In a recent session with teams of Intrapreneurs from Group Poult (European leader in Private Label biscuits), we asked to some participants to illustrate through their experience what co-creation with customers really meant. The result was brilliant. We first heard about the new relationship between a factory in Brittany with United Biscuits, and then about the way Poult has helped Michel & Augustin (a French young and “crazy” company) in its development. I was supposed to give a short presentation on co-creation, but it proved totally useless. So I did not give it. Once again, I had been totally impressed by the power of what I call Lateral Learning – i.e. learning from your peers.
In contrast to that, I took part last week in the preparation of a learning event for the top 120 people of a large well-known company. The whole meeting was about “filling” the program with more and more experts or speakers. At one point, I asked if it was not possible to leverage the knowledge, wisdom and experience of the participants. The idea was finally accepted, but why did we need so much time to have it appear in our conversation ?
I guess it is because we have been educated in a system where knowledge is transmitted hierarchically from someone “who knows” to others “who don’t know”. It is considered mainly as an asset, seldom as a flow. For some of the best researchers, knowledge creation is social and happens between people. We cannot control this process. At best, we can create conditions for it to happen.
If you want to understand the profound meaning of this shift of point of view, you can watch this video made by the World Bank, that I discovered recently. It explains very clearly the philosophy of a program called South-South Learning which differs from traditional ones where Western experts would tell to developing countries practitioners what they should do.
In my experience (as a learner or as a designer), a ‘learning from your peers’ approach has ALWAYS worked. At Team Academy, lecturing is considered as a very powerful tool, so we use it with moderation (no more than 5% of the training session time). If we want to use Lateral Learning much more, we need to really believe in people’s ability to self-manage their work*. And that’s pretty difficult !
* This expression comes from M. Weisbord and S. Janoff remarkable book on Future Search.