My stepdaughter Deborah is a graduate of Yale’s School of Divinity and she called me yesterday in utter amazement. She could not believe what she was reading in Yale’s Alumni Magazine—that Dean Joel Podolny, the current Dean of Yale University’s School of Management, had been hired away to serve as the Dean for Apple’s own university program.
It turns out the allure of working at a company with an unmatched reputation for innovation and excellence was a strong enough draw to pull Dean Podolny from the halls of academia to re-invent learning for Apple. The scope of Apple University extends from Apple’s internal learning programs which are targeted to Apple employees, to a wider series of educational programs targeted to end users on the subjects of such basics as how to use Logic Pro and Final Cut Studio, to newer initiatives such as Apple Computer Camp for primary and high school students which is now offered at Apple’s retail locations.
While Apple University was launched in a more traditional fashion over ten years ago—I still remember visiting and interviewing them for one of my books on corporate universities—the vision now is much bigger and bolder than ever: to launch what Apple has called an “internal MBA program” as well to merge Apple University with Apple’s existing iTunes University, which serves up educational content to the public.
In conducting research for my new book, I am starting to see how many companies, regardless of their industry, are entering the “learning business” as a way to develop deeper bonds with their end users while taking a more proactive role in shaping the types of skills and competencies that are needed for success.
You might ask why these companies are continuing to enter the education business? Here are some thoughts:
- What it means to be successful at work is changing and much of the new wave is focused on tapping tacit knowledge. Research conducted by Dr. Robert Kelley of Carnegie Mellon University queried workers with the question: “what percentage of the knowledge you need to do your job is stored in your mind? The answers have varied significantly over the last 20 plus years. In 1986, it was 75%, then in 1997 (the year the Internet began to take off in the business world) the answer was 15-20%. Now in 2008, it is 8-10%. Imagine how a Millennial manager will answer this question in 2012?
- I just returned from two weeks in India and in that country, companies like Infosys are taking proactive roles to ensure leaders are teachers and the “business of Infosys is the curriculum.” Infosys wants to access tacit knowledge in topics such as techniques for achieving operational excellence and driving innovation—concepts that are career specific and need to be reapplied to new problems by emerging leaders. Hence, the focus and vision to create a robust cadre of “Leaders As Teachers” has taken hold at the company.
- Lines are blurring between content developed for learning programs and those that are developed for marketing and communications targeting end users. Savvy Chief Learning Officers are starting to recognize this and are building alliances with CMOs to work on understanding what can be re-used and re-configured for a wide variety of new audiences starting with internal employees, but extending to customers, suppliers, dealers, end users and even primary and high school students considering careers in specific industries.
So good luck Dean Podolny! I am sure you will have great success re-imagining learning for millions of Apple fans like myself.
Interested in learning more about the research being undertaken for a new book. Send me an email at Jeanne@newlearningplaybook.com