Saturday, December 12, 2009

In Response: Innovation in Indian Learning Industry

This is going to be a bit of a rambling blog post. One of those where I am seeking internal clarity and "talking" to myself...
The last week has seen me completely mired in work. While physically tired, I however enjoy it because of the challenges, the interaction with team members (I work with a great team I can laugh with, work with, chat with),
and the need to be on my "mental toes" all the time. All of these provide me with invaluable opportunities to learn.

But pressure of work has also kept me away from reading blog posts, articles, Twitter updates...all great sources of learning for me, and I was beginning to feel this by the end of the week. So, this morning when I logged in and saw the following tweet from @followVasan: Innovation in Indian Learning Industry (Learn+and+Lead) |Liked it!, I immediately opened the link.

I have great respect for Manish Mohan and have been following his blog for a long time. This post did not fail me either. He captures the Indian Learning Industry scenario in a single post and the links build up a holistic picture. While we all know the bits and pieces of what is happening here, the coming together of the information in a single post definitely created a greater impact. This is a post I would want all my Twitter and #lrnchat friends in the US to read. When I was there, many of them had asked me about the scenario here, and I couldn't express it as effectively as Manish Mohan has done. 

The post also came at a point when I have been thinking about the
Winners of the 2009 Brandon Hall Excellence in Learning Awards. Vasan has put up the list and I have found myself walking up and reading the names and the categories often and wondering about the innovation happening in these companies. Therefore, I fully agree with the sentiment expressed in the Manish Mohan's post.

I would like to delve a little deeper into the points he has expressed--especially, bullet points # 5 and 6. I have pasted these here for quick reference with my comments inline.

  • We aren’t really focused on academic research (at least I am not aware of it). There is very little connect between academic research and workplace implementation, though I suspect that’s the case in most other countries too.
Comment: I agree! There may be individuals we are not aware of. By virtue of not being "visible" enough, we give the impression of not being involved in research. This can be detrimental to our personal growth as well as the growth of the Learning industry in India. Moreover, e-learning as an industry is still nascent here in spite of the great work companies like TIS and NIIT are doing. It has yet to gain recognition as a profession that demands specific, specialized skill sets, extensive reading and a sound knowledge base, awareness of the latest trends, and continuous learning. We, as learning professionals, have to set up this trend. And I agree with Prof. Karl Kapp here when he says that it is important to have a professional "degree". While a degree does not an ID make, the pursuers of a degree are typically those who take continuous learning seriously and will be the ones to move into research. Without a strong foundation in academic research, we are not going to be able to prove that the industry that is growing so rapidly here is also based on sound knowledge and theory, and we are at par with the best.
  • We don’t know how to sell consulting, research and innovation well. We also don’t have high profile visible individual consultants/experts. I guess Thiagi and CK Prahalad are
    Indians innovating but don’t quite count as India innovating. It may be some time before an Indian from India is awarded the CLO of the year award.
Comment: Very true! And I have Vasan to thank for pointing this out to me. I remember a discussion I had had when I insisted that the work we do is not Consulting but design and development. He had very patiently explained to me what consulting means...

I now realize that we do "practice" consulting, but we don't know how to package it. And packaging is the visible evidence of what we do. Since we don't sell it right, the consulting part of our work gets conflated with the design thinking and development phase. The client goes to someone else for the same piece of work and pays a higher price because they know how to pitch it.

I am still thinking...and look forward to your thoughts too...

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