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June 6, 2019 - No Comments!

Four Blind Spots for L&D Teams to Watch Out For


(This is part 1 of a 3-part series on the role of L&D in digital transformations)

In our conversations with learning leaders, one thing is clear – everyone seems to be talking about the role L&D needs to play in helping organizations succeed in their digital transformation initiatives.

A key point to consider, however, is that, today, L&D is operating in unchartered territory. The newness and speed of change driven by digital disruption is putting pressure on the best of business leaders, and learning leaders are no different in this regard.

This blog series is inspired by these conversations, our observations and research in this space, with a view to share knowledge and best practices.

Part 1 of this series is focused on the most common blind spots that we feel L&D leaders are likely to experience. Part 2 will talk about some key areas where learning leaders need to upskill themselves. And finally, Part 3 will focus on best practices and ideas for learning leaders to bring about in their learning strategies.

Learning point #1:

The misconception that management has all the tools, knowledge, skills, time and resources to cascade the vision

  • It is assumed that once the transformation strategy is defined, the management team is uniformly and consistently communicating the story down the line, and that they have the necessary capabilities and time to do so. That is not the case.
  • This is a common misconception. I mean, these guys have a business to not only run, but transform at its core. Even if they have the capabilities, would they really have the time and energy to bring everyone on board. The resounding (and humane) answer is no. It’s our job as learning specialists to guide them in this regard.
  • For a successful digital transformation, management requires new skills, a common language, focused approach to strategy cascading along with the support of change agents across the organization. The last one is particularly important - learning teams need to identify, assess and equip change champions to help cascade the message. This requires specific interventions to sensitize, develop mindsets and capabilities, and an execution plan for the change champions to deliver the goods.


Learning point #2:

“We’ve implemented it, they will adopt it”

  • Adoption of new tools is not guaranteed unless the ‘what’s-in-it-for-them’ is spelt out clearly for employees (i.e. digital ways of working). Moreover, not all employees have the same learning agility to adopt the new way of working.
  • The number of times I have had this conversation is not amusing. I have seen the sense of pride and satisfaction when I am talked through the amazing new initiatives being rolled out in the company. And within a quarter, a sense of frustration when none of the initiatives really get off the ground.
  • Why does something like this happen? It’s deceptively simple to understand, and deceptively hard to execute. In most such cases, the “what’s in it for me” just doesn’t get established. So, amidst so much of change going in, this lands up as just another initiative.
  • For a successful digital transformation, employees must be sensitized to the business context, made aware of their digital quotient, and provided specific training on topics such as how to make sense of data. I have heard of organizations spending 50% of their training hours dedicated to building context. I think that is an amazingly brave but extremely appropriate thing to do.

Learning point #3:

Incrementalism / lack of thinking at scale

  • One reason is that companies tend to pilot the changes in smaller groups and then scale. While this seems like a lower risk approach, it not only slows down the speed of the initiative, but also prevents valuable insights and learning from across the organization to flow in at the right time
  • Why would organizations and leaders tend to go slow with this? On the one hand, the business imperative is huge. On the other hand, there is extreme tentativeness regarding the new initiatives. Isn’t this natural? Of course, it is – why would you expose the organization to any risk when you don’t know the outcome. Unless, of course, this risk is lower than the overall risk the organization faces. Remember that only 16% of digital transformations are successful. Isn’t that reason enough to rethink the incremental approach?
  • For successful transformations, there is a need for critical mass of learning coverage across the enterprise in a systematic and sustained fashion. Key skills required for growth and survival are no longer in question. It is up to the learning leaders to identify, prioritize and execute competencies based on the business needs (more of this in part 3 of the blog)


Learning point #4:

Mis-assessment of what it takes to change the hardwiring / core of the organization

  • Most employees are married to the legacy business model. They don’t have a clear understanding of the economics of digital and tend to over-index on the usual competition.
  • There is a complete inability to reimagine the workplace with a sense of urgency can be a huge hindrance to digital initiatives. And let’s face it – this is the largest change initiative being experienced by an entire generation. Yet, most organizations are slow to fathom the extent of change required in the hardwiring of the organization. So, on the one hand, there are organizations best classified as digital masters – paranoid, agile, anxious. And on the other extreme are the fence sitters. Its incredible how many of them actually exist. It is no surprise then that 50% of companies that existed on the Fortune 500 list have disappeared since 2000, thanks to digital.
  • For successful transformations, organizations need to define new roles, capabilities and ways of working (e.g. being agile, rapid prototyping and failing fast, etc). Without these core changes, every new idea is going to face a huge wall of resistance from various parts of the organizations. Commonly heard statement – “How can we go agile when it takes 60 days to approve an idea, 100 days to get it off the ground, and the motivation to continue when there is complete lack of interest from my bosses”.

Needless to say, given the nature and pace of change, these learning points also need to evolve. These learning points highlight the challenges that organizations and leaders face in adapting to the digital way of working. Overriding these challenges is only the first step – they don’t guarantee success in digital transformation. Each level of the digital transformation process comes with its own challenges. Some of these are known while most are still in a state of blur. This is because we are still in the nascent stages of digital transformation.

What’s your experience in this regard? Please drop a mail to - I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas on this topic.

Shobhit Mathur is Chief Business Officer at KNOLSKAPE. Shobhit is instrumental in ensuring that business is on a rapid growth track and delivering value to all our customers. He comes with over two decades of rich experience spanning business strategy, sales, marketing, and product management. Throughout his career, he has earned the trust of customers through successful business transformations. Shobhit is also the driving force behind KNOLSKAPE’s position as a thought leader in the talent transformation space.

Coming soon:

  • Part 2: Key Areas Where Learning Leaders Need to Upskill Themselves
  • Part 3: Best Practices and Learning Ideas for Learning Leaders to Implement


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  • June 4, 2019 - No Comments!

    DESIGN THINKING SERIES || Part 1 of 4: Busting the myths on Design Thinking

    Design thinking

    George Panakal


    The buzzword of the third millennium so far has been ‘Design Thinking.’ So, what is it?


    The definition of design thinking will depend on whom you are asking the question. So, it is also one of the most debated topics today, with advocates of most methodologies trying to prove their superiority over the next. While some people swear by the Stanford D-School method, others will accept nothing but the Ideo design philosophy. As a discipline, design thinking is not a complicated practice. And like any simple practise, can help you solve complex challenges. Let’s understand design thinking by first understanding what it is NOT. We will look at the three most widespread (mis)conceptions on design thinking.

    1. Design thinking is NOT a silver bullet to solve all your problems. Immediately.

    I once worked with a VP of a banking major who wanted a program on design thinking to help his sales team meet their monthly targets. “Oh sure,” I said. “Give me a couple of weeks to speak with your team and draw up a program design.”

    “That’s too much time,” he said. “I need a four-hour workshop to help them come up with closure techniques they can use, to show me results by the end of this month!”

    Unfortunately, that seems to be the approach to design thinking as well. The popular sentiment being that you can call a group into a classroom, show them a few sides for an hour and miraculously transform their outlook to solving problems.

    I am confident that design thinking can be used to arrive at effective closure techniques. However, my experiences tell me that I cannot be as assured with the efficiency of the solution I design, given the time constraints, to see visible results. As a learning designer and practitioner of design thinking, I will need to follow a design philosophy (thinking) to even begin to understand if I am solving the right problem. This is followed by a series of steps that assure me of arriving at the appropriate and relevant solution. And while it can be applied to most situations, one must be sensitive of tight deadlines and defined boundaries. For example, I cannot create a rich media design thinking online multiplayer game in a month, programming only using Delphi.

