Years ago, I picked up a copy of “Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman” by James Gleick. Paging through the prologue, I came across this sentence: “He pursued knowledge without prejudice.” In context, it referred to Feynman’s seemingly insatiable appetite for acquiring knowledge and skills of any and all kinds.
From developing the ability to pick locks (a talent he pursued and practiced for hours on end while musing over problems he and his colleagues encountered in the making of the atomic bomb at Los Alamos) to mastering enough biology to help geneticists understand mutations in DNA, he apparently found little in life he didn’t want to learn about. It was just one of the traits that contributed to his legend as a quirky genius and the closest thing to a rock star the field of physics has ever seen.
The sentence, “He pursued knowledge without prejudice,” caught my eye not so much for what it implied about the breadth of subjects Feynman studied but more for what it hinted at about how most of us who are not “geniuses” look at learning. In general, we are a lot more pragmatic. Particularly when it comes to corporate education, we want to know “What’s in it for us?” And that’s as it should be — learning for learning’s sake just isn’t practical when profit is the motive. Expenditures in enterprise education must be weighed against their impact on the bottom line. Leadership development is not altruistic. Rather, it is an investment in the future success and profitability of the enterprise. For the CLO, the pressure to prove the positive business impact of learning continues to grow.
That’s where Chief Learning Officer enters the picture. Our prejudice is clear: We are the leading industry resource for the knowledge, insight, research and professional community CLOs need to run enterprise education like the business it is. You’ll find important strategies, data, resources and contacts you need to know on every page of the magazine — including this issue — and that’s all. No tips on cracking safes, the genetic code or the mystery of quantum physics, just focused, purposeful content for learning leaders.
You’ll also find learning with a purpose at the Chief Learning Officer Breakfast Club series, our traveling “roadshow” that brings together regional learning executives to talk about the critical issues of managing a learning organization. The CLO Breakfast Clubs create a unique environment where learning professionals can network, share best practices, analyze the strategic alignment of business goals and workforce education, benchmark their initiatives and discuss what’s on their minds.
For the 2007 Spring and Fall CLO Breakfast Club series, the conversation will center on “The Business Impact of Learning” — how to plan for it, promote it among the powers that be, put it into practice throughout your enterprise and, ultimately, prove it through meaningful metrics.
The emphasis will be on active debate and dialogue that involves everyone in attendance, with a prominent local CLO in each host city guiding and contributing to the conversation. I expect there will be a powerful transfer of knowledge as we delve into the known challenges facing learning organizations today such as linking learning planning with strategic planning, statistical methods and appropriate data for measuring impact and developing the language and vocabulary to positively influence senior management’s investment in learning.
Dates and cities for the 2007 Breakfast Club series are:
The 2007 CLO Breakfast Club series promises lively discussion and the opportunity to intensify the collective power of the knowledge we share in the Chief Learning Officer community. If you’re noticing that’s a recurring theme in my letters this year, it’s not a coincidence. I’m more convinced than ever that the biggest value inherent in what we do is building an active, engaged, committed community of practice dedicated to raising the bar for workforce learning and development and proving its strategic importance to the success of the enterprise.
For more information about the CLO Breakfast Clubs and to register, visit www.cloevents.com. If you want to share some of your own thoughts about the power the CLO community can generate through shared knowledge, e-mail me at Norm@clomedia.com. That’s a subject I never tire of learning about.
Editor in Chief