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Five Business Shifts that Will Put Learning at the Heart of the Agenda

By Rohit Talwar and Helena Calle
How can we embrace the strategic importance of learning and development?
Learning, Survival, and Growth

In our recent book The Future Reinvented—Reimagining Life, Society, and Business, we argued that, in the face of seemingly unprecedented change across society, learning at every level is central to survival and growth. Here we explore five underlying forces at play that are placing learning and development (L&D) at the heart of tomorrow’s organizations.

A Faster Planet—The world is moving and changing at a breakneck pace. Organizations are challenged to make sense of today while keeping an eye on the horizon for the next wave of transformative developments. For leaders, it is increasingly apparent that survival depends on the ability to make sense of change, unlearn what no longer serves, and acquire new knowledge and insights.

Living the Future—Societal shifts, disruptive thinking, and game-changing technologies are shortening the gap between concept emergence and translation into a physical reality. Hence, the growing emphasis on acting faster on insights and reducing the time to ‘sell’ a change internally—because people can see for themselves why it’s needed. The implication is that everyone needs to learn to understand how to scan and evaluate signals of impending change around them and on the horizon. From changing customer requirements to futures videos, all provide powerful learning about tomorrow.

Digital Mindsets—Entities are being redesigned around data flows and adopting increasingly digital mindsets—using data to underpin decision-making. While intuition, assumptions, and creativity are important, there’s growing emphasis on fact and results-based decision-making. Adopting more systematic problem solving using the scientific method requires a different training approach. Individuals must learn how to approach data, make evidence-based decisions, and draw conclusions using repeatable methods. They also need to learn to make decisions when the data is imperfect or unavailable.

New World Literacy—A wide range of exponentially evolving technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain are creeping into workplaces, enabling radically different ways of thinking about how things work and how to achieve outcomes. For example, driverless cars will overturn long held assumptions regarding insurance and vehicle ownership. Hence, a key challenge is to accelerate the speed at which leaders and managers are learning about, and updating themselves on, these disruptive technologies and the ideas they enable.

Smarter Workplaces—Exponentially improving technologies such as AI and robotics are starting to transform workplaces, outperforming humans in many tasks. They are also expanding our capacity to process and interpret vast arrays of data, conduct complex activities with repeatable precision, and automate much of what was exclusively in the human domain. Learning about how to work with these technologies and harness them to unleash our creative talents is central to ensuring organizations see a positive return on their automation investments.

Future performance will undoubtedly be tied to an organization’s capacity to learn. The question is whether today’s L&D professionals are ready to step into the immense opportunities that are emerging and play a central role in creating tomorrow.


  • Alongside evaluating the cost of L&D, does the organization also look at the costs of having capability gaps?
  • How can we help individuals take greater responsibility for their own learning journeys?
  • What capabilities will L&D leaders need in order to help the organization embrace the importance of acquiring new insights and skills?

This article is excerpted from A Very Human Future – Enriching Humanity in a Digitized World. You can order the book here.

A version of this chapter was originally published in Training Journal.


Image: by geralt


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