    This is also a sneak peek into one of the important steps of design thinking which we shall cover in part three of this series – choosing the right problem to solve.

    2. Design thinking is NOT only for creative people.

    I can’t think of a statement that is farther from the truth than this one. Creativity helps when you have to come up with solutions. No debate there. However, that’s not the ONLY skill to help you come up with innovative solutions. There are multiple tools and techniques one may use if they find themselves creatively handicapped. As a design thinker, you can harness tools like empathy map to figure out what people want, you can use rapid prototyping tools or Lego blocks to create designs, and so forth. And if you are able to harness the power of a collective on top of that, there’s nothing that stops you from creating stellar solutions!

    In my experience, I have found that people with discipline have the most success with the design thinking process. I refer to discipline here are a practice of consciously following set guidelines. Like the Six Sigma process, which requires one to be guided by the DMAIC process and follow the principles laid therein.

    As Scott Barry Kaufman writes in this blog, anyone can cultivate creativity by exploring both inner and outer experience. And that, mind you, is a mindful process that needs discipline.

    So the next time someone tells you that they are not creative, tell them, “Good. You can be like Steve Jobs then, and cultivate your creativity!”.

    3. The best use of design thinking is for inventing new products. NOT!

    Design thinking is not a process limited to greenfield situations. Many successful design thinking outcomes have been a result of solving existing shortcomings. And not just for products. It can be successfully used to come up with solutions for a multitude of applications in services, processes, strategy, interactions, and such. You can be inspired by some wow stories like how “Keep the Change” initiative by Bank of America motivated people to open bank accounts, or how GE Healthcare used it to make their MR scanners more child friendly, or how Airbnb used it to turn their company around from the brink of bankruptcy to becoming a billion-dollar business.

    One of the most popular applications we have used design thinking for is in designing performance conversation guides for managers! We use this as a warm-up in our workshop that uses our design thinking simulation to help learners engage with the process of design thinking. Our learners are presented with a very common problem: Make the performance conversation more ‘enjoyable’ for your direct reports. They then get around to creating a process or a document or a video that explains their version of a performance conversation that meets development goals while keeping the appraisee at ease. The solutions often surprise the learners and our facilitators, both in terms of their creativity and simplicity.

    Now that we have busted the three most common myths around design thinking, here’s what up next in this series:

    Why design thinking?

    Is design the only effective way to solve my business problems? Isn’t it just a 20th-century fad? Why should I use design thinking? Does it fit within my business process re-engineering framework? Why am I asking so many questions? 😊

    The log looks at why design thinking is a great fit for problem-solving and why you should have this method in your toolkit as a professional at any level.

    And in the blogs that follow, we will also look at how you can effectively use design thinking as a method, followed by an introduction to our new design thinking simulation that has our clients and partners raving about it!

    Stay tuned!


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  • May 20, 2019 - Comments Off on Digital Culture Series || Characteristics of Digital Culture

    Digital Culture Series || Characteristics of Digital Culture


    In Part 1 of the Digital Culture Series, we explained what Digital Culture means, how it is different from Digital Mindset, and five key reasons it should matter to organizations and leaders alike.

    We have established that building a digital organization is not merely about adopting the technology. It is as much, if not more, about people’s capabilities to manage the technologies, and more importantly, about people’s mindsets and the cumulative organizational culture.

    A cultural shift to digital-first can only be accomplished when the workforce adopts certain characteristics. We now dive deeper into understanding the characteristics of a strong digital culture.

    Cultural digirati will all agree on the core characteristics of digital culture. They agree that the following characteristics are most important in establishing a truly digital-first culture:

    1. Customer-centric
    2. Data-driven
    3. Risk taking and innovative (Makers and doers)
    4. Collaborative
    5. Agile
    6. Transparent
    7. Lifelong learning

    To determine just how important these characteristics are, eConsultancy undertook research that surveyed 245 respondents from around the world. The illustration below represents the responses:

    digital culture characteristics

    “If your target audience speaks digital, shouldn’t your organization speak digital too?”

    Jerry Allocca, Founder & CEO, Connected Culture

    The most aspirational companies in the world today, all of which are part of the Fortune 500 list are also digital companies, with great work cultures. The culture that exists within them embodies most, if not all, the characteristics of a strong digital culture.

    Let’s understand what the characteristics of digital culture are:

    1.   Customer Centricity

    “Customer-centric companies live by a set of values that put the customer front and centre, and they reinforce those values through cultural elements, metrics and the right behavior.”

    Erik Vermeulen, Global Behavioral Economic Strategist

    Customer centricity is the single most important tool to winning in the Digital Age. Unfortunately, one of the biggest barriers to customer centricity is the lack of a customer-centric culture within the organization. The industrial age taught us to focus on creating a great product or service and the customers would come flocking. That is no longer the case.

    Customers are well informed. At the very least, they know what they DON’T want. Organizations need to be almost fanatical in their customer-focus when building their portfolio of products and/or services. To do so, Amazon’s customer centricity policies form the perfect guide.

    Amazon has always envisioned being “Earth’s most customer-centric company”. Many would agree that they have achieved this vision, as this is how the world sees Amazon. The company has always been obsessed with championing the customer, and they go to great lengths to make this happen:

    • Managers at Amazon would spend two days in the year at the Amazon Call Centre to truly understand the customer perspective
    • A ‘get out of the building’ policy is encouraged to understand the jobs of merchants as well as the experience of buying and selling online
    • Jeff Bezos infamously drags in an empty chair into meetings, claiming it represents the customer’s seat in the room.


    2.   Data-driven Design

    “What gets measured, gets managed.”

    Peter Drucker, Author and Management Consultant

    We cannot talk about a data-driven culture without mentioning Google. Analytics is at the core of Google’s operations. From Lazslo Bock’s ‘three-third hiring model’ for recruitment to Google Analytics for marketing and sales, Google has cracked the code for all things data.

    In an age where everything is digitized and data is readily available at real-time and large volumes, organizations that place data at the core of their strategy and execution are a cut above the rest. However, organizations trying to figure out their data strategy have one question in mind – how to cut out all the clutter?

    The answer is simple. Data does the job of answering questions. However, this is only possible if organizations ask the right questions, because without it, data is just a dump of uselessness. Organizations that have a strong data-driven culture know to ask the right questions.

    In formulating questions, it also becomes apparent to organizations where data is available and where intuition becomes important to use. In his book, ‘The Intelligent Company’, author Bernard Marr outlines five steps to success with Evidence-based Management. While the world is taking leaves out of Google’s playbook, Marr claims that Google’s success in evidence-based management is tied closely to the steps illustrated in his book.

    3.   Risk taking and Innovation

    “If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything innovative.”

    Woody Allen, American Filmmaker

    If you were asked to name companies you think are highly innovative, the most common answers would be Amazon, Uber, Airbnb, Google and the like. There is no doubt that these companies are high on innovation. But there is one that has placed innovation at the core of their culture since it’s inception in 1902. Any guesses?

    It’s manufacturing giant 3M. Creators of over 55,000 products, the organization releases over 25 new products every week, and the organization only employs 90,00 people across 200 manufacturing plants and 86 labs who single-mindedly focus on the organization’s innovation agenda.

