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Information sharing = Rate of Diffusion = Learning = Collective Action

The only challenge confronting any leader at any level of business or politics is to answer the question?

How can I move this group/ team, community of people from point A to Point B with maximum impact and a modest degree of coherence?

Leaders over centuries have addressed this question in multiple ways:

  • By directing their followers – using carrot and /or stick model
  • By inspiring followers – telling stories and creating images to move them
  • Leading by example
  • Creating a shared vision

In any situation the changes (whether internal to the business or market innovation) require a major investment in “education” at some level – overt or covert!

As I was writing this blog I searched the Internet on the subject of leadership and there are many millions of books on leadership.

Under the following search headings there were:

Leadership: 378M

Best books on leadership: 46.3M

Authentic leadership: 900,000

Amazing isn’t it! All this literature on leadership –

But is leadership now any better than 100 or 1000 years ago? Do Human beings manage change any better now?

Each book has its own theory on good leaders and/ or great leaders. There are as many concepts as there are authors!

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” – John Fitzgerald Kennedy

The role of leader as the “head” learner is seriously underdeveloped!

If we think about the challenge of learning one only has to look at the marketing advertising Industry as a benchmark.  Leading people to buy, is their business! How long does it take a product to penetrate a market? People buy into new products/ideas at very different rates and with varying degrees of enthusiasm. It is the same within a business,  it requires serious focus to initiate INNOVATION at any level.

It is well known and there is much written about it. Simon Sinek mentions it when he discusses “rate of diffusion” in his TED talk on:

How great leaders inspire action?


Rate of Diffusion 2015-11-23 at 10.58.33 am

It seems to me however that we know so much more about how leadership can respond to challenges.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has –  Margaret Mead

This is the conversation leaders must have – how to build a process which engages a business and/ or community?

If we consider for a minute how people learn? While there are many different learning styles and risk profiles there are some identifiable steps.

Learning journey for a community

Business Leader (BL) A has an idea – developed from data acquired and processed so that it becomes information. (Most people get to this point!)

At this point (BL) A can act – but it requires a whole business So (BL) A engages person B – assuming a capacity to sell (explain) the idea. We now have two people with the capacity to act. But it requires multiple more people – teams! Multiple teams!

Business spends billions somewhere in this chain of activities on Marketing and advertising to change consumer behaviour.

But if leaders want to influence the organisation what do they do?

A matrix which explains the rate of diffusion:

Learning Matrix 2015-11-23 at 11.05.48 am

If we break down the information processing task:

It is a challenging question. How do we accelerate the learning process?

This process requires serious leadership and it is difficult.

In the end it is a process of business learning (organisational learning) and it is a topic that passed through the management fads of the late nineties and seemed to fade away. (Peter Senge –The Fifth Discipline). Quite possibly it did not produce instant results! (And a quarterly result)

To commit an organisation to learning is a serious decision – and businesses are as committed to learning as humans are to diets.

There is a huge industry around “weight loss” as there is a huge industry around “silver bullets” for business – organisational learning was one.  It has disappeared and there have been many fads since then.

In the political debate in Australia there is much talked about in terms of education and some talk about workforce skills and STEM. There is no doubt these are important but the limiting factors on the businesses I have worked for include:

  1. The rate at which the business can learn and
  2. The rate at which the Business leaders can learn.

As a business leader, you must ask – what mechanisms are you using to learn and are you learning fast enough?


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