Monday, October 06, 2008

Corporate v academic learning

I'm exploring the common ground and divergence between corporate and academic learning for a paper on my MA programme. I hope I have now sufficiently recovered what my tutor refers to as my 'mojo' to pick up the threads of this study programme and finish what I started.

I have been one of those who has campaigned for the walls between academic and corporate learning to be lowered. I don't think the siloes are helpful to either side. I have made a concerted effort to connect in this space with learning professionals from schools, universities and research organisations as well as other corporate learning professionals. However, the harder I try, the wider the divide seems to become.

So what do we have in common? What divides us?

I'd also be very keen to read a few peer reviewed articles on the subject, if you have any useful references. One of the issues on which I have been pulled up in the past is that I do not cite enough of these. This, of course, is because I prefer to read what you have to say on a subject right here, right now, rather than an article in a journal that was two years old by the time it was published.

Perhaps the review process is one point of divergence. When I submit papers on my academic programme of study, because my field is corporate, a certain number of professional journal references are tolerated. But these are seen as being inferior to the trusted academic journals which have been following the same procedures since Noah's treatise on preferable bird species when playing 'fetch the olive branch.'

The paper only needs to be 3000 words long, so I need to restrict my exploration to a few key issues. I thought of the following:

  • Drivers and intended purpose for learning - Why do we run the learning events in the first place? What do we think they're going to achieve?
  • Compilation of curriculum/learning needs analysis - looking at how the decision is made as to what the learning activity/course/whatever should cover
  • Nature of learning activities - How is the learning delivered?
  • Role of teacher/learner - What is the dynamic?
What do you think?

4 comments:

rlubensky said...

You can't explore much in 3K words. Instead, start with a bold claim, then look at evidence (including what some academics and others have said) to support it from a range of angles.

Perhaps limit your scope of academic learning to just professional practice learning, which is comparable to corporate learning in its instrumentality. You can hardly compare learning something like ancient history to learning how to process company transactions.

My 2 (declining in value) cents.

Karyn Romeis said...

Thanks for your 2c, Ron. I will certainly consider it. You're right that 3000 wors is not enough to compare apples to oranges.

Just this morning an Aussie confidently told me that the Australian economy is unaffected by the credit crunch and you guys are all doing fine. You mean I've been misled?????

Dave Ferguson said...

Karyn, I think the single biggest divide between academia and the corporate world is that, eventually, the corporate organization has to make money. (Well, okay, some of them get the government to finance a bailout, but that's too nuanced for 3,000 words.)

Because of that, the pressure of complying with a budget -- either staying within one, or jumping through hoops to justify an expense -- is much more of a day-to-day experience in corporate life.

I don't think you'll ever hear someone in academia say, as a senior salesperson did at the start of a workshop I helped run, "This better be worth it -- it's costing me $35,000 to be here."

What he meant: he took his annual sales quota, divided it into days, and then gauged all his time commitment in terms of the quota-days it represented. Three days spent in a seminar means three days he couldn't actively work on sales.

Especially if you're not working with the top tiers of an organization (where, once you convince a C-level officer to go for Six Sigma, MBTI, or 360 assessments, the sledding's a lot smoother), you're competing with demands that many academics don't have much direct experience with.

Karyn Romeis said...

@Dave Absolutely! I might even go as far as to say that, for a corporate organisation all learning has to contribute to the bottom line. Some organisations are so fixated on this that unless they can see a direct correlation in the short-term, they won't invest in the learning.

Academics, on the other hand seem more inclined to pursue learning for its own sake, sometimes with scant regard for its applicability.

Of course, those are the two extremes of the continuum. We do see corporates funding academic research, and some academic research foundations have begun to market the fruit of their labours.

My own erstwhile employer was approached with a view to marketing some of the tools developed by a university, but because they couldn't see guaranteed return, they turned it down. It's a tough sell for a lifelong academic to persuade a mercenary mogul to invest in his brainchild.