    The key to 3M’s success is an innovation culture that encourages employees to take risks, experiment and fail. The organization believes that eliminating the feature of failure is key to encouraging innovative thinking.

    Therefore, it is an organizational tradition to pass on stories of famous failures to new employees – the story of the Post-It being the most popular of them all:

    “The post-it was an accidental creation. When he created it, 3M scientist Spencer Silver was working on creating an adhesive for plane manufacturing. But Silver found his creation too weak for his goal. Silver called his creation a “solution without a problem”. However, his colleague Art Fry realized that Silver’s invention was the solution to his trivial problem of losing his bookmark in his hymnbook at church. The post-it note was born, and in 2009, generated revenues of $3.47billion for one 3M division.”

    4.   Collaboration

    “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is a success.”

    Henry Ford, Car Manufacturer

    The advent of the assembly line process initially sowed the seeds of collaboration. With time, however, with people performing high specialized roles, this effort diminished into teams for highly specific roles. This resulted in the silo effect – teams working within the scope of their own job descriptions.

    We know now that this is a flawed system which curtails learning, limits the development of skill sets and results in a lot of duplication of effort. Over the years, organizations have found that this way of working has also restrained employees from voicing out doubts and accepting that they do not know something. As a result, employees are set up for failure when additional responsibilities are thrown their way.

    Organizations with mature digital cultures have taken up interesting initiatives to combat these fears and liberate their workforce to collaborate with each other:

    • To empower people and create an atmosphere of comfort to collaborate, payroll startup Gusto believes in not having any employee titles. This allowed them a safe environment for people to work together without fear.
    • Several IT organizations such as Cisco leverage a collaboration environment to crowdsource issues and requests; these enables them to find the best and fastest solution which makes for better customer experience.


    5.   Agility

    “I concluded long ago that limits to innovation have less to do with technology or creativity than organizational agility. Inspired individuals can only do so much.”

    Ray Stata, American Engineer

    In the simplest sense, agile organizations are those that are quick to solve problems and problems are opportunities to learn. A methodology that was developed for continuous iteration in software development has made its way to an organizational level. This is perceived to be more complicated to execute, and it maybe so.

    However, in the digital age, agility is non-negotiable for survival. It requires the entire workforce to:

    • Be adaptable
    • Accept failure as a part of the process and a learning opportunity
    • Seek constant improvements even when successful
    • Be accountable all around

    The need for agility is so high, that the world is watching and awarding organization that effectively execute agile principles in their work; and we cannot talk about agility without mentioning Samsung Electronics. Since usurping Nokia as the world’s leading cellphone maker in 2012, Samsung has cemented its place through its agile innovations, despite heavier competition in recent years from newer cellphone makers like Oppo, Vivo and the like, due to its expansion into other hardware and software, making Samsung one of the largest producers of consumer goods.

    While one can guess most of the other companies on the list of the most agile companies in the world, another organization that has truly made its mark through its differentiation is Disney. Despite their unparalleled creativity, innovative technology and global expansion, this mass media company continues to stand for imagination. With enchanting movies and its many theme parks, Disney continues to deliver its brand promise of creating magical family experience. Now, the organization is creating the ultimate “Disney Experience” through new technology and apps such as the wearable MagicBand and the MyMagic+ App.

    6.   Transparency

    “Today, power is gained by sharing information, not hoarding it.”

    Dharmesh Shah, Founder & CTO, HubSpot Inc.

    People are the most important assets to a company’s success. If every employee is not viewed as integral to the organization’s success, then the organization has no business retaining such employees. If, however, an organization views every employee as important and valuable, it is the responsibility of the organization to be transparent with its employees.

    Unfortunately, this is an ideal state. Research shows that 42% of employees don’t even know the organization’s vision, mission and values, let alone deeper information valuable to business. To succeed in the digital age, an organization default setting must be transparency.


    Transparency boosts trust, enhances employee engagement, builds relationships, increases productivity and improves innovation, to name only a few benefits.

    The degree of transparency that an organization chooses to operate at is their prerogative to decide. There are scores of companies that have won through a culture of transparency, and they each have their own, unique transparency policy:

    • Social Media Management Platform Buffer believes in salary transparency. A publicly available spreadsheet lists the salaries of every employee, right from the CEO.
    • Online Retail company Zappos believes in building open and honest relationship with communication. To that effect, the company facilitates tours of their corporate headquarters, live training events and Q&A sessions with various departments within the organization.
    • Clothing company Patagonia believes in supply chain transparency. Through a project called “Footprint Chronicles”, the organization gives access to information about every step of the supply chain to the customers. Customers have the option of providing feedback at every step.


    7.   Lifelong Learning

    “An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.”

    Jack Welch, Former CEO of General Electric

    For decades, we have been talking about the need for learning and development to engage and retain high potential, high performing talent. Organizations have done their part in creating calendarized schedules to allow employees to learn as well. However, digital is disrupting every part of business, including learning and development.

    Today, learning is not just about doing a few courses throughout the year that are relevant to your immediate role. The level of awareness that employees must have has grown multi-fold. As boundaries between roles, teams, organizations and industries blur away, employees must be extremely versatile in their knowledge and skill sets, to be productive and make a difference.

    Once again Google takes the cake when it comes to building a strong learning culture. In his book ‘Work Rules’, former Senior Vice President – People at Google, Lazslo Bock shares three pieces of advice for organizations to cultivate a culture that emphasizes learning:

    • Engage in Deliberate practice
    • Have your best people teach
    • Invest in courses only when it’s absolutely necessary and if it changes behavior

    In other words, Google places a lot of merit on informal, continuous learning through experiences, failures and peers. Very little priority (<25%) is given to formal, structured learning.

    In short, a digital culture is one which propounds that we wear our badge of failure with honor, learn form it and use the learning to create something bigger and better.

    How strongly does your workforce exhibit these characteristics? How do you ensure that you workforce embodies them confidently? In Part 3 of the Digital Culture series, we will explore how to cultivate a thriving digital culture.




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  • May 7, 2019 - Comments Off on Digital Culture Series || What Is Digital Culture And Why It Should Matter To You

    Digital Culture Series || What Is Digital Culture And Why It Should Matter To You

    Digital Culture


    Adam is a manager in a multinational corporation. His exact role is not important to this story. For 20 years, he has come into the office at 8.00 a.m. on the dot, sent his manager a note on the tasks he is going to accomplish during the day, then called his team into a meeting each morning for a quick update. In the years he has been doing this, the people working with him have changed, but his process hasn’t. For years, he was constantly appreciated for this system.

    In the last two years, however, he has been getting pulled up by his manager due to complains from his peers, reportees and partners. These complaints ranged from Adam’s speed of working, productivity, response times, etc. They perplexed Adam because nothing had changed in the way he was working. The team’s performance was also at an all-time high.

    In observing the way that the people around him worked, Adam realized that it starkly differed from his own working style. After months of trying to mimic their style of working, Adam’s productivity and engagement levels started to drop. He couldn’t keep up. In less than a year, he had taken the difficult decision to quit his job at an organization that he had committed to for two decades.

    This is, unfortunately, a common scenario in the workplace today. Some of the most experienced and talented employees leave the organization because they don’t feel connected to it anymore. While Adam’s situation is unfortunate, employees also choose to leave the organization even if their performance and productivity levels are high. A crucial factor in this decision is “fitment”.

