Commentary

When Work no longer works

by Kailash Gyawali (Flickr)I remember when Work was the place you went to, to get things done. Increasingly I find that when I really have to get things done - which in my industry is coming up with new ideas and designs for executive leadership development work (apart from managing a whole lot of people and bringing in revenue), work is probably the last place I would think of to do this well. Why is this? Well, frankly work is the place where I am interrupted a lot by others, where unexpected demands happen and where there is little time to think slowly, deeply and well. For a truly wonderous and succinct description for the world of work as interruption, Jason Fried's talk at TED on why work doesn't happen at work is a gem. I have become interested in this because I have to give a plenary session in two weeks time at The Future of Learning conference - a crosss continental initiative hosted by Ashridge, Melbourne Business School and UCT GSB.

The irony is that as I write this, it is not from work. I am doing this from home today - where I generally think very well. The topic of my paper is Learner Readiness -which within this context is rather paradoxical. If we no longer work well at work, where else are we learning and what kind of readiness for learning should we be building? I am in agreement with the move towards learning as a lifestyle and Dave Duarte's superb insightson this - where learning is a way of being, not just something which happens in very particular places - but rather as something which is part of what we do in multiple spaces to be enriched and fulfilled human beings.

Remember that old chestnut, the 70/20/10 Model which said 70% of learning happens on the job, 20% comes from observing and working with role models at work and 10% comes from formal training. What do we do now when increasingly, what we teach impacts people in their personal and professional lives? The model does not allow for home as a place of learning. Neither does it allow for the very real impact of coaching would would perhaps change the 20% rule significantly. I would say that today 10% of learning happens at work, upwards of 50% through coaching - either executive or peer and that upwards of 40% happens in those other places where home is a significant player - because with the addition of new technologies -we are no longer able to discretely box 'work' into the thing we do at the office.

I think this shift has a significant impact on what we design for organisations when it comes to their leadership development and critically when it comes to building learner readiness because it is no longer readiness just for the office but in actual fact readiness as a way of engaging in the world through the multiple places where we learn continuously.

When You Leave South Africa

When you leave South AfricaI will sit in the fruit-laden streets in the brightly painted cafés in the maze-like bookshops and play once more with the stories we created

I will throw your laughter high into the pine trees as I drive the same roads without you

I will send you postcards of Sunday morning Africa with its Gospel voices and street-corner gossip through richly patterned curtains

But I know that all these are scenes you may well find in other cities

And so I will wish with other things

The energy of men dipping and soaring with outstretched arms down Lily Avenue as children drum their laughter on municipal dustbins and hope chants from flat windows and balconies after each World Cup soccer qualifier

And perhaps these images of pride and love and strength will draw you back 

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I wrote this poem in 1996, fourteen years ago. Halcyon days.

(This poem is from a volume of poetry entitled the The Child Machine)