Accelerating learning pathways

Having failed to successfully engage, train and retain a few millennials in my global innovation culture consulting, education and coaching business, I hit the proverbial pause button, and asked myself, why isn’t it working out?

As a seasoned corporate educator and coach, upon retreat and reflection, three things stood out to me. These may not be restricted to millennials and might even be common across corporate demographics;

  1. The “instant learning” hook, seduces some people into believing that, for example, a 5-minute video, or an 18-minute TED talk can give them the content they need to master a subject.
  2. The “fast paced, reactive environment” prohibits some people from being fully present, from suspending judgement, from sensing and perceiving systemically “what is really going on” in the current situation or business problem.
  3. The “inner self management” disciplines and practices are absent, inhibiting people from investing time, paying attention and being intentional in retreating and reflecting, indwelling and illuminating to see the current situation or problem with the “fresh eyes” needed to discover and emerge creative ideas, or hidden solutions.

Finally, as soon as things get a bit “tough” or “rough” or problematic or conflictual, as they do in the innovation space, I noticed that people habitually either sunk into their aggressive defensive reactive responses and “shoot the messenger” in this instance, me, or sunk into their passive defensive responses and avoided taking any responsibility for their role in causing the uncomfortable situation, and ran fast away!

We all lost an incredible opportunity to learn what and how to change, to be more effective and resourceful, in this and future situations!

Indicating an absence of any real or deep learning, which then made me ask – why is it that we have forgotten to value change and learning, how can we learn to take responsibility for manifesting the kind of future we all want and would all love to have?

The learning curve is the earning curve

In the Deloitte Report on Corporate Learning in 2016 – Ten Trends Shaping the Future, Josh Bersin reinforces and validates my findings, stating that the Modern Learner is “overwhelmed” and that today’s employees are largely “overwhelmed, distracted and impatient.”

He also introduces us to the “new world of work, with learning at the centre” telling us that “the learning curve is the earning curve.”

Why aren’t we listening and co-creating this new world of work?

It’s been 27 years since Peter Senge published “The Fifth Discipline – The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization” where he outlined five approaches (theories and methods) for developing three core learning capabilities; fostering aspiration, developing reflective conversation and understanding complexity. He recently stated that; “Deep learning, the embodiment of new capabilities for effective action… (is) a developmental process that occurs over (considerable) time…”(ibid), yet we face problems that demand fast action. It requires ongoing cycles of action and reflection, in contexts that place little value on reflection. It depends upon trust and collaboration, in settings where people are increasingly distrustful and have little opportunity to build different relationships. Almost twenty years ago, we called this the “core leadership paradox of our time: action is critical, but the action we need can spring only from a reflective stance… that can transform and ultimately integrate our four human structures: cognition, emotion, body and will.” (ibid)

Taking action – developing a reflective stance

One of my goals as a leadership coach and corporate educator, is to know how to fast track a leader’s consciousness, realising that the key clue lay in, what Senge describes as transforming and integrating our motivational, cognitive, emotive, visceral structures.  I discovered another clue in Otto Sharmer’s “Theory U” where he provides us with a dense yet cohesive construct for leading from the future as it emerges, a process called “Presencing”.

Considering, and being willing to work with, peoples overwhelm, distractedness and impatience, at ImagineNation™ we adapted these core structures, as the overall learning structures for our global innovation education and coaching programs, to ensure that deep learning occurs.

Having authentic conversations that create the space for deep and meaningful change

We are all enjoying the shift in both macro and micro agile learning channels towards the use and adaptation of Story and Conversations, to facilitate learning and change.

As part of a collaborative event, held here in Melbourne between the Organizational Development Association (ODA) and the Victorian Chapter of the International Coach Federation (ICF), my colleague Davia Mc Millan and I co-created an evolutionary model, to enable people to have authentic conversations that create the space for deep and meaningful change.


By embodying and enacting these stages and steps, people learn how to co-sense, co-presence and co-create the space for deep and meaningful change through;

  • Creating a Container: that gives people permission to be their authentic selves, to take responsibility for their actions and outcomes, because they feel connected and trusted and are motivated, open minded (curious) and hearted (compassionate) in their willingness and desire to collaborate.
  • Sensing and Perceiving the Whole System: in ways that allow people to see with “fresh eyes” (not knowing) “what is really going on” to gather information, associate the key patterns and trends, diverging and converging within the social field, with discernment and detachment (open mind, open heart and open will).
  • Generating Discovery: deep diving through generative listening, inquiry and debate to safely challenge the status quo, provocate and disrupt conventional ways of seeing, perceiving and responding to people’s internal and external worlds. Creating cracks, openings and thresholds for possibilities and opportunities, not previously imagined, for change, to emerge (open mind, open heart and open will).
  • Emerging Creative Ideas for Change and Innovative Solutions: through facilitating options, making choices, co-creating the desired future, solution and a collaborative outcome. Being tolerant and willing to experiment, adapt and grow by sharing reflections to learn, by knowing how to advance the transformation and integration of our four human structures – cognition, emotion, body and will.

Choosing the authentic learning pathway

This is truly an immersive and emergent process, which, with experimentation and practice can be adapted to meet short and longer time frames.

It is an enormously powerful change because it potentially reduces peoples overwhelm as it involves learning how to emerge creative ideas and innovative solutions for change. It holds people’s attention as a crucial part of the overall process, and because is it a deeply iterative, generative and co-creative process, it potentially reduces people’s impatience. This is because they are deeply engaged in a trusted and collaborative, inspiring and purposeful, meaningful learning and change process that is open to alternate world views, operates from the highest source of human possibility, and taps into the whole (Source).



Join ImagineNation™’s free monthly webinar in our Making Innovation a Habit Series “The Agile Innovator”. It’s on Thursday, 17th in the northern hemisphere and Friday, 18th August down here in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane at 7.00am -7.45am. Register now at