    For many organizations, a crucial factor in placing a candidate is “fitment” - will the individual work well with the team? Do the individual’s values, beliefs and goals align with that of the organization? In other words, will the individual feel a sense of belonging and ownership within the organization?

    A well-functioning organization, like any tight-knit group, is one where employees share core elements such as values, beliefs, and goals, even if the way they manifest these attributes is different. As a result, many organizations let go of prime candidates despite them having the capabilities the organization seeks.

    But what do you do about those employees who are already employed with the organization, and no longer feel that they fit within the organization?

    Cultural fitment is a core evaluation criterion within organizations because culture is difficult to change. It is embedded in one’s DNA. The downside of it is when an organization’s culture needs a shift, there end up being many casualties - highly experienced and talented people leaving the organization because they do not relate to or are unable to adapt to the changing culture.

    Therefore, while organizations continue to focus on “young blood” to take the organization into the future, they are losing those with experience to guide these youngsters.

    This is the impasse that organizations are at today, in the Digital Age. Many senior executives are finding themselves becoming obsolete because they are unable to adapt to the new culture of the organization, stemming from the disruptions of digital. In short, organizations are undergoing digital transformation, and a shift in culture to “digital culture” is key to the success of the organization’s digital transformation.

    As a result, organizations and leaders are increasingly asking what digital culture is and why there is so much hype around it. This blog attempts to demystify the concept and construct of digital culture and explain why it should matter to everyone.

    Digital culture and why it should matter to you

    Part - 1: Defining Digital Culture

    For generations, our understanding of the term ‘culture’ has been ‘the synergy of underlying beliefs, assumptions, values, norms, habits, symbols and language which defines and characterizes a group’. This definition has shifted significantly because of the advent of digital. Digital, in the simplest words, is the marriage of people and technology. Digital technology is changing the environment around us, and we further use technology to accommodate the demands of this changing environment.

    In other words, disruption from the immersion of digital technologies is accelerating our pace of life and work. To adapt, we need to innovate and evolve. This means, changing what, why and how we think, act and feel. In short, to keep up with the speed and pace of digital disruption, organizations need to focus on evolving culture as needed.

    Digital culture may mean many things to many people. However, it eventually boils down to how people interact with technology in their work and lives.

    The need for organizational culture to evolve to a digital culture is because there is a shift from ‘what to do’ to ‘how to do it’. In a large sense, the world has reached a plateau in terms of new inventions. In its place, we are faced with unbounded innovation and relentless iteration, two core tenets of the Digital Age (Read more: Digital BLUR framework). The agenda here is to improve on existing models, processes, structures and systems. This clearly needs a mindset shift.

    Digital Culture vs. Digital Mindset

    It is often misconstrued that digital culture and digital mindset are the same thing. While the two concepts share many characteristics, the fundamental difference is the scope and scale of each one. Where mindset is a construct at an individual level (Read more: What is digital mindset and why is it important?), digital culture is a construct of the collective.

    For an organization to thrive, it is important that at least most of the workforce shares the same or a similar mindset. Collectively, a predominantly digital-first mindset amongst the workforce is instrumental in forming the organization’s digital culture.

    However, digital culture is so much more than just a digital-first mindset. While digital mindset refers to how one thinks and processes information obtained from digital technologies, digital culture also incorporates how the collective workforce responds to this information, behaves and influences one another.

    The crucial elements of a strong digital culture include:

    These are tenets of digital culture, rather than a digital mindset because they manifest in outlook as well as behavior.

    In the past, risk aversion, a lack of customer focus and silos have harrowed organizations. These are cultural challenges and solving them is pertinent to successful digital transformation.

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    Part – 2: Uncovering the Importance of Digital Culture

    “We can have all the bold ambitions. We can have all the bold goals. We can aspire to our new mission. But it’s only going to happen if we live our culture, if we teach our culture” – Satya Nadella, CEO – Microsoft.

    Now that we have broken down what digital culture is, let’s get into why it should matter to every organization and leader. We explore five core reasons why Digital Culture should be a key concern for your organization:

    1. No digital transformation is complete without cultivating a thriving digital culture

    Research conducted by Couchbase indicated that over 90% of digital transformation initiatives fail. Why? It’s because many organizations believe that investing in digital technologies is enough to propel them into the digital age.

    The reality, however, is that successful digital transformation is a result of three elements: digital technologies, digital leadership, and most importantly, digital culture. Two of these elements are people-centric. Where organizations fail is in realizing that unless their people transform, business won’t either.

    A key theme in the analysis of digital transformation failure is the inability of leadership to foster a unilateral culture that supports the organization’s digital strategy. Building and sustaining culture is continuous work. It takes time to break down an existing value system in favor of a new or improved one, especially when you intend to do this with an existing and long-serving workforce.

    Factor in attrition and new hires, and the need for constantly reinforcing the tenets of culture is high. Most importantly, when an organization’s culture evolves, it must be recognized and managed appropriately – a multigenerational, heterogenous workforce means a diverse set of values and behaviors characterizing how things get done.

    2. Shortcomings in organizational culture are one for success in the Digital Age

    Within a single organization exists a disparate level of comfort with technology – digital rookies working alongside digital masters and natives. As a result, how employees interact with technology and the value they derive from it is disproportionate.

    So long as this disparity exists, organizations will continue to fail in cultivating and sustaining a digital culture. But the challenges of a disparate mindset among the workforce goes beyond just a unified culture – Agility within the organization cannot be achieved.

    Imagine half of your company leveraging technology to produce results in a fraction of the time the other half does, simply because they aren’t as comfortable with even the basic nuances of technology. What happens?

    The collective speed at which the organization delivers output, and more importantly, value significantly decreases, leaving the organization at a competitive DISadvantage.

    In a time where the business landscape is rapidly changing, and customers seek immediate results, a gap such as this will almost definitely result in the organization’s demise.

    T&F Case study

    3. A strong digital culture is an organization’s competitive edge

    If digital disruption has taught us anything, it is that the future belongs to the fast. But technology alone cannot propel an organization into the future. By placing people at the foreground, focusing on their performance and ensuring that their purpose aligns with the organization’s vision, an organization can almost certainly propel itself into the future.

    Why digital culture plays a significant role here is because of the very tenets of digital culture revolve around people, performance and purpose. In cultivating a strong digital culture, organizations can successfully nurture an environment where people and technology are able to coexist and thrive together.

    In doing so, organizations open up opportunities for harmonious collaboration between various points of view and approaches to doing things. This is the basis of a highly innovative organization, one that can:

    • Unlock unforeseen value
    • Deliver to customers things beyond their expectations
    • Pave the way for future innovations

    4. A strong Digital Culture is key to business longevity

    Many organizations are at a stand-still today, either because they aren’t able to make sense of the disruptions around them and how it relates to them, or because they don’t know how to leverage the full potential of digital technology and the impact it can create for the organization.

    In his book, ‘Building Digital Culture’, author Daniel Rowles, CEO of Target Internet warns organizations about treating digital disruptions like anything they have responded to in the past. Technology is evolving faster than predicted and it is not happening in a linear manner. Therefore, organizations have no option but to take a risk and experiment with.

    Supporting Rowles argument is the evolution of disruptive businesses such as Amazon, Uber, Airbnb, etc., who have reinvented business models and show no signs of slowing down. They’ve been able to do so because they not just admire innovation; rather, they have created the hotbed for it.

