi Rabinowitz, we all agreed that any investment in a well-thought learning curriculum will help to boost employee morale and the bottom line of our organizations.

‘How do we get the right kinds of leaders for our times & challenges?’ a session moderated by Nandani Lynton (Siemens Energy). Panelists included Neeraj Bansal (KPMG), Rafaela Venurini (IBM), Gregor Kosi (Lidl), and Jason Fox (Consumer reports). Everyone on the panel agrees that it is always a struggle to find people for taking leadership roles. Panelists shared different ideas on how to transform an employee into a leader, sustaining the people during their transition phase, and why mistakes should be considered a natural way of developing leadership.

Maria White (Twilio) led one of the best sessions of the day. ‘How do we make learning inclusive’ had experts like Sarah Dunmore (Marsh Mclennan), Katie Ballay (K Ballay Consulting), Dr. Kenneth Kent (University of Pennsylvania), Amy-Lee Simon (Singapore), and Kim Sharan (CEO). 

This is the topic I am personally attached to as this is something I envisioned while working on my Zero Cost MBA project. Throughout the session, everyone was in agreement that good content is a genesis of a good learning program. In breakout rooms, panelists and participants brainstormed some of the challenges associated with developing inclusive learning content. Educational, cultural, organizational biases were some of the challenges faced while developing a curriculum was similar across the world. A globalized session with globalized participants was simply priceless.  

Conflicts are part of the process in both personal and professional life. However, resolving them in an organization is not an easy task. A session hosted by my favorite speaker Bill Hoggterp focused on approaches to handling a conflict.  It is no secret that the majority of us want to avoid conflict. He gave a wonderful example of nuclear reaction to highlight the need for healthy conflicts as a genesis for innovation. Going further, with the help of 2 volunteers, he sequentially demonstrated his approach in resolving conflicts.  We learn some of the steps like listening, building trust, and putting faith in the process to handle conflict at the workplace. He divided all the conflicts into 2 broad categories and explained why one is easier to handle than the other.  Using the analogy of pressure & time from the movie Shawshank Redemption, he emphasized the optimal usage of pressure with time in resolving any conflict. 

Being agile in our professional lives is the need of time,  but how about bringing agility in learning & development? Amy Hayes (Facebook) moderated the session with panelists Maja Remensberger (Swisscom), Stephan Thoma (Indie), Charles Shaw(Facebook), Matthew Van den Branden (Kinesso). We all share our ideas on how a slow, static, and inflexible traditional learning style can be changed to become more agile?  Panelists shared some of the ways through which they are making learning more agile in their organizations. This interactive session gave many answers to “What does the concept of agile, flexible, responsible learning open up for organizations, business mean to anything or anyone?”

How can we make learning a lifelong habit? Juan Carlos Rivero (Epsilon Advisors) along with panelists Francesca Gino (Harvard Business School), Kurt D. Battenhausen (Harting), Pete Beeney (The Washington Post), Dr. Elizabeth Haines (Neuro leadership Institute) tried to find the answer to this in one of the other session. We too contributed through breakout rooms discussions in a group of 3.  Panelists concurred that this pandemic has brought some new innovative models of learning making learning from home possible. Will these models work in post-pandemic? Will the hybrid model of working also lead to a hybrid model of learning? Those burning questions kept me captivated throughout the session.  

Bill Hoggterp delivered an excellent session on ‘Coaching your people’. In a competitive environment, it becomes difficult to coach as people are unwilling to open up about their weaknesses. Confidentiality, trust, finding the root cause, and allowing people to come with the plan instead of providing answers were some of the tools discussed during this session. He shared his personal experiences and shared some of the methods he used in his coaching. We practiced them in 2 breakout rooms by becoming coach and coachee of each other in a group of two. 

The last session of the life hike week was moderated by Cherita McIntye (ESPN) with panelists Sarah Devereaux (Murmur), Nina Bianchi (Madelia), Kevin Carol (Author/Inspirer). This session focused on the advantage of the unique situation created by the pandemic which was thrown upon us.  Discussions & ideas shared by panelists were conclusive in outlining a new style of work in the future. We all have to learn to be comfortable in becoming uncomfortable.  In the breakout rooms, we discussed what did we learn in the last year and how we can make learning joyful in the future? 

Although I missed many other interesting sessions, every part of which I participated was great. Meeting with like-minded individuals from across the world, engaging with them through breakout rooms, and building a community were the biggest outcomes from life hike week. The beauty of living the future is by creating it. This week has just proved it.

More information about the event: https://owntheroom.com/lifehikes-week/speaker-lineup/

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