Developing a Corporate Learning Strategy: Introducing Colin Coulson-Thomas

Few people are better equipped to undertake an in-depth study of the future of corporate learning strategies than Colin Coulson-Thomas. He has distinguished himself in three fields:

— As chairman of successful companies in knowledge-based industries
— As a leading business academic who’s held professorial appointments at universities on three continents, and
— As a consultant who’s advised the boards of more than 50 major companies.

Colin Coulson-Thomas is particularly active in the areas of entrepreneurship, business development, director and board development, pioneering new ways of working and learning, and the packaging and exploitation of knowledge. He serves on the Council of the Parliamentary Information Technology Committee, the Professional Practices Committee and Chartered Accreditation Board of the Institute of Directors, and as chairman of the panel of judges for the Awards for Innovation in e-business.

Coulson-Thomas’s academic career includes visiting appointments at Aston UniversityCambridge UniversityCity University and the University of Salford. He has held visiting professorships at universities in Europe, North and South America and Asia. He is currently a Visiting Professor at the Management Development Institute, the Centre for Competitiveness and Luton Business School.

He has served on the Advisory Board of the Forum for Technology in Training and on the Council of the Foundation for Science and Technology and four years as Corporate Affairs Adviser to the British Institute of Management. As well as being an active non-executive chairman of companies, he has also served on national public sector boards, as a university campus head and dean, and on the governing bodies of representative, professional, learned, and voluntary institutes, societies and associations — including as chairman and president. He was the principal author and co-presenter of the “employment and training” module of the CBI Initiative 1992, and is the principal author of the Induction Package for New TEC Directors.

Coulson-Thomas has led various change management, re-engineering and transformation projects and surveys of entrepreneurial or boardroom issues, attitudes and practice for the Institute of Directors, Institute of Management, Institute of Personnel Management, government departments and the NHS. The latest of his 30 books is Individuals and Enterprise (Blackhall Publishing, 1999).

‘Why we wanted to understand what’s really happening…’ 

“Knowledge management” and “corporate learning” have become the latest management buzz phrases during the past year. There’s plenty written about them in books and business magazines. But most of it is theory… untested and untried. 

We wanted to find out what’s really happening in those organisations that have to confront the issues. That’s why I’ve spent a lot of time over the past two years talking to people who’re at the sharp end of the problem. 

HR directors, heads of training and development, chief executives, human resources development managers, personnel managers… In all, I’ve spent hundreds of hours talking in depth to senior executives in 69 organisations. 

We didn’t spend much time in our talks going over the theory. Instead, we focused on the hands-on practical issues. The real business stuff that these managers are grappling with day in, day out. 

From all these talks — and from other group discussions and company visits — I’ve drawn up a detailed picture of where both business and the public sector has reached in corporate learning. And what’s key about making it a success in the future. 

It’s quite clear from my discussions that we’re at a turning point. Corporate learning is going to be a vital business driver. What’s more, unless the HR and training functions put themselves at the heart of this issue, they’re going to be increasingly marginalised. That won’t be good for their organisations. Or for their own career prospects. 

I’ve written Developing a Corporate Learning Strategy for two reasons. First, I’ve mapped out the full extent of the challenge. It’s important to understand just how far-reaching knowledge management and corporate learning are going to be so debate is informed and realistic. 

Secondly, I’ve put together a practical hands-on guide to taking decisions about the future. Your solution — like everybody else’s — will be different from others. The key point about corporate learning is that there are no off-the-peg answers. 

But I believe you’ll find Developing a Corporate Learning Strategy helps you focus on the kind of issues you’ll need to consider as you come to take the vital decisions about the future. 

Good luck, 
Colin Coulson-Thomas