    Being able to do this requires a culture that leverages technology, propounds taking risks and is focused on delivering value to the customer. In other words, it requires a strong digital culture.

    5. Embracing Digital Culture can improve employee engagement

    A study by Microsoft EMEA found that organizations with a strong digital culture have:

    • 5x more employees who feel empowered
    • 4x more employees who feel engaged
    • 3x more employees who feel innovative
    • 2x more employees who feel productive

    How is this possible?

    Here are some facts about the modern workplace employees:

    1. They want to feel a sense of ownership and responsibility over what they do
    2. They are most motivated when they see a sense of purpose, value and meaning in what they do
    3. They seek openness, equality and a sense of community
    4. They expect open and honest feedback

    We know that an organization’s biggest asset is their workforce. By meeting the expectations of their employees, organizations are able to generate 26% higher profits. This is because highly engaged employees:

    • take fewer sick leaves,
    • stay with the organization longer,
    • find ways to reduce costs while maximizing value,
    • are ardent promoters of the organization,
    • are able to constantly surprise and delight the customer, and
    • retain the loyalty of their customers irrevocably

    Watch this video on how does an organization build a digital-first culture.

    The benefits of investing in cultivating a digital culture are amply evident. The question remains – how far is your organization in its journey? To truly be able to boast about a successful digital transformation, cultivating a digital culture is non-negotiable. The effort put into the transformation process can only be fruitful if organizations start with transforming their people’s mindsets and the organization’s culture to digital-first.

    In subsequent parts of this series, we will also address ‘the characteristics of digital culture’, ‘helping your aging workforce to embrace digital transformation’ and ‘how to cultivate a thriving digital culture’.

    Good luck on your journey, and we hope to see you on the other side!

    Digital culture

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  • May 2, 2019 - No Comments!

    Five strategic reasons to outsource L&D for exponential business growth


    Throughout history, we have seen that those who survive are the ones that appropriately respond to the changing variables in the external environment:


    • When Henry Ford invented the Model T car in 1908, he intended for it to make transportation affordable for the common man. To lower the price of the car, Ford realized that he would have to find a way to build them more efficiently. This resulted in the first moving assembly line for the mass production of the automobile in 1913. As a result of his innovation, the time taken to build a car drastically reduced from 12 hours to 150 minutes. From here, spun the assembly line revolution, essentially increasing productivity in factories across the globe.
    • Research conducted at Hawthorne Works by Henry A. Lansberger in 1958 gave birth to the Hawthorne effect, a conclusion that individuals modify an aspect of their behavior in response to the awareness of being observed. The study propounded that increased attention could lead to temporary increase in employee productivity. Since then, organizations have spent significant effort in finding various means of increasing employee engagement, from changes in infrastructure to rewards and everything in between.
    • The Global Financial Crisis of 2008 propelled organizations to cut down their costs and do more with less. As a result, this trend of in-house learning teams and initiatives became popular. Riding the coat tail of this disruption, most organizations today have full-fledged L&D teams who provide end-to-end learning services to the organization.

    These three examples played a significant role in the constructs of modern HR and L&D teams. They also show that change is constant. The moment things stop changing is when we’re headed for extinction. To keep business thriving, this is especially true for the L&D teams within the organization. After all, they play a crucial role in the development and empowerment of people.

    Unfortunately, historical data also indicates that the L&D function has been the slowest to respond to change. In a day and age that is strife with rapid change, there are 2 crucial roles that L&D teams play:

    1. To develop the workforce to meet and manage the demands of business in the digital age
    2. Shift their own mindsets and capabilities to better empower their people

    Speed is of great importance today. Therefore, achieving both objectives simultaneously and at an accelerated pace is nearly impossible for L&D teams.


    The business has certain expectations and learners have specific needs. Add to that the changes required in L&D team structures, processes, roles, systems, expectations and responsibilities, and you’re left with nothing more than a recipe for disaster. There are simply too many variables for L&S to manage and overcome.

    Therefore, in the new scheme of things, it is in the best interest of L&D teams, learners and business alike to outsource L&D, either in parts or in entirety. We list out here five strategic reasons why outsourcing L&D could be the key to advancing organizational growth.

     Five Strategic reasons for outsourcing L&D

    1. A fresh perspective

    It is often difficult to objectively analyze the gaps and changes required for something when you are knee deep in it. Knowing that something needs to change, but not knowing what or how to go about implementing the change or bridging the gap often reduces productivity – you’re straggling the line between what is and what could be, like a tortured soul.

    Allowing a consultant to come in, analyze your business and tell you how to fix it is a step in the right direction. Many are apprehensive or even defensive about taking this step. But don’t forget – a consultant can only list observations and make suggestions. Whether you implement these suggestions, or how much of it you implement is still entirely under your control.

    2. Meeting global standards

    Every organization dreams of becoming a Google, an Amazon, an Apple, an Uber, an Airbnb or another such organization that is revered as aspirational. Employees want to work for these organizations, and the cream of the crop often do. Why should you lose out on a world-class organization with a coveted workforce?

    The truth is that organizations, leaders, and employees are competing in a global market today, one that transcends industries, domains, geographies, and other demographics. Therefore, skill development, capability building, behavioral changes, and mindset shifts must be held to a higher standard. In other words, your L&D practices must allow your organization, your leaders and your employees to efficiently and successfully compete at the global level.

    Learning partners are best equipped to help you because of the world with organizations across industries and/or geographies. As such, they are not just aware of market standards, they also have the market intelligence to guide you on your journey to superseding these standards.

    3. Leveraging experts to create your perfect solution

    For over a decade, in-house L&D teams have worked towards creating a complex infrastructure of learning programs. While this infrastructure has catered to the development of every fathomable technical, domain-related, behavioral and leadership skill, it has taken a decade in the making to reach this stage.

    The skills developed have focused primarily on what business has required from employees. Furthermore, the L&D initiatives have been relatively homogenous in their approach – predominantly in-classroom and face-to-face.

    The reality of the digital age is that:

    1. Learner needs have become diverse
    2. In-house L&D teams lack technological expertise
    3. Current L&D practices do not cater to large scale rollouts
    4. Budget and time constraints continue to exist, possibly greater now than ever before

    Any expert will tell you that building systems to combat these challenges are expensive and time-consuming, the luxury of neither which is currently affordable. So, why not leave it to the experts? They have already spent the time and money to build these systems, developed the expertise and deliver positive value, which their customers can vouch for and swear by.

    4. Building Integrated assessment and learning systems

    In the last few years, organizations have invested in learning management systems (LMS) to leverage eLearning modules and provide employees with an extensive directory of courses for self-learning.  Unfortunately, although done with good intent, the execution of this goal has been fragmented.

    What does this mean?

    While LMSes are used for eLearning, organizations still focus on classroom-based learning for a significant part of their interventions. This mode of learning is often online and untraceable – no data on:

    1. Participation
    2. Performance
    3. Impact
    4. Engagement

    Often, these two modes of learning are also managed by different teams.

    Then, there is the question of assessments. Assessments are important to the learning and development process. A study by the KNOLSKAPE Insights Centre highlighted that a significant number of organizations deploy talent assessment solutions only at the middle to senior levels. The intent has almost always been for recruitment and succession planning.

