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Ushering in the Era of Continuous Learning

There has been a lot of research and start-up activity on transforming classroom pedagogy in schools and universities. One key argument the innovator behind the “hole in the wall” experiment Dr.Sugata Mitra makes to justify much-needed change in our classrooms is that the university system which was designed in the 19th and early 20th centuries was meant to produce high-efficiency clerks – clones who could do monotonous jobs like making thousands of journal entries, clearing hundred cheques, overseeing dozens of components being assembled on the shop floor, etc. Gone are the days of jobs where employees did the same thing over and over for decades until retirement.

While it is well-known that the educational systems globally which are the feeders for tomorrow’s workforce need total revamp to support the 21st century jobs (as an ed-tech entrepreneur I have spent over 5 years trying to change this and it happens really slowly), what also needs a reboot is how today’s workforce learn and how today’s enterprises view learning.

A bank in 1917 perhaps had a handful of job roles across the board. A bank in 2017 has over hundreds – customers interact with the bank through several channels – at the branch, over telephone, over the internet and now over social media; banks have several complicated products to park your money – from plain vanilla savings accounts (with a bouquet of 6 to choose different types to choose from) to fixed deposits, to unit-linked insurance plans and so on. More customer touch points will come in (think what will happen if WhatsApp launches an API for businesses to interact with consumers) and even more complicated products will get launched.

To sell a product to a customer and then to service them across these innumerable channels will require continuous training. If universities were to offer a “Banking” specialization, even the best of them are likely to talk about banking trends that are 3 years behind, which by definition, will make them obsolete.

The most fundamental skill for the 21st century worker is learnability. Employees with high learnability will always realise that the standard operating practices they are executing today will either evolve or be rendered obsolete shortly. They will always look at learning as a vehicle to embrace change.

And the most successful companies are the companies that can adapt and change faster – the average life of a fortune 500 company has reduced from 75 to 15 years in 60 years (1955 vs. 2015). The core company trait that will help companies survive the onslaught of change and obsolesce is “continuous learning”. Companies need to ask the question “Do I have culture, tools and systems that will help my company propagate change at the rate at which it happens?” The best companies will have everyone from the CEO down to the lowest paid worker, across every function, continuously learn.

That begs the question – how continuous is continuous? In today’s world, it is probably bi-weekly and very soon, it will become daily. Getting everyone under one roof for periodic training programs is no longer going to work – it is expensive (money is going to be frittered away on airlines and hotels) and more importantly, it is not going to be durable as what was taught in a training program 3 months back is not going to apply anymore.

We at Disprz are at the forefront of bringing continuous learning through our mobile enterprise knowledge platform. With Disprz, every function in an enterprise, large or small, has the tool to institutionalise processes, practices and knowledge as they change and evolve, and deliver them to all the employees, however scattered they may be around the globe. We are also working hard to bring continuous learning into enterprise culture through some simple, non-intrusive daily workflows.

Disprz makes smartphones (not hotels) the hosts of training programs and your employees graduate every week instead of once in a lifetime. Your L&D head is no longer having to fret about who should do the post-lunch session on day 5 of induction training, when everyone is guaranteed to be disengaged. With Disprz, they are now going to spend that time in front of their customers, having learnt how to sell or service them better just the same morning.

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