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Jan 25, 2021
Amid an ongoing and global crisis, companies worldwide are cutting their corporate learning and development budgets. This is not a plea to sustain the L&D budget – companies will do what is necessary to stay liquid in this turbulent time. Yet, there is no better time than now to ask the real impact question. And the L&D departments of companies – large or small – have the unique opportunity now to tell the “success” rather than the “success factor” story. Instead of measuring satisfaction, happiness, engagement, or skills, how about the business outcome created? Can we raise the bar to design and deliver programs which will save the day and pave the way for the future? Business team brainstorms over paperwork on table in bright office getty If it sounds like moon landing to demand immediate business results from learning, read the story of Kooba , a digital agency in Dublin, that successfully expanded its business into Germany. Kooba signed up for the Enter the Eurozone program in 2018. This program blends world-class business education with one-to-one business advisory support and self-directed market research. The goal of the program is simple – a detailed market entry plan to win a first significant contract in the chosen Eurozone market. “It focused our thinking,” says Kooba creative director and co-owner Ed Kelly. “It made us create a market entry plan, gave us a greater understanding of the market, and helped us research the competition.” Focusing on the best way to develop export sales led Kooba to create LeadCaptur , a software that creates optimized landing pages to drive leads. The business is growing at home and in Germany – Kooba now employs 20 people, including three in Berlin. You might think the design of a publicly funded development program cannot be applied to your company. We have seen this work in real corporates as well. Take for example Chargeurs , an iconic champion in five cutting-edge markets including industrial surface protection, museum solutions, interlinings, ecological wool, and health care as well as a company history of 150 years. Michaël Fribourg, its chair and CEO, believes that Chargeurs can become a game changer. “Our value proposition is not the technical product but the solution. We want to disrupt our markets with smart ideas that we can implement in small, simple but steady steps – ideas which we constantly improve based on customer feedback.” Joëlle Fabre-Hoffmeister, group general secretary and chief compliance officer, set the goal to go beyond learning and create “immediate business impact” to support the game-changer plan. The solution Chargeurs created with ESMT is a lab where selected participants from diverse business units learn to be innovative. They designed and ran business experiments, gathered feedback from their customers, and tested their ideas with the help of ESMT’s program faculty, innovation coaches, and peers. Of the many business projects successfully incubated through the program, its “Smart Tech Protection” project is among the more daring game changers. After interviewing clients and discovering their pain points, the project team developed a Nespresso-like business model. By designing smart protective films (akin to the coffee capsule example) that can “communicate” with the laminators (akin to coffee machine), it was possible to enable laminators to automatically replace rolls, read the film to adjust the settings, and thus optimize the lamination process and reduce mistakes and downtimes for the machines’ users. Furthermore, the system enabled per-use payment to the customer, which was completely new in the industry. MORE FOR YOU These are not exceptions. In the past two decades, we are seeing more and more examples of how organizations and individuals can be transformed through L&D. Three principles are helpful in moving from a credit bias to an impact bias. Don’t ask why, ask so what. The “so what” question is more powerful and often uncomfortable. Here, there is no room for the stories you’d tell – neither the excuses of the past nor the magical future where all is resolved. Instead, “so what” focuses on the doing, concrete business outcomes, and a changed reality. Ideally, the answer should already be given – given by the company leaders to the L&D experts and not vice versa. Strategic alignment means leaders have made it clear where the company is heading and how the strategic goal will be achieved. Only then can the L&D department engineer a learning solution. Let’s say, for example, that you are an e-commerce company aiming at two-digit growth in 2021, and the strategy is to grow product categories to become the one-stop shop for your users. Your L&D team would focus on what truly matters – a speedy onboarding of new hires, an upskilling in negotiation for all category managers, and a virtual leadership program for the managers leading the ever-growing category team. Don’t apply what you have learned, learn what you must apply. Many companies have integrated work projects as didactical instrument into learning journeys. Ironically, projects of this kind could lead to frustration when the manager realizes that the company is not ready for them to apply the new knowledge or skills – think about digital platforms. How about reversing the order of the learning and projects? Let’s inject learning into real projects. Take the example of a merger. It is not rare that when the post-merger integration goes wrong, companies increase their L&D budget for change management or intercultural collaboration. What we learned is to make sure L&D is part of your ‘‘big ticket’’ transformational projects. This might also solve the problem that only 12 percent of employees apply new skills learned in L&D programs to their jobs. Resist the temptation to be innovative. To be clear, we love innovation. What goes wrong is the wasteful spending to signal innovativeness without solving a real problem. One example is the overspending in solving the accessibility problem (MOOCs, bite-sized content platforms), neglecting the fact that having more choices means more burden in this age of information explosion. Careful curation or canceling out the noise is what many would appreciate. The other example is the ever-increasing pressure to show impact with data, spending more L&D budgets on new data tools to create impressive management dashboards without challenging whether the data generated on behavior is essential for any purpose. The solution: management and L&D teams must clarify what truly matters. If learning is supposed to shape the course of a company, let’s leap past process data and go straight to impact – by collecting evidence of new ways of doing things and new projects created. Businessperson with tablet presents project to team in meeting room getty Using these suggestions, you will see more engaged corporate learners soon. Why? Because the principles above engage your people to learn to solve real problems. Motivation kicks in the minute people see what they are doing creates impact, and this in turn fuels their eagerness to learn. Yes, this approach could be hard on your learners as well. In the Enter the Eurozone program, we heard repeatedly from the CEOs/CMOs that they underestimated the time investment needed to “grow themselves” to plan and steer their company’s market expansion. But as they achieved milestones like market selection, target customer/competitor research, value proposition design, selling, and negotiating in the new market, they gained the confidence that the solution to the growth problem lies within themselves. This is the best demand you can make of your learning budget – to unlock the potentials of your employees to solve the problems for the company in good and bad times.
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Kooba Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
When was Kooba founded?
Kooba was founded in 1998.
Where is Kooba's headquarters?
Kooba's headquarters is located at 2652 Long Beach Avenue, Los Angeles.
What is Kooba's latest funding round?
Kooba's latest funding round is Other Investors.
Who are the investors of Kooba?
Investors of Kooba include Swander Pace Capital.
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