    They do not account for:

    1. Identifying top talent across all levels of the organization,
    2. Identifying training needs, and
    3. Judging the efficacy of the tools used for assessment

    As a result, the assessment goals and learning objectives rarely converge. However, learning efforts are most impactful when they are supported by assessments for learning.


    Assessments for learning are pertinent for the identification of strengths and gap analysis, from which employee development plans can be created. This analysis becomes the basis of developing employees. This systematic approach poses greater achievement of business as well as learner goals.

    Learn more about the strengths of integrated talent development initiatives. Read the full report.

    5. Self-development for L&D

    As stated earlier, the digital age demands significant changes in mindset and capabilities of the L&D team itself. In outsourcing learning and development initiatives, learning professionals within the organization are responsible for liaising with partners. Through this interaction with the experts, L&D teams are presented with ample opportunities to:

    1. Develop their own skills and mindset
    2. Learn about the latest trends, inventions, and benchmarks
    3. Uncover the shifts needed to empower employees to meet business objectives and deliver valuable business outcomes

    It is no longer going to be enough to get a seat at the table. The CHROs of tomorrow need to lead the business change. This is a tall order when HR and L&D teams are not yet part of the decision-making process. There is a sense of urgency with which L&D teams must shift the way they work.

    Business models and strategies are undergoing changes to meet the demands of the larger environment. People are crucial to execute these strategies and fulfill the organization’s goal, and the L&D teams are responsible for the talent development strategies of the organization.

    Therefore, to effectively support the organization without compromising on learner needs or vice versa, L&D professionals need to first help themselves. Then, take a step back from their traditional ways of functioning to find ways that will complement the demands of the current business landscape. Most often, the new way of working would include a partner who can help fill the gaps and strengthen your learning and development systems.

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  • April 29, 2019 - No Comments!

    Talent Assessment and Development Study


    A sneak peek into the analysis of priorities, strengths, and challenges of organization-wide talent transformation initiatives

    Organizations have spent decades developing their talent to ensure that people are placed in roles suitable to their personalities and skill sets. Going a step further, organizations also deploy assessment initiatives to hire the right people, ensuring higher levels of productivity from the beginning.

    The goal of business is growth, for which people within the organization play a significant role. To ensure this, organizations look to empower their employees to be high performing and grow in their careers along with the organization. To promote employees and empower them to take on new responsibilities, organizations invest in employee development.

    Jack Welch

    Unfortunately, a significant part of these development initiatives take into account only the organizational requirement and not the employees’ developmental needs.

    In essence, talent management practices within organizations are highly fragmented – different teams are responsible for a particular function within the organization:

    • Assessments for hiring – recruitment teams
    • Assessments for internal mobility and promotions – talent capability teams
    • Talent development – Learning and development teams

    However, talent management is the collective function of the HR team. Therefore, the processes of hiring, onboarding, promoting, assessing and developing talent needs to be integrated, such that employees see it as part of their life cycle within the organization.

    In this latest study, the KNOLSKAPE Insights Centre dives into understanding the importance of assessment and development of employees, and the need for integrating the two practices for holistic and impactful talent management.

    The cumulative report of this research is categorized into three sections:

    • Talent Assessments
    • Developing People
    • Bringing it all together – linking assessment and developing initiatives

    The following is a brief summary of the report.

    Part – 1: Why assess at all?


    Organizations don’t focus enough on empowering leaders to better identify employee strengths and gaps. Such organizations risk low employee engagement and losing high potential, high performing talent.

    Our research shows that 81% of organizations conduct talent assessments only at the middle to senior management levels. The basis of this focus is in line with the organization’s strategic intent on grooming these employees for future leadership roles.

    However, over half the respondents that participated in this study stated that they utilize assessments mostly for succession planning and recruitment only. General assessment practices are yet to include training needs identification, internal mobility and promotions, which are important criteria for talent management across all levels of the organization.

    This is a concern because the current assessment initiatives do not necessarily account for:

    • Identifying top talent across all levels of the organization, and
    • Judging the efficacy of the tools used for assessment


    Part – 2: Developing your people

    Unlike assessment practices, organizations tend to be more inclusive in their employee development practices. Here, organizations invest in their people across all levels.

    The gap here is that organizations rely on performance data, inputs from business leaders, survey results, individual development plans, and results from various other assessment tools to determine the training needs of employees. The needs of modern employees are often not taken into consideration.


    The modern employee craves to be part of the decision-making process when it comes to their learning. Organizations with mature talent management systems, fortunately, already have mechanisms in place to enable this. For most other organizations, however, this is still far from becoming reality.

    When it comes to the learning methodologies used in organizations, our research showed that it is still yet to cater to the needs of the 21st-century executives. This is possible also a result of the least amount of focus being placed on individual contributors, who generally fit the bill of the 21st-century executives.


    Part – 3: Bringing it all together

    Our belief is that organizations are best positioned to measure the efficacy of their leadership development efforts when they link their assessment and development initiatives.


    For an end outcome, e.g. development of high potential employees, the journey starts with a series of assessments. The results of these assessments play a significant role in creating individual development plans for employees based on their strengths and skill gaps, which becomes the vehicle for further development of the identified talent pool.

    Our research comprised asking talent management professionals to list their perceived challenges as well as the strengths of integrated talent development initiatives. From their responses, it is apparent that the strengths clearly outweigh the perceived challenges.

    To uncover the complete analysis of current organizational talent management practices and understand the strengths of integrated talent development initiatives, read the full report.

    You will also be able to test the strengths of you:

    1. Talent assessment initiatives,
    2. Talent development initiatives, and
    3. Integrated talent management efforts




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  • April 24, 2019 - No Comments!

    Building Millennial Leaders

    Millennial leader






    Part 1 - Understanding the millennial cohort

    1. Work-wise how are millennials different and what are the challenges that the organization will face due to this. How do they like to work?

    Millennials today face inherent contradictions in the way they work and at times struggle to align their own values with that of their organization. Some of these contradictions include:

    • Intrinsic v/s Extrinsic Motivation
    • Authentic v/s Dissonant Culture
    • Embracing Innovation v/s Accepting Conformity
    • Digital Disruption v/s Linear Growth
    • Being Collaborative v/s Riding Solo
    • Continuous v/s One-Time Learning
    • Managing Self v/s Leading Others

    The fundamental insight regarding millennials is that they are not just motivated by extrinsic factors. Ex CEO of Microsoft Ravi Venkatesan points out that ‘Millennials supposedly lack loyalty, focusing on entitlements and rewards, but I find many young Indians hungry for meaning and purpose.’ Research shows that employee engagement is “three times more strongly related to intrinsic than extrinsic motives” and that intrinsic motivation is a stronger predictor of job performance than extrinsic motivation.

    Organizations and managers may underestimate the power of intrinsic motivation when it comes to engaging their team members. Many workplaces today may still be (perhaps unintentionally) implementing some version of the carrot-and-stick approach to motivation to engage their millennial employees. If one were to plot this on a spectrum, it might look something like this:


    If managers believe that individuals are only motivated by extrinsic means, they might resort to various versions of the carrot and stick approach to engage them. There is an unintended consequence to overusing this approach. The stick at times becomes the primary tool for engagement and as a result, managers may fall back on a command and control style of management. When team members are frequently reprimanded for their mistakes, the fear of failure may take over and risk-taking ability is stunted. This may in turn lead to a trust deficit between individuals, and the workplace may no longer be deemed a safe place to innovate. A sense of fear activates the threat response in an individual and increases stress levels, leading to a workplace blanketed by anxiety and a lack of trust. Emma Seppälä of Stanford University points out that management style centred on attributes such as compassion, empathy and forgiveness can go a long way in building trust, loyalty and creativity.

