Business Learning to become more personalised

Aside

Business Learning in Accelerators and their ilk will become increasingly personalised

Business learning provisions are increasingly migrating to online, and for very good reasons; so business learning and business development programmes will need to include learning coaches/mentors.

With the rise of the net, learning is being transformed: the President of MIT said when he spoke recently at Davos that his institution had started putting courses online a decade ago, and that MIT open coursework has accumulated 100 million individual learners, and this is increasing by one million a month. Stanford has been following suit.

A number of Accelerators give over a regular fixed time to learning – about business, usually consisting of lectures, presentations and discussions with experts, and about key topics such as IP, marketing and finance (among them Bethnal Green Ventures, Accelerator Academy, Entrepreneurfirst and the Young Foundation). Accelerator programmes, as short periods of intensive development for up to a dozen small groups of people who have ideas for innovations  (commercial, technical or social), have such an intensity that the participants focus strongly on the present needs of their developing venture. A standard syllabus (delivered in sessions of this kind) is increasingly seen as wasteful of valuable time – by those who already know or can do what they need to, and by those for whom it is not immediately relevant.

Learning from each other is another characteristic feature of co-working environments like Accelerators; and learning from each other’s learning experiences is part of that, and at least as important a source of learning as any other in this field. Every Friday, Watershed, Bristol invites its participants to meet and talk about their recent learnings; and an edited version is then put up on the intranet (http://wp.me/p3bejt-3Y).

We can expect general business learning sessions to be replaced by the Learning Coach/Mentor ( – among other specialist mentors,) who will keep in close contact with the evolving learning needs of programme participants, and perhaps on hand by Skype, helping individuals to make effective use of material that is readily available on the internet and relevant to their issues of the moment; and helping them to learn from each other’s learning. The special value of such a person is that in an Accelerator, the help that participants need is in meeting their immediate learning needs – as those change from day to day.

 

 

 

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A cluster-based ‘Accesserator’

A cluster-based Accelerator…here helping to enable SMEs with innovative products to market to the big companies of this sector – all located close to one another; the process energised both by collaboration and competition

This novel application of the Accelerator in a cluster suggests how SMEs with innovative products can be promoted by a period of intensive support to help disseminate their innovations into organisations in the cluster, where the latter are working both collaboratively and competitively.

While most commonly Accelerators have been about helping aspiring entrepreneurs to develop their ideas into commercial ventures, some, like this one, have been about helping SMEs to grow. They have done so by focusing on the development of strategy (see Qi3 at http://goo.gl/Od6F1), business model (see The Young Foundation at http://goo.gl/ET1zQ), new concepts (see Watershed http://goo.gl/XCTxK), new products (see Plato, Belgium at http://goo.gl/hzBJ5), and new customer segments and marketing (Fintech below).

The FinTech Innovation Lab London is a three-month long collaborative Accelerator, in its third week as I write, in which seven young businesses in IT have been brought together, all of them carefully selected by the senior IT officers in the thirteen big companies in this project (twelve of them large banks) because their ‘products’ might be valuable to them.

The FinTech Innovation Lab, provides its seven companies with office space in the heart of Canary Wharf for these three months, and provides mentors to help them through the process. And a ‘chaperone’ was appointed by the senior IT officer in each company, whose job it is to help them talk to people in their bank (The cultures of the banking industry and the IT industry are quite different, and selling by the one into the other is recognised as a complicated and arduous process.)

A similar ‘Accelerator’ has been run for the last two years with a number of banks in New York – with evident success – enabling them to make use of products or services from other fields which have no necessary relationship to the banking industry.

The role of these ‘chaperones’ is to identify which of these young businesses might have something that would be of value to their company, and to help their staff to get in front of the right people in their company, people who could help them to make use of their products. One person who has experienced this process is said to have commented that his company was able to achieve in the three months what would otherwise have taken two years.

The process is energised by the fact that having committed to the project, each company’s senior IT officer and its ‘chaperone’ are simultaneously collaborating and competing with those of the other companies to get the most out of the process and out of the IT companies and what they have to offer. Every week, one of the big companies makes a presentation in the co-working space, for example about security problems, about their purchasing hoops, about their current challenges etc.

The programme finishes with ‘Demo Day’on 20th March; and hopes will focus on whether it has stimulated growth in the SMEs, whether it has brought innovative ideas into the banking industry, whether it has identified interesting investment opportunities to present to investors; and whether in the longer term it seems likely to inspire entrepreneurs to see potential in the financial services industry.

In addition to the thirteen big companies and the carefully selected companies in the IT industry (several of which are from other countries – reflecting the international nature of the banking industry), the parties to this exercise, all of whom can hope to gain from it and therefore have an interest in its success, are the major consultancy organisation that is managing the process (which has clients in the banking industry) and the predominant landlord in the area, which has provided space for new business nurseries in the hope that among them might be some future tenants. The TSB is making contributions to the programme. And it is formally supported by the Mayor of London.

 

If you are interested to learn more and meet the consultant who is running the process, email me john.whatmore@btinternet.com.

 

John WhatmoreThe Centre for Leadership in Creativity

Copyright 2013