Business and education leaders from over 138 international companies and business schools, convened for the third annual MERIT Summit “Co-creating Learning Organisations” held 15-17 January, 2019, and co-hosted by WU Executive Academy. The innovative learning and networking forum brought together over 200 high-profile corporate HR and business education strategists from across Europe and the US for whom ‘co-creation’ is the future-proof organisational development approach.
Learning on an organisational level has been gaining urgency in the corporate world. The fast pace of change in the business environment, technological and generational disruptions, and the competition from startups, all call for agility and staying abreast of the latest knowledge, skills and mind-sets. Clearly, learning organisations will be the ones to inherit the future.
Co-creating innovative solutions
How academic knowledge and business practice can co-create business value is an avenue that corporate and business school leaders are still to pave together. "Responsible leadership requires a deep cultural change in traditional organisations and business school curriculum," Charles-Henri Besseyre Des Horts, Emeritus Professor at HEC Paris, advocated at the MERIT Summit. Participants explored innovative solutions to the major challenges in the leadership and learning & development (L&D) field.
Business and people development leaders from Shell, Coca-Cola, Google, Amazon, LinkedIn, Facebook, Deutsche Telecom, Vodafone, A1, Sanofi, Daiichi Sankyo, CERN, among others, shared current challenges, lessons learnt and innovation strategies with their peers, as well as researchers and professors from Oxford Saïd Business School, HEC Paris, ESADE Business School, IE University, KEDGE Business School, WU Executive Academy, Stockholm School of Economics (SSE) and more leading international business schools.
Milestones of organisational transformation
One of the important trends internally is that companies’ HR executives need to engage with learning and co-creation all stakeholders – from C-suite to employees. In an inspiring keynote address at the summit, Royal Dutch Shell’s Gerard Penning highlighted that “Great leaders build bridges with people that are different than they are, and the most important thing for innovation is to have leaders who allow mistakes.” Oxford Saïd’s Tracey Camilleri and Holly Brittingham from FCB Global, revealed in a collaborative case study what the ingredients are for inspiring deep and impactful learning at the senior leadership level. CERN’s Pascale Goy added an intriguing touch to the complexity of the situation sharing some of the specifics of the environment in her organisation, “How do you say to someone with a Nobel Prize that they must have a career conversation?”
Another strategic L&D challenge arises by easy access to knowledge and democratisation of learning. With knowledge at everyone’s fingertips, learning can now originate at any level in the company. This phenomenon calls for a transformation of the traditional role of the HR L&D function. LIDL’s Tim Ackermann showcased “The L&D Function Is Dead, Long Live L&D”. LinkedIn’s Tiffany Poeppelman shared insights on how to empower employers to build a culture of learning, but also to activate employees to have the ownership.
Furthermore, in a multigenerational workplace, with the millennial generation steadily taking over the workforce and bringing a focus on meaning and impact, Deutsche Telekom’s Reza Moussavian emphasised that now "talents select their employer by their own purpose.” IE Business School’s Wim Focquet revealed how to work well in the new world of work by “connecting company ambition and individual purpose.”
On the academic side, universities as the cradle of cutting edge research and scientific frameworks are challenged by the business world to be more flexible and to anticipate business needs in order to respond to them in real time. Clearly both the business and academic organisations need innovative solutions and they can co-create them.
Unique collaborative environment and professional community
So, for the third time, the annual MERIT Summit provided a unique two-day learning, networking and collaborative forum to enable this co-creation. MERIT participants had highly focused discussions on how they can work together with more agility to build future-proof learning organisation and value. Shared ideas, collaborative spirit and energy generated through a diversity of experiences – inspiring keynotes, debates on controversial trends, case studies and company challenges, engaging self- and leadership development sessions and subject-specific workshops.
In addition, business leaders are now equipped with a new opportunity. “Innovative by design and building on the momentum of the first three annual summits so far, in 2019 MERIT takes the learning and collaborative experience of this unique mix of leaders beyond the annual events with the official launch of the MERIT Leadership Community (MLC),” announced Christophe Coutat, Founder and CEO of Advent Group – the organiser of MERIT. The MLC is a membership-only network of business leaders steering the transformation of leading international companies in Europe and Asia into learning and agile organisations.
“Be strategic and build your network," advised IE University’s Teresa Martín-Retortillo during her presentation at the summit, highlighting the importance of flexibility, professional community and purpose. In her summit keynote LinkedIn’s Tiffany Poeppelman described the context today in a simple and strong message: "It's ok to not know, but it's not ok not to learn!"