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Transformational, virtual learning experiences

How can virtual learning be genuinely transformational?

Today’s VUCA context for business leadership is highly challenging. The environment in which we all operate is fast-paced, and there is little stability. To respond to this environment, employees need to be aware, adaptable, agile, and able to change quickly and skilfully. Leaders need to create adaptive organisations that can continuously observe, learn, and adjust.

Current, virtual development approaches do not always fully equip leaders and employees for these complex challenges, because virtual learning is often focused on horizontal (skills and knowledge-based) development. This has the advantage of being easy to reproduce at scale in a consistent way, but may not fully equip employees to create an environment for high performance, where people are aligned with the organisation’s higher purpose, think and act systemically and are capable of engaging in solving complicated and complex business problems.

Transformational, virtual learning experiences

Incorporating experiential learning, vertical and horizontal development into virtual development programmes provides a potent approach that offers the potential to create a transformational impact on both individual leader capability, employee engagement and alignment, and organisation performance.

Experiential learning is a well-established approach described as a process of learning through experience (more specifically learning through reflection on doing). Experiential learning puts the onus for learning onto the student and creates an environment where learners take ownership. It builds on traditional leadership theories, such as Kolb’s Learning Cycle.

Balanced experiential learning includes:

It is helpful to consider how this development relates to attitude (how values and beliefs are expressed through behaviour), awareness (an individual’s ability to notice what’s going on at the level of self, others, and system), skills and capability or around the use of appropriate leadership tools.

Experiential learning is particularly powerful when used in combination with vertical and horizontal development which are described as:

The attitude, language and practice around virtual development needs to be re-framed from training (a horizontal development activity) to that of facilitation, coaching, and mentoring (vertical development). Working at this intimate level requires the skill and confidence to help individuals to explore their contribution and behaviour though the vertical development lens of purpose, identity, values and beliefs. Such work requires individuals to be emotionally aware and articulate, and to work at a richer level beyond the transactions involved in ritual and cliché, and facts and information levels of communication. The application of this richer practice is central to the themes of organisation agility, wellbeing, engagement, performance enablement and retention.

Guiding Principles

There are some issues to consider when adopting these approaches and selecting partner or supplier organisations. Without meaningful supervision and review, experiential learning becomes a meaningless activity. Buyers should also be wary of the tendency for ideas around aspects of leadership to be commoditised into products that are marketed as ‘the answer’, when in reality, a wider and more holistic range of methods and approaches need to be blended together to create a coherent development offering.

The following principles may usefully shape the design and delivery of transformational virtual development interventions:

Incorporating vertical and horizontal development and experiential learning into virtual learning enables the design and delivery of transformational virtual development experiences that support employees to operate more effectively in the current VUCA business environment. It allows an organisation's values to be brought to life in a more impactful way to enable high-performance at all levels, improve employee engagement and support retention.

If you’d like to explore how transformational virtual development can support your organisation, let’s talk

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