Innovation Nation
Innovation Nation

Episode · 1 year ago

Education Fuels Innovation: Building a Learning Organization w/ Rodger LeGrand


The concept of synthesis doesn’t come up a lot at work. But it should. 

We innovate by synthesizing knowledge we already have with what we’ve recently learned. This is why education is the heart of innovation. 

In this episode, I interview Rodger LeGrand, Academy Manager at TÜV SÜD, about how and why to build a learning organization. 

What we talked about:  

  • Einstein, art, and poetry 
  • 2 things that learning organizations must do 
  • The intricacies of course design 
  • Empowering all employees to be knowledge workers  

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Innovation is all around us. In fact, everyone innovates, often unbeknowntes to themselves. Many mistakenly assume the innovation is either a big capital project a figurative bolt of lightning that brings inspiration where the province of some exceptionally gifted person. This is the myth of innovation. But you can innovate as well. You are listening to innovation nation, the podcast where top executives in industry experts are sharing their insights on harnessing the power of innovation. We're here to help you stay ahead of the curve by driving your own innovation. Here's your host, Jasmine Martyr Rosen Hi. I'm joined today by Roger Lagrant, who is the manager of to Zood a Gat Academy. Welcome, Roger. Thank you. So Roger Brings a very, very background and he's a champion of learning and I want to talk to you today about building a learning organization. What does that mean to you and how that ties to innovation? Thank you, Jasmine. It's a really good question, I think, one that we should be thinking about regularly. I mean the goal for every group, every organization is is to, you know, expand and achieve new levels of knowledge and insight and that's how we that's how we grow and develop into whatever comes next that we you know, that we can't even imagine. So it's a great topic and, you know, I'm I'm happy you've taken this on and you're bringing a bunch of different people to talk about innovation, you know, for learning organizations. I think like the the real of course I'm biased, but I think the real heart of innovation is is education. It's where we, as we begin to learn more and acquired, you know, new perspectives and new insights, we have the opportunity to integrate those new insights in with existing insights and and that kind of a lot of the knowledge development, a lot of the innovative ideas that we see across industries, across time come from, you know, really meaningful synthesis. Whether they were accidental, whether they were insightful, they come from synthesis and learning how to synthesize, how to bring multiple, you know, unrelated elements together into something new that we maybe have an imagined, even though the elements pre existed. Mean any of our great thinkers, if you go to Einstein, Einstein was reading someone before developing inst you know the theory of Relativity, Freud, Picasso was painting differently than you know cubism. There's always the starting point that comes be for the great change. And while we're in the pursuit of knowledge, in the pursuit of of insight,...

...the opportunity to acquire more perspective and more skills is really it's like fuel. It's fuel for that. So we kind of we have a lot of time we spend trying to think about ways of improving or or building upon existing knowledge, and the real value of those knowledge programs is how are they being applied? You know, it's not enough to say we're learning something. It's also how are we going to actually use that knowledge and integrated into the the systems or the procedures or the product development which is already perhaps thriving. Yeah, so you've innovated in your own life, right. You were different hats. You've had a very varied career. You've straddled the world of academia and corporate tell me more about it. That must entailsome innovation. How do you go about well, that's a good question. You know, I do have a long background and teaching. I've been in college writing instructor for most of my adult life, like, I guess, all of my adult life, and, you know, thinking about writing processes and and the ways, you know, we develop writing and think about gathering research and organizing our thoughts on a page is actually really not all that different from moving into corporate for me, given my different roles in education, from being a lecturer to working in administration as a program director and associate director, the move into a corporate environment is actually pretty pretty smooth. It's not really a conflict because my focus there was education and my focus here is education. And what's remarkable is not not what I've done with it. What's remarkable is that whether we're talking about a college classroom or we're talking about corporate training, the goal is the same. Right. We have learners, we have students who need and want information and knowledge and to expand and to improve, and we we provide that, you know, and and just like in the university, where I would have, where I would have, you know, students who would come to me afterward to, you know, talk about career opportunities and what's next in terms of learning, the same thing happens here. I get calls from students in the corporate world saying that was a great class. What can I do next? You know, how about poetry? Also publish poet how does that coming to play? I could talk about poetry all day, Jasmine, so careful. So actually, you know, there are kind of I think of it this way, there are two kinds of poets. There are those who anything goes, you know, just kind of hanging out and just feeling their way through life, and then there are poets who are really structured. I once made... argument when I was teaching at Mit that writing poetry is very similar to science writing, because science writing is very structured. It's, you know, the introduction methods, discussion, like results. You know, there's this kind of it's not static, but I mean there's like a structure within which the ideas are allowed to unfold. And even though, I mean if you take a sonnet, that's a head to head example, right of discourses. Yeah, a B rhyme scheme, I ampic contameter, right, you know. So it's very structured in a similar way. But even if we're not working in structure, we have in poetry these created structures of cadence and rhythm and, you know, line breaks and rhyme and rhythm, and they may be selfimposed, but they're there. So moving into, you know, teaching, you know, when you're teaching courses that are not poetry, you have to adjust and transfer your knowledge from one area to another. And when you're moving then into a corporate environment, which is, you know, more of an administrative role rather than a teaching role, that insight about you know, thinking about how a poem is contained and in and of itself, you know the the shape of the poem gives the poem some its life. You know that it's the vehicle for which the idea is able to move and take shape. It's the same with, you know, developing a program I mean we you're developing an academic program the one we're developing. It's the kind of space that will allow us to impose some constraints. So, you know, it's the constraints that give us the space to grow, you know, because they they kind of keep us saying, creative. They keep us creative so that if I can only work within this space, I have to be creative to make sure I don't work outside of that space. So they allow you to channel you're energy using a certain direction. I think that's a fair way to put it. Yeah, IT'S A it's a way of staying focused, it's a way of holding yourself accountable, you know, and I think that that intrinsic motivation to you know comes from, you know, inside right to to do meaningful work and good work and or the work of whether it's poetry or education, you know, to connect with others and have that kind of communication is it's just a big point. It's a trend across all of these environments. So what types of courses? Those too? Academy? Off, we have a range of course as across industries, from, you know, managements to tems courses on, you know, is nine thousand and one and becoming an internal auditor and that area, to high voltage safety courses so that you can learn to, you know, commission and decommission a electric vehicle safely. You know, we have medical device training, cyber security training, all of these...

...very practical real world topics that can be used immediately, transferred immediately into a work environment, which is now it's just really valuable to have. I mean that's a difference. So you're talking about the difference between, you know, academia and corporate education. That's a difference. Right. In academia, with all due respect, very often students are pushing for a mid term and pushing for a final and then all of that brain power is just spent on those two big moments and then, you know, a lot of what's learned gets dropped off. I think don't quo. I. I shouldn't give the STATUF. I can't give you the source, but I recall reading at one point that about eleven percent of what's learned in a semesters it's retained. They've been in college. Who It's a structure that actually against learning methodology, right. Yeah, everybody's clamming every everything's coolisting at the same time. That's why, when I was teaching at Northeast University, I eliminated the mid terms and to find those in favor of consistent testing throughout, and the students liked it better and everybody benefited more because people retain information more rather than the short term claim. Yeah, that's I like your approach. That's a good idea. In the corporate setting, you know, the courses are much shorter and more intense and in their own way, but the entire focus is on application on Trent knowledge transfer, like, how do we move what you learned in this course out into what you do on a daily basis? And then, you know, the bigger question is, how does that inform the work of your organ is, like the mission of your organization, so that everything is aligned, you know, everything's contributing back and forth to within this matrix of learning and innovation, and I think that that's a fascinating thing. You know, to be an environment where I'm creating, I'm working with subject experts to create courses that are that have immediate real world value and an immediate transferability versus, you know, working in an environment where the the the transfer possibilities are utterly clear to me as the instructor. But because of the way students might have five, six courses, that's very difficult for them to take what they learned in one class and transfer it long term, like, you know, into the future. Just a different scenario. So how are these courses designed? And also, because it's two questions and one also, do they help the engineers and others meet the regulatory requirement that occurred? Yeah, good questions. The courses are designed based on really based on topic in safety needs and, you know, technical needs, that sort of stuff. So I mean some of the courses are focused on standards, regulatory standards that that need to be met.

So of course we want to say what are those standards? But there are other questions we want to answer in these courses, which is, you know, why is it essential? Ye, you know, how would a consultant view these standards? Those sort of things, and some of these are they are required of organizations. The functional safety I. So to six to sixty two is a certification program that qualifies attendees to, you know, be certified functional safety experts or or professionals, depending on the level of their of their prerequisites. But over time we continue working with them to to help them achieve higher levels of knowledge and engagement with the topics that they're they're proper experts, you know, with the work that they're doing. Excellent. And you were talking earlier about how the person computers became the size of many all envelope share that. What does that was on our earlier conversation about innovation. You know, I was recalling a an example that was given in a book. I think it was made to stick by a chip and Dan Heath from two thousand and seven, which actually predates me joining pen by the way. Funny detail. They have this example in there of the individual who had the idea for the laptop going into a meeting and kind of putting a vanilla envelope on the table and saying I'd like to develop a computer that can fit into this envelope, and everyone was kind of like, you know, mindblown because computers at that time we're enormous rights. This is a huge, huge innovative idea. Right, if you can pull that off, it would change everything, as it did, and that's the kind of that's a great example. I'm glad you bring it back up. It's a great example of how synthesizing ideas that are, you know, unrelated right, synthesizing ideas across context can create new ideas. You know, with with existing materials. There's no doubt that the laptop changed everything about how we move through the world and bring our work with us. And then you go further and we have these, you know, the iphone, which is, when you really break it down as a phone, a camera, a music device. This these things that already existed in the world that we begin to together to say look, now we have a new way of thinking about these items and I think a lot of that can come from education. It can come from practice of synthesizing sources and back to my writing examples, synthesizing sources and research articles or synthesizing, you know, transferring knowledge that you learn in course a into course be or taking what you learn at work and one area and then moving over and helping someone who has an unrelated work, you know, work responsibilities and synthesizing what you do with what they do. Write. All of that merging of ideas gives us...

...the opportunity to have something pop up right, something can blossom and flower and when you think about the flat of thought needed for that to happen, this dramatic and today, in the public perception laptops, that the size of laptops, which would a lot of them, would fit into many velow but the truth is at the time laptops did not exist. Computers took up entire rooms. That's right. Yeah, now there is more powering of single lifephones. So that's revolutionary, truly. Yeah, absolutely revolutionary and and really remarkable. I'm sure we could find countless examples of you know where you could take someone like Einstein or Freud Or, you know, Picasso and and trace back and and, you know, deconstruct how they assembled. There there really kind of reality shifting ideas. So truly learning organization, Guilso in powers its people to be open to creativity in ways that they can make those connections, to see patterns and to visualize things in a way that that thrives progress. Yeah, I agree with that. I think that a learning organization would would motivate people to think creatively, to have open communication about about what might be possible. And and by open communication I mean real listening, real real exchange of ideas, where people on all sides of the table are willing to be changed by what they hear in those discussions, regardless of I was reading on an article recently about leadership not necessarily needing to be in the hands of leaders. Right. This is where education in building a foundation upon which we can build new ideas and powers the entire organization to contribute to new potential, you know, and it maximizes the maximizes the potential of an organization to change, grow, innovate and reposition themselves in an environment where we have to always be changing. So the more knowledge we bring. Yeah, there's a there's a real matter of fact, you know, utility to having a certification in a particular area, and that's one thing, but it's not the only thing. You know, it means that as we're seeing the way, for instance, you know, for our courses, jasmine was, we're seeing, you know, the course on a particular ISO standard, I don't know what doesn't matter, which you know, kind of looks like, okay, I have to get that that training so I can perform these audits. There's another layer to that which says, you know, I learned this thing and I learned about, you know, different details about the plan to act cycle. How can I apply that in different areas? How can I bring that into a conversation over launch with some colleagues, you know? And it's just starts to help kind of stir that a little bit. And let the I've been break baking a lot...

...of bread like it. Let's the let the dough rise. You know that the really get as much flavor out of that as you can, and that's what's possible. That's what possible for us as educators. It's what's possible for us as learners. And there are good ways to go about it so that we can maximize the experience. You know, I know it's hard to get to get the time for training. You know, I know like a big hindrance for innovation and try and education is time right and it takes a lot of time to go to class. Even we've got a lot of our classes down to the minimal, you know, time commitment, but it's still a challenge to reserves some time. But I think once we begin to think about education as this ongoing contributor to systemic innovation, then we have a real opportunity to to expand our our possibilities. Dr Steve Kerr, whom I interviewed while back, told me he was he is the distinction of holding the first Clo title, Chief Learning Officer title at g at the time gee had a rule that you had to share knowledge because it had so many divisions. So if you were succeeding at something, if you would not sharing your knowledge, it meant you would not being a good corporate citizen. And they it was partly the drive to institutionalize sharing that drove to the introduction of the CLO rules. So that's also very important to driving innovation. Yeah, that's a great story. I hadn't heard that. That's that's wonderful. Yet and the core of this sharing is communication. I mean in education, if in leadership, in whether it's a startup or, you know, a company with many years behind it, we need to always be open a communicating, communicating clearly and and honestly and with that spirit of being collegial, you know, of sharing insights for growth. I mean we all I can understand how a company that size can get a little plank, you, focused on its own you know, each division focused on its own work. was perfectly understandable. But you know, raining that in and and really regrouping as a team is a wonderful way to I mean, imagine the synthesis that could be possible in that kind of environment. You know, as long, assuming everyone is really open to that kind of collaboration and exchange, then you know, we could we could see tremendous opportunities. Any closing thoughts on building a learning organization? Well, it's a complicated topic to to end with, I think that the core of building a learning organization would be to evaluate how effective the communication is at this time. Like I think the starting point has to be looking at how we are...

...talking to each other as a group, you know, and that's that would go for any classroom. I mean if we were to make mirror this to a classroom, if you go into a class in the students are all like this, you know, and they don't talk, they just kind of look down or they're checking their phones all let you know, and there's no engagement. I'm telling you, that's going to be an awful class for everyone, for the instructor as well. It's just going to be miserable. So I think the first step is, let's get a handle on how we're talking to each other, let's smile, let's let's, you know, appreciate the contributions everyone's making and realize we're in it together, and then move on and start really developing a tangible back to poetry, right, some real structure so that the metaphor, that the idea that you're generating in the pom can have some life. You'd want to go back and have real structure, not a checklist. I've seen, you know, a number of organizations. I say you have to do this, this, this. That's not, you know, it's not a checklist that has to be integrated into the into the you know, aligned with the executive mission. It has to be integrated into the the culture of the organization. It has to be something that, you know, the the learners, the employees, the learners, are going to feel empowered by so that they're they're doing more than just checking off boxes. You know, we have to make it where we're back to the basics of saying, you know, your brains important to us and we want to we want to make sure that that you have the opportunity to grow that that brain as much as possible. And we're all knowledge workers. Mean that evolution to me is just necessary for not just surviving the driving. Yeah, thank you, Roger, for joining us today. Really appreciate your time and thoughts. Looking forward to form for the conversations. Great. Thank you, Jasmine's been wonderful. You've been listening to innovation nation. For more subscribe to the podcast in your favorite podcast player or connect with us on Linkedin. Thanks for listening.

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