Case for more productive and affordable learning put to Corporate Learning Summit

Five-year investigation reveals advantages of key job-focused performance support

Too many people are offered general learning programmes rather than the specific and personalised support they need to be effective in their jobs, according to Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas speaking in Chicago at the 2013 Corporate Learning Summit. He believes “corporate learning needs to re-focus upon helping key work groups to excel by adopting the superior approaches of high performers.”

The professor was critical of many contemporary approaches: “What is being shared is often ‘commodity knowledge’ that is available to others. It does not differentiate or represent a source of competitive advantage. It is hard to stand out, innovate and become a market leader by copying everyone else.”

Investigations for Coulson-Thomas’ report Developing a Corporate Learning Strategy revealed that many organisations could obtain a higher return on their expenditures on corporate learning if a different approach were adopted. “There needs to be greater prioritisation and focus upon quickly delivering tangible improvements to performance and other corporate objectives.”

The professor’s report Talent Management 2 shows that integrating working and learning and providing job-focused performance support can deliver multiple benefits for individuals, organisations and the environment by working with one’s existing people and without requiring a change of corporate culture or structure.

His Transforming Public Services report shows advantages such as low barriers to entry and cost-effectiveness also apply to the public sector. Performance support can enable people to cope with new requirements and changes of policy and priorities that occur at different stages of a transformation journey.

Coulson-Thomas also led the investigation for the Managing Intellectual Capital to Grow Shareholder Value report. The investigating team looked at 20 areas of intellectual capital and found that even the best companies were only effectively managing a few of them. Categories of know-how managed are not always the ones offering the biggest potential for additional income.

He finds: “Training and development inputs are not giving rise to intellectual capital outputs. Many people draw from the wells of corporate knowledge. Far fewer add to them. Corporate learning should result in the creation of know-how and competitive advantage.”

The professor feels that “some companies could be many times their size if they fully exploited their corporate know-how. Imagine what these companies could achieve if they also properly exploited what their best people knew.”

In short Coulson-Thomas believes: “We need to step up from information and knowledge management to knowledge entrepreneurship.” Thirty seven possible revenue generating services using readily available information are listed in his book The Knowledge Entrepreneur.

The professor’s investigations reveal that: “Many corporate initiatives promise jam tomorrow rather than a measurable contribution to key corporate objectives today. Speed of impact can be vital. Competition is relentless. If today’s problems are not addressed, and new windows of opportunity are not quickly seized, a company may not have a tomorrow.”

Coulson-Thomas stresses that “corporate learning needs to reflect current issues, priorities and concerns. In a business environment characterised by innovation, uncertainty and insecurity speed of impact, flexibility and affordability are increasingly important. Performance support can satisfy all these requirements and simultaneously contribute to multiple objectives.”

Prof Colin Coulson-Thomas, a Change Agent and Transformation Leader award winner, is author of Developing a Corporate Learning Strategy, Developing Directors, Winning Companies; Winning People, Talent Management 2 and over 40 other books and reports. He has helped over 100 boards to improve director, board and corporate performance and spoken at over 200 national and international events in over 40 countries. He was the world’s first professor of corporate transformation and is a member of the business school team at the University of Greenwich. His latest reports are available from and he can be contacted via

Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas was speaking at the 2013 Corporate Learning Summit held at the Hotel Sax Chicago in the USA. His presentation drew upon his recent reports Talent Management 2 and Transforming Public Services, and a forthcoming report on knowledge management which draw upon a five-year investigation of quicker and more affordable routes to high performance organisations.


06 May 2013
Colin Coulson-Thomas