Why Digital Leaders Need To Champion Experiential Learning


The pace of digital transformation means that Digital Leaders need to be able to quickly and effectively adapt their strategies, mindset and thinking to keep pace with ever- changing market demands. It’s not an easy job. You need to ensure that you are doing everything you can to stay ahead of industry trends and in many cases, even predict them before they arrive.

Organizations that value digital leadership will often place a strong emphasis on communication and ensuring that they continue to foster an ongoing culture of collaboration and innovation. Effective digital leaders are able to create workflows and streamlined business processes that allow new technologies and platforms to be rolled out quickly but also ensure that legacy systems are running at optimal level.

One of the most important challenges for digital leaders lies in being able to cultivate the right digital talent. According to Gartner, 25% of companies in 2017 will lose their market position due to the digital incompetence of their teams. This is alarming and leaders need to take action now to make sure they are attracting, fostering and nurturing the right talent.

A large proportion of digital talent is now made up of millennials and it is clear that they have different expectations from generations gone before. They are the least engaged in the workplace and have are regarded as the “job hopping generation”. Attracting and retaining them now requires more than just generous financial compensation. You need to ensure you are giving millennials a strong sense of purpose. They need to be able to see the clear link between their day to day jobs and overall business value. It’s also important to provide regular feedback and offer them clear opportunities for progression. This is where experiential learning proves to be most powerful.

Gartner states that the most effective way to develop high digital acuity behaviors is by just “jumping in and doing”. You should be incorporating a 70% experiential learning, 20% mentoring or coaching and a 10% formal training philosophy to develop digital leadership skills and thinking.

Experiential learning encompasses the “thinking by doing” philosophy. It has proved itself over time to be the most effective way of acquiring new skills and behaviors. There can be many different methods of experiential learning but most of the foster similar experiences and outcomes. Participants will typically analyse content in conjunction with their peers, then reflect on the experience individually and how they can apply these new tools and skills to their own jobs. Doing this helps your team to establish a link between their individual work contributions and overall business value.

A good experiential learning program should be as realistic as possible and immerse participants in an active and shared learning environment. It should also seek to take participants on a powerful journey. It should challenge them to move beyond their daily work routines, where they can push their own personal and professional boundaries, step out with their comfort zones and interact with peers to establish new digital knowledge and skills. Elements of experiential learning could include role playing, guided discussions and simulated processes.

Digital Leaders that are serious about building a strong team and nurturing future digital leadership talent need to look seriously at the benefits of experiential learning. Future transformation will require a strong balance of knowledge and hands on experience to lead the company into the future.