Introducing Learning Changemakers

Changemakers tackle entrenched global problems. Head on!

Bill Drayton and the founders of the Global Ashoka movement embrace the principle that most powerful force for good in the world is a social entrepreneur. They introduced the term changemaker to describe someone who not only spots a challenge holding society back but has the fire in their belly to do something about it.

The Ashoka ‘Everyone’s a changemaker™’ focus taps into the fact that the world needs changemakers in every walk of life. For me, that includes the field of organisational learning.

Why do organisations need Learning Changemakers right now?

Today organisations are facing a myriad of changes and challenges. They are opportunity, fear and uncertainty fuelled by the accelerated adoption of AI and shifts in talent pools. However you look at it, there is a critical need for industry wide reskilling and right skilling. Renewed focus on company culture, purpose and values demands widespread shifts in organisational behaviours.

Research from around the globe consistently highlights the current challenges that organisations face:

  • Thriving through disruption
  • Maintaining quality of work
  • Releasing transformation and agility
  • Showing genuine commitment to the prosperity of workers and partners
  • Pivoting business models, processes, and tools
  • Cultivating customer loyalty

Each challenge demand that the individuals within those organisations, their partners, their customers, their supply chains – are equipped and ready.

Those individuals need to learn, unlearn, and relearn processes, tools, skills and even mindsets to thrive and survive in the new world of work.

What’s more, old style training interventions, isolated knowledge management initiatives and peer-to-peer sharing projects, or even the latest EdTech tool cannot keep up with supporting the human change needed!

“Technology drives the how, Changemakers drive the why”

The Ashoka ‘Everyone’s a changemaker™’ focus taps into the fact that the world needs changemakers in every walk of life. For me, that includes the field of organisational learning. The activists and changemakers at Ashoka create a compelling vision of society and work in the future, one where we ‘transform how to learn, work and live together in dynamic teams of teams’.

Importantly, Ashoka says that everyone has the potential to develop the skill of becoming a changemaker, to make a difference even from an early age.

“We don’t have time for a new generation to rise up to help us tackle significant workplace learning challenges we face today. We need Learning Changemakers now!”

Tackling entrenched organisational learning challenges – head on

To say that the changemaker messages from Ashoka resonated with me, is an understatement.

For the sake of those individuals whose job may disappear next week, for those who must quickly adopt new working practices, who are at the forefront of leading innovation or finding new ways of supporting patients or customers – we need fresh ways of mobilising learning changemakers who can make a difference today.

Some readers may know that I led a longitudinal research programme to explore how learning innovation could drive business impact for 15 years. Year on year, the research uncovered not only the impact of high performing learning teams on individuals and organisations but also helped codify their tactics and attitudes and approaches.

Those leading high-performing teams did not always come from senior leadership positions, with big budgets and teams. Characterised by their ability to challenge the status quo, harness evidence, and leverage technology, these individuals explored alternative ways of tackling modern learning challenges and delivered smarter results – consistently.

They spotted significant business challenges and were not afraid to challenge the status quo to tackle it. They were Learning Changemakers!

We need more individuals and teams who can get to the heart of often entrenched business problems, and who will challenge the status quo in order to address them. We need Learning Changemakers who can find smart ways of making sure individuals, teams and managers are ready!


Learning Changemakers in action

In my career and research, I have seen learning changemakers in action – individuals and teams tackling organisational learning challenges with innovative approaches to unlock potential and improve impact of individuals, teams, organisations, and society.

These leaders are challenging the predominant role that courses have taken in the organisation’s learning agenda; they will work with technology to explore new ways of supporting learning experiences; they are redefining the role of manager, individual, and people professionals in the ongoing learning process.

They are the learning professional working closely with the helpdesk to identify and tackle common problems at the point of need. They are training managers who can say no when asked for a course because they see something else is needed. They are the people leaders going out on a limb to redefine their role within a business, retrain their teams, break down silos and re-establish new metrics of success. They are EdTech entrepreneurs who actively work with wider communities and competitors to get the important work done. They are business leaders looking to build smarter connected organisations and insist that actions that ensure their teams are ready are prioritised. They take the big and small steps needed to ensure they can sustain impact.

I have also seen projects looking to ‘reinvent learning’ that are developed in isolation and then forgotten. Evidence informed learning strategies, discussed at conference by many, are only applied in practice by a few.

For Learning Changemakers, the excuse of ‘that’s not the way we do it around here’ isn’t a barrier to change, it’s the catalyst for those passionate about the success of their organisation and those that work with it.

Characteristics of Learning Changemakers

For me, Learning Changemakers have a number of characteristics that underpin their actions and make their work sustainable:

  • Tackle organisational challenges not learning problems – what’s more they live and breathe those business problems, understand, and speak the language and commit to supporting the results that are needed to make a difference.
  • Are empathetic, systems thinkers – they understand the overall landscape, where we are and where we are going. They look beyond current silos to spot fresh ways of addressing challenges.
  • Are inspirational problem solvers – they spot a problem, shape a vision from the challenge and create an action path forward.
  • Connect the dots – they ask the right questions, find the right relationships and are evidence informed in their decision making.
  • Are comfortable out of their comfort zone – they are agile, open to experiment and taking risks.
  • Create solutions in partnership–they have a ‘we’, not a ‘me’ mentality, looking for connections and communities, within organisation and outside.
  • Get stuff done! Consistently.

Evidence and experience have shown that those who do these things make a difference to business results, productivity, and revenue.

In the changing world of work, I believe we need learning changemakers across our professions. Learning changemakers are people professionals and business leaders, they work internally and externally with an organisation. They are early career, mid-career and established old hands. They are sales and customer excellence professionals, learning designers, consultants, and technical gurus.

But they all share learning changemaker characteristics and work in smart ways to solve critical organisational problems.

It’s time to join the dots

Organisations urgently need Learning Changemakers, but they don’t always recognise it. Wonderful initiatives end up being islands of success. It’s time to come together to challenge that norm.

The role of Learning Changemaker is essential in supporting sustainable strategic impact, but sometimes it can be a lonely road to travel. It’s time to come together, to share and celebrate success, to join the dots, to build on successes. Organisations urgently need Learning Changemakers – they urgently need you!

Join me on this exciting journey as we seek out, celebrate, and explore the work of Learning Changemakers – connect here on My #LearningChangemakers newsletter on LinkedIn is also a place to discuss and debate. Please subscribe and join the conversation.

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Questions, ideas, new perspectives that drive business impact are what brings Learning Changemakers together. Contact us today and continue your L&D journey informed by the latest research.

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