    2.  What are some strategies to engage and work with them?

    The mistake that one can make is to assume that the primary driver for anyone to do great work is primarily extrinsic. This is a self-fulfilling trap and may set a suboptimal precedent for workplace culture. Perhaps it is time for us to consider encouraging behaviours and mindsets that lean towards intrinsic motivation. A better strategy to improve workforce engagement might look something like this:



    Intrinsic motivation sits at the core, and takes up the most space in the motivation arena. Extrinsic factors such as rewards are not completely done away with, but occupy the periphery - it is only fair that effort and performance be given due recognition. Fair and adequate pay, increments, bonuses and other perquisites are indeed essential to ensure a healthy quality of living for employees and their families. The most successful organizations pay above market standards. More importantly, it is essential to take the issue of monetary compensation off the table so that the focus is on the work itself. Professionals perform at their very best when they are engaged in challenging work, co-create with their colleagues, utilize and develop their skills, and find a sense of purpose in the work that they do.

    When leaders build an organization centred on an inspiring mission, and create a safe environment that encourages innovation, they in turn attract millennial candidates who believe in the purpose of the firm. The employees feel like they are connected to something bigger than themselves and dreary job profiles can turn into exciting vocations.

    The three essential elements that fuel intrinsic motivation include:

    • Autonomy: Our need to be autonomous and self-directed.
    • Mastery: Becoming better at something that matters, through sustained and deliberate effort.
    • Purpose: Working for a cause greater and more enduring than

    Perhaps a good starting point on the journey to engaging the largest and youngest cohort at the workplace today could begin with the following assumption: Millennials bring plenty of energy, enthusiasm and varied thought processes to our workplaces, and many of them passionately seek out meaningful experiences and want to create an impact. How could we then provide them with purposeful work and a sense of autonomy, challenging assignments, learning opportunities, and invest in their growth, which would ultimately result in sustainable growth for the organization? For their part, millennials would do well to ask themselves when they are the most engaged, approach their work with a sense of enthusiasm and allow themselves to find meaning and significance in what they do.

    Part 2 – Grooming the millennial cohort

    As millennials grow into their roles, they will need to take on larger people management responsibilities.

    1.  What are ‘leading others' challenges this group will face?

    Millennials will face clear challenges as they transition from individual contributor to people- manager roles. First, setting clear boundaries: learning to let go of prior notions on how work ought to be executed and trusting their team a lot more. Second, giving people enough space to perform within pre-defined boundaries that everyone has agreed to. Third, empowering their team by announcing their involvement to critical stakeholders, thus ensuring inter-departmental collaboration. Fourth, being available as a coach and mentor to team members and regularly setting up one-on-one coaching sessions.

    An additional challenge that’s particular to this cohort is the lack of finesse in managing interpersonal relationships. Because this is a generation that has grown up in an age of technology and social media, they may at times lack the skills required to effectively engage with those around them.

    2.  As they grow, how do you cater to their specific needs?

    Year on year engagement surveys around the world reveal that millennials feel isolated and are not being fully listened to. No wonder organizations face high attrition at the front line and transition journeys are not always successful. A key takeaway from this finding is that it isn’t sufficient to only train this particular cohort in isolation. What is needed is sensitization of the ecosystem, ensuring that there is a constant stream of communication across levels and putting in place a support system to help millennials achieve their respective goals. This means that firms must consider sensitizing not only the managers, but also senior leaders in the organization.

    3.  How do you pick the right kinds of people for leadership roles from the group of Millennials?

    Apart from general cognitive ability required to execute well, it is also important to look for millennials who showcase ‘Emergent Leadership’. i.e. testing one’s ability to not only step up and lead, but also step back to create the space for others to take over as and when the situation arises.

    High-potential millennials are not constrained by their past experiences, and proactively work towards building new skills. They may stumble and fall while navigating through unfamiliar territory, but zealously work their way through the uncertainty, not averse to having some fun along the way. They leverage existing networks and make new connections. They make up for what they lack in ability with an intense desire to learn. In fact, new assignments and transition periods provide the best opportunities for personal growth.

    4.  How do you groom them in the right manner, in ways that appeal to them? And helps them grow as people managers?

    The most important quality that differentiates the best managers from the rest is the ability to be a good coach. While millennials may learn a lot by being coached by senior leaders and coaches, first time millennial managers may benefit through application of such coaching techniques during their interaction with their own team members.

    As individual contributors, millennials may have made career choices inclined towards specialist or generalist roles. As specialists, they may have gained depth of expertise in a field, or as generalists they may have handled a variety of responsibilities. They would have collaborated with team members within and outside their departments, managed internal and external stakeholders, and liaised with clients.

    But once millennials transition to people manager roles that require them to engage others, they would likely be expected to exhibit an entirely new set of behaviours such as giving and receiving feedback, inspiring others, communicating openly and effectively, showing sensitivity in interpersonal relationships, focusing on team results, and most importantly, challenging the status quo and setting others up for success. Inculcating a ‘growth mindset’ can help millennials grow these new muscles.

    This article contains excerpts from The Millennials: Exploring the world of the largest living generation, published by Penguin.

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  • April 15, 2019 - No Comments!

    Leaders, can we help the team take ownership?

    It was yet another meeting with the Head of the Department (HOD). All 22 of us Team Leaders (TLs) were discussing the upcoming budget meeting to be held at the beginning of the financial year.  The HOD asked our suggestions for a good hotel to host the budget meeting. Our suggestions ranged from Hyatt to Marriott to Ramada to all the other top hotels in the city until we had around 8 choices. Manoj, one of the TLs, was very insistent on The Rendezvous, another elite hotel in the city. He praised the service, menu, taste of the food and the ambiance. All of us tried to talk him out by comparing his choice with the big names we had suggested. Incidentally, our HOD was supportive of Manoj’s choice and after much deliberation, we finally decided on The Rendezvous.

    On the day of the budget meeting, presentations went on all morning. We finally broke for lunch, excited to try the food that Manoj had raved about so much. That particular day was a very busy one for the hotel. As we proceeded to fill our plates, we noticed the uncleared tables with the soiled table-cloth. The bowl of dal was almost empty. The vegetable bowl too needed a refill. While we stood there grumbling and bickering about the choice of hotel, I observed something surprising. Quite unlike him, Manoj rushed out of the dining area. He returned minutes later with the hotel manager in tow. Shortly after, the matter had been tackled and the bowls of food refilled. All the while, we were reassured that things were under control. Only when everything had been sorted did Manoj join us for lunch.

    This scene played on my mind throughout the day. I was perplexed with one thought - Neither was Manoj part of the HR/Admin team that made the arrangements nor did he belong to the core department team which was specifically formed to supervise and ensure the success of the budget meetings. What intrigued me was why he had taken on the hassle of ensuring there were no hiccups in the lunch service.

    Why was he so concerned that none of us faced any inconvenience at the hotel?

    What made him take up the additional responsibility of providing us a wonderful experience?

    And then the answer struck me like a bolt of lightning. Manoj did all this because The Rendezvous was HIS SUGGESTION.

