former chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, recognized the role of conceptual
output as early as 1997 in a speech at the University of Connecticut when he
said “The growth of the conceptual component of output has brought with it
accelerating demands for workers who are equipped not simply with technical
know-how, but with the ability to create, analyze, and transform information
and to interact effectively with others.” By 2004, he had developed his views
on the topic, referring to reductions in manufacturing in the United States,
outsourcing to India and China, excess of supply and the global marketplace,
all leading to the increasing conceptualization of economic output.”
Taking a page straight from Dan Pink
and Gary Hamel, knowledge and even
expertise are common, expected, cheap (sometimes free) to source, and no
longer represent lasting competitive advantage. We have moved from the
knowledge age to the conceptual age where creative, symphonic thinking – the
ability to harness sometimes seemingly disparate pieces of information and
ideas and mash them into wholly new iterations that can be applied effectively
to solutions and results – are in fact the individual and organization’s
Whatever field you work in, your expertise is expected, but your initiative
and creativity to bring unique and signature solutions to solve unexpected
problems is your brand, and increasingly also your company’s brand and
identity. If this is true (and you better believe it), the future of learning
is to provide more conceptual and powerful learning opportunities in which the
expected learning outcomes are by nature, unexpected. Sometimes called chaotic
or unstable by design, this construct suggests building learning opportunities
which offer insight, ideas and parables intended for inference and application
by the learner.
This calls for balancing the spoon-fed, outcome-anticipated,
specific-competence results-oriented learning environments with more conceptual
learning environments which treat learners as ready and able to distill ideas
presented into their own signature integrated solutions applicable for their
line of work and customers, whether they be internal or external.
Tom Kelley, CEO of IDEO, a premier product and services innovation company,
has been a long advocate of this approach. In his book, The Ten Faces of
Innovation, he describes a particular persona called the “Cross-Pollinator.”
Cross-Pollinators are those types who are inquisitive beyond their particular
domain expertise and explore ideas from industries outside their immediate
purview, come to understand the technology, device or methods employed
elsewhere and figure out how to incorporate these ideas into their own work.
How might this look like in learning environments? To compete with the
wild web, these learning environments will provide media and socially rich
environments which aid learners to deduct applications from disparate
sources. The conceptual age learning environment will offer a deep
portfolio of ideas and solutions garnered from varieties of domains. For
example, a sales learning environment will not only offer presentation tips and
niche industry knowledge but perhaps also ways in which organizations well
outside their own have leveraged technology to gain their customer attention.
For example, Sugarloaf
Ski resort has been admired for their ability to use social media to update
Foremost, emerging learning environments will understand that people have
their own intrinsic motivators, often contrary to what their company or manager
thinks is their primary motivator (drop the carrots and sticks paradigm).
When really what motivates the learner is passion, purpose and curiosity.
Learning opportunities will only resonate when they intersect with someone’s
current passion, fulfills their sense of purpose and giving, and peaks their
Learning opportunities are plentiful and the expectations are rising, and to
be compelling whatever you are offering must be beautiful,
unique and meaningful.
By: Shawn Hunter