The days of formal learning are over

A conversation with Kevin Nolan and John Hagel

Kevin Nolan is an untraditional CEO. In addition to leading the transformation of one of the most iconic and traditional companies in the United States, he chose an extraordinary approach to bring his organizations' innovative capabilities to the next level. In this interview, we explore leadership, creativity, and innovation with Deloitte Center for the Edge co-founder John Hagel.

Listen to the interview with Kevin Nolan and John Hagel

How do you enable a large and established company to innovate rapidly? The challenge is a complex one, especially when you try to lead change in one of the most iconic and traditional companies in the United States.

GE Appliances, a Haier company, has over 12.000 employees and a history tracing back to Thomas Alva Edison's establishment of General Electric (GE) in 1878. The company became a household brand known for its energy-efficient refrigerators and washing machines.

However, as the pace of technological innovation in the market rose, so did customers' expectations for new solutions. GE Appliances needed to find new ways to serve their customers' needs better.

Learning faster in the contextual age

– We are moving from the industrial age to the contextual age, John Hagel states.

The Center for the Edge co-founder points out that the companies most adept at understanding their customers' circumstances will be able to create the most value — for customers and themselves.

Hagel points out that to remain competitive, companies need to shift from scaling efficiency to scale learning.

Transform the organization through the edge

Inspired by the Center for the Edge «scaling edges» approach to strategy and innovation, Kevin envisioned and co-founded FirstBuild: The world's first corporate maker’s space and a global co-creation community. 

Operating outside out of the core metrics enabled the “edge” entity to develop and deliver innovative products to market rapidly.

– We've had some incredible products come out; they have made good money and helped bring innovation back to our company.

– The days of formal learning are over

Nolan points out that new technology enables us to learn faster, to the point that anyone curious enough can figure out anything. Technology has eroded barriers to access information and find other people sharing your interest.

The CEO considers himself a learner at heart, and his way of learning is by doing. He typically spends time at FirstBuild on weekends to work on pet projects, connect with new people and learn in a creative atmosphere.

Nolan states that anyone in leadership positions, or at the start of their career, needs to think about how their environment can accelerate their learning.

– What is going to differentiate you as a leader is your rate of learning.

Future of Work

Hagel believes that the notion that we will automate ourselves into a workless economy does not give enough attention to people's endless needs.

For the manufacturing industry, there is a growing need for more creative, more personalized, more rapidly evolving products.

Hagel sees a very nourishing future in inspiring the creativity that Kevin talks about.

– It will draw out the artisan in all of us and help us address our unmet needs.

Listen to the full interview here.




Further reading


Kevin Nolan, Daniel Sunde-Hansen and John Hagel
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