    Dale Carnegie has very popularly quoted, “People support a world they help create.” I realized that I never criticize my own food, but rarely fail to find fault with someone else’s cooking. This is because I am responsible for my own cooking. At the hotel too, Manoj had taken OWNERSHIP of his suggestion. He wanted to make it work and even went the extra mile when he could have chosen not to do so.

    That was when I realized what prompts people to take ownership. As a leader as well, what can I do to influence people to take ownership over what they do? That was the next thought to enter my mind.

    I reflected on what happens within my own team when a problem arises. My team rushes to me for a solution. Much like most leaders, I put everything else aside to provide my team with the best possible solution. However, there are two caveats here:

    One – The team that is facing the issue has the entire context of the situation: why the problem has occurred and its impact. They also carry a lot of insights on how the problems should be handled in that area. However, when the problem is being solved, the team remain passive expectants to a ready-made appropriate solution that I am expected to pull out of a magic bag.

    Two - When I provide them this solution, they may still feel that it is not the appropriate solution, even though they don’t voice it out loud to me. They have all the reasons why this solution may not work. Yet they attempt to implement it because it has come from their leader. Although, often, we can see that the intensity of ownership over the work is nominal because it is not their solution. Therefore, at the slightest hiccup, they immediately rush back to me claiming that my solution does not work.

    Thus, continues this passive loop.

    This is a common problem that I have heard a lot of leaders face as well. What’s important to remember here is that a leader’s capability is gauged basis his/her ability to develop the team that reports to him/her.  By providing readymade solutions / spoon-feeding, not only do the team’s capabilities remain undeveloped, but the leader’s precious time is wasted in regular mundane tasks that are never-ending.

    Reflecting on my own behavior, I realized that I was so engrossed in providing daily solutions to my team members, that focusing on my core KRAs became challenging. I sensed the mismatch. My way of handling issues was neither benefitting the team nor me to focus on strategy and achieve targets. I was becoming more of an executor when I needed to be an enabler.

    Of course, that does not mean that a leader should never get into the daily operations and challenges faced by the team. But this is a matter of timing – stepping in only at crucial points where the leader feels that the team will need his/her guidance. This will help in the development of team members and not make them just followers who become dependent for every insight and cry ‘help’ at the sign of every bump.

    Like a wiper cleaning the windshield of a car for a clearer view, I knew what I needed to do.

    Instead of me providing the solutions immediately, can I make my team think and give me their solutions? When they provide the solutions, not only will they use their insights and knowledge but also take ownership as the solutions come from them. This will also develop their capabilities of problem-solving and situation handling. I can always guide them after they share their inputs.

    I realized that as a Leader I would need one skill which has not been given the due importance it deserves. It hardly comes up when the abilities of a leader are discussed.

    That skill is PROBING - The ability to ask the right questions and make others think. How many of us take the time to practice and exhibit this skill in our daily roles? If not, we need to make it a habit. In doing so, you might find that your team members surprise you,  much like Manoj did on that day at The Rendezvous.

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  • April 11, 2019 - No Comments!

    Five Winning Tips for Great Facilitation

    “I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” ― Pablo Picasso

    As facilitators, we always thrive to make our session great. We each have our own style and unique flavor that we bring to the workshop, to make it engaging, impactful and memorable. I cannot teach you to be me. There are, however, a few elements that all good facilitators have in common. To be great, we can treat these elements like a checklist of things that need to be taken into consideration.

    Here are some tips that have helped me prepare to deliver great sessions.

    Tip No. 1 - Preparation. Preparation. Preparation.

    Preparation is the key to any facilitation. You could never over prepare! Why? Although you may be familiar and even comfortable with a topic, the audience is different each time – their expectations, their learning styles, their level of expertise, their engagement levels are all unique to each set.

    Therefore, while there will always be things that you can replicate across different audiences, each experience must be treated as unique and fresh. When a facilitator is not fully prepared for the session, we naturally face some level of nervousness, and the audience WILL sense this.

    Before every session, it is important to spend some time in reflection of past facilitation experiences – what went right, what went wrong, and what needs to be done differently. Most importantly, visualize how you want your next the session to be. This will help you to come across as a well-prepared facilitator.

    If you are able to research and understand your audience before the session, it’s a tool in your arsenal that should definitely be leveraged. We don’t always get this opportunity, so when we do, it’s important to make the most of it. This simple activity, while time consuming, adds great value to the facilitation experience, as well as hones one’s skills as a facilitator; Because all good facilitators know that great facilitation is more than just having subject-matter-expertise.

    Tip No. 2 - Be Confident.

    A master facilitator once told me - "it's all about showmanship". In other words, great facilitation is about how you drive and deliver the learning experience and the value you bring to the learners. When you are confident, you have control over the audiences, to influence them, to motivate them, to persuade them and ultimately convince them to believe in themselves.

    When you are confident, you invoke confidence in your learners. This confidence doesn’t come from the presentation slides, facilitator notes and content material you use. It goes far beyond that. Confidence comes with relentless preparation. Therefore, when you are not prepared, you are not confident.

    How do you increase your confidence? Research beyond the content of your workshop – read the company website and annual report, and understand your audience, their roles and expectations (if you know in advance who they are). When you have more depth and insights to give to your audience than what's on the slide, you will come across as an experienced facilitator and participants will be convinced by you.

    If all else fails, ‘fake it till you make it’. So long as you ‘BELIEVE’ that you are confident, even if you don’t entirely feel it, the audience will believe that you are confident as well. That’s the hallmark of a great showman – never letting their audience know exactly what’s going on inside their heads.

    Tip No. 3 - Engage with the Participants.

    Some facilitators are great presenters. They have done their preparation and appear very confident but fail to connect with the audience. Facilitation is all about the audience, not the facilitator. Therefore, missing out on the opportunity to connect with your audience means that you fail to develop the sense of belonging and community amongst your participants, which are important for peer interaction and social learning.

    Although a crucial activity, it doesn’t take much to connect with your audiences. Keep good eye contact, call your participants by their names and be a good listener when they are talking. Engage each one of them whether they are sitting in the front or last row. In this way, participants will feel included and will be open and receptive to you and others in the group.

    Tip No. 4 - Good Time Management.

    In facilitation, timing is key. This includes being on time, whether it is at the start of the day or with breaks.  Arrive early, start and conclude your session on time, and cover the agenda within the stipulated time. Remember that the participants are mentally prepared for the agenda. You might be a great facilitator and your topic could be the most interesting but if you do not manage your time well, you will lose their attention.  Good time management builds respect and rapport with the participants, and shows them that they are valued, that you are here to help them learn and develop their skills and not just go through the agenda like a checklist activity.

    Tip No. 5 - Be Passionate.

    There are things we do to get a check on the box and there are things we do with our whole heart. Training is something that needs to be done with passion. Facilitation can be challenging and tiring, and quite often repetitive as well. But it is important for facilitators to have great stamina – not just physically but also mentally. Every session, even if you are delivering it for the millionth time, should appear as if it were your first one.

    So, it is important that we love what we do and feel good about it so that we can bring value to the organization. Think about why you came into this field. Think about why you do what you do. The immense impact that you are making to the learning workforce. Reflect on it and continuously learn to be a better facilitator. At the end of the day, being a great facilitator is a labor of love and unending passion.

    If you have a point of view on what it takes to be a great facilitator, drop me at note at You can also engage with me on LinkedIn. I look forward to hearing from you.

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