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Going Back To the Future: The Corporate University Published: Sunday, June 19, 2011 8:00 am By: Rafael RŪos, Executive Vice President

The best talent, innovation and productivity are centered in organizations that have taken learning to a deeper level.  One that facilitates organizations: to profitably adapt and learn from change, engage people to group problem solving, and to challenge the status quo in  innovative, creative and competitive ways.

In the last 15 years companies of all sizes have developed educational structures that serve as strategic tools designed to foster organizational and individual learning and knowledge. In the early 90ís a concept called Corporate Universities emerged in the main stream. In the years to follow, the number of organizations with CUís grew exponentially reaching close to 2,200 by the year 2005.

Unfortunately many of these corporate schools structures had superficial programs that only made cosmetic changes to traditional training department curriculum.  These programs did not survive once the recession started. They were not able to establish a direct link between investment in knowledge creation and the payback of consistent profitable business returns. By 2010 the number of schools had dwindled to 1600.

Many of these schools tend to deliver training in a fragmented, decentralized way Ėand it is usually reactionary. These corporate universities usually offer a wide array of open enrollment courses, cafeteria style, with different departments participating, sporadically based on their own Ďperceivedí needs.

On the other hand, the corporate universities that have been successful and flourished in the downturn contributed significantly to creating the knowledge necessary to outpace the competition as the economic recovery gained steam. They created value.

These corporate universities had a direct acknowledged impact on individual and organizational results. They served as a hub for knowledge collection and dissemination. They have been successful in integrating organizational development, change management, training, career and leadership development and knowledge management. Many of these universities have established programs to induce participants to think and act out of established patterns of learning and generated innovation.

Our research of successful programs present a common denominator for these entities, one that views the corporate university as not so much a physical entity but as a concept used to

denote organized learning for the benefit of the enterprise and by default the individual.

A number of researchers have started to describe and categorize the roles and functions played by corporate universities. A useful taxonomy identifies 4 roles or categories that describe what such organizations can perform:

Reinforcing and perpetuating behavior. Here the primary task of the university is to offer courses and training experiences that reflect the culture and values to reinforce, the paradigm that underpins the organization.  In this role the development of skills and competencies to induce business results and employee growth are crucial. Organizations focus on the development of managers and leadership to meet future challenges. One has to be carefully in thinking that the organizations performance will improve by focusing on how competent employees are when there might be underlining needs that affect the organizationís capability to induce change or innovative thinking

Managing change and transformation. Here the primary task of the university is to introduce and promote organizational change initiatives. In effect, curriculum and activities are designed to facilitate the formulation and successful implementation of strategic change and transformation. Outmoded beliefs and practices can be examined and discarded and new insights can be introduced, which are thought to be more appropriate for the current reality.

Driving and shaping the organizationís future. Here the organizationís leaders make the corporate university the primary force for shaping its direction and future. Programs and change initiatives are concerned with exploring new contexts and future alternatives for the enterprise. It is likely to compel managers and employees from all parts of the company to explore the ambiguous, the uncomfortable and the unknown.

Focusing on Customer Needs. The organization focuses on developing the customerís knowledge of your products and services or the selling of your specific knowledge to outsiders and converting your university into a profit center. These organizations use educations as a strategy to increase customer loyalty and the strengthening of the relationship.

A corporate university charged with leading and managing an organizationís knowledge and learning initiatives needs to be at the very heart of the enterprise and its decision making.

To be successful in engineering strategic change it has to be proactive, innovative and professionally managed.

There is a growing imperative for organizations actively to manage their knowledge management and organizational learning processes in order to transform their business and sustain competitive advantage. It is this imperative that is driving the process of re-defining the role and expectations of the corporate university.

That is why we have to go back to what was to be the future of learning and knowledge management and make sure we have designed our model to strategically position us to face our future.

 Thanks Dad for teaching to succeed.  We celebrate your Day.


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