Tag

Ashridge Archives - Eve Poole

Learning Loss and Losing Leaders

By | Business | No Comments

Seemingly, thrusting professionals are seeing AI as a fast track to partner, reckoning that all those tedious years of working your way up the hard way will now be taken care of by generative AI tools like ChatGPT. Hurray! We’ll all get rich quicker!

But privately these firms are rather worried. It takes ages for the academic curriculum to sync up with modernity, so what will happen to these shiny graduates with their googleable degrees, deposed as trainees by AI, but still expected to re-emerge as experienced hires just below partner level?

In school they’re already talking about the learning loss that occurs when kids outsource their knowledge acquisition to AI. This phenomenon isn’t new: we forgot how to remember the Odyssey when we learned how to write it down; we forgot how to hear music in all its fullness when we invented notation and tethered the scale to the equal temperament of a keyboard; and the introduction of calculators drastically reduced our ability to do mental arithmetic. But this might be the first time we have encountered a technology that can have that effect across so many categories of learning simultaneously. And if kids have experienced learning loss at school, then continue with their reliance on AI into university, will they come out knowing anything useful at all? If all they will have learned is how to use an AI brilliantly, well, AIs are already learning to be better at that too… Industry is rediscovering apprenticeships to make up for an already disappointing graduate cadre: but what do they need to start doing now, if even these apprentices will be usurped by AI?

Way back in 2003 at Ashridge, we initiated a research programme based on asking existing board-level leaders ‘what do you know now about yourself as a leader that you wish you’d known 10 years ago?’ The findings were used to devise a leadership accelerator and written up as the book Leadersmithing. Our research programme included collaborating with a neuroscientist to show how this kind of learning is acquired. From that, we showed the role of the emotions in learning, and found that reliable templates are most efficiently acquired through learning under pressure. And both this method and these research findings suggest an answer to the conundrum of workplace learning loss.

First, we need to get forensic about what, precisely, partners do, and how they learned it. It’s highly likely that much of their value-add is not AI-able, so this exercise should immediately reveal a workplace curriculum for those hoping to succeed them. The Leadersmithing list of critical incidents suggests it will be a fairly standard set of challenges, which will differ between workplaces and cultures only by degree and nuance rather than by type. For example, all partners will have had their mettle tested by making key decisions, fronting multi-million dollar pitches, and mopping up after things have gone wrong. And we know these things are teachable, if you can be precise enough about the muscle memory you’re trying to acquire, like practising difficult conversations or handling hostile media.

Second, we need to learn from the neuroscience. I remember answering the phone in my first ever London office, to hear my sibling, hiding in a cupboard at another London office, asking in a stage whisper: when you’re photocopying, do you take the staples out?! We all remember those ghastly days of learning the ropes largely by making mistakes and incurring the wrath of our seniors over everything from making the coffee wrong to sending out blank faxes. Life would indeed be tranquil if we could make AI take this pain for us. Our recall of such events is heightened by the fact that our errors were often observed. And indeed we learned vicariously, wincing at witnessing the mistakes of others, which is another argument in favour of a back-to-the-office policy. This is because our Ashridge findings showed that whenever you feel observed and under pressure, your heart-rate increases and your learning is enhanced, as the memories you form in those moments are stored deeply in your amygdala.

And we all learned far more than just office-craft in those clumsy days. Through the tedium of note-taking and bag-carrying we saw how leaders really behave: we learned about power, decision-making, values and standards. We witnessed the quite brilliant rescuing of an impossible situation, or a tension diffused with a beautifully timed witticism. We also learned how not to do it, too often I imagine. And it is this implicit learning that we now need to surface and teach back, so that we do not lose a whole generation to AI. Let’s use the gift of AI to remove the ritual humiliations of traineeship, but winnow out of it all the Leadersmithing we can find.

Leadersmithing TEDx

By | Business | No Comments

Here is my script for the TEDx I gave about Leadersmithing on 11 March 2017. You can also watch it here.

Hello. You’re probably wondering what’s with the pearls. Well, pearls have a dirty secret, and I’m here to tell you about it. It’s all about the pearls. So if you only remember 1 thing about this talk, remember the pearls.

Pearls are associated with such glamour, aren’t they? I inherited my first set, from a great grandmother who had been brought up at Hampton Court Palace. My second set were from Hatton Garden, given to me by my boyfriend when we worked next door at Deloitte Consulting. I bought my third set in Beijing when I took our Ashridge MBA students out there on a study trip.

But their glamour is hard-won. They have grit in their hearts. Their beauty and lustre is the result of a defence mechanism, designed to protect the oyster against a threatening irritant. I’m from Scotland, and in Scotland they don’t say ‘pearls’: they say ‘perils.’ And perils is exactly what the beauty of a pearl is bearing witness to – it owes its very existence to the oyster being in peril. Read More

Leadersmithing – TEDx Durham University

By | Business | One Comment

Speech at TEDx, Durham, 11th March 2017 (watch here)

Hello. You’re probably wondering what’s with the pearls. Well, pearls have a dirty secret, and I’m here to tell you about it. It’s all about the pearls. So if you only remember one thing about this talk, remember the pearls.

Pearls are associated with such glamour, aren’t they? I inherited my first set, from a great grandmother who had been brought up at Hampton Court Palace. My second set were from Hatton Garden, given to me by my boyfriend when we worked next door at Deloitte Consulting. I bought my third set in Beijing when I took our Ashridge MBA students out there on a study trip.

But their glamour is hard-won. They have grit in their hearts. Their beauty and lustre is the result of a defence mechanism, designed to protect the oyster against a threatening irritant. I’m from Scotland, and in Scotland they don’t say ‘pearls’: they say ‘perils.’ And perils is exactly what the beauty of a pearl is bearing witness to – it owes its very existence to the oyster being in peril. Read More

Vicarious Learning

By | Business | No Comments

As you know from my blog, I’m no introvert, and I’m not drawn to being a reflective learner by preference. But lots of my friends are still reading Quiet, and I know that lots of introverts hate the sort of learning that feels like making a fool of yourself in public, so I thought you’d be interested in this. Read More

Drunk in Charge? The CEO Sleep Scandal

By | Business | No Comments

What’s on the average manager’s mind? Too much, it would appear. In one of their periodic bedroom surveys, Ashridge Business School found that managers spend fewer than 7 hours asleep at night, and this decreases as seniority increases. Match this up with a long-day no-lunch culture, and this becomes an extremely alarming statistic. 17 hours of sustained wakefulness has been shown to result in changes in behaviour equivalent to drinking 2 glasses of wine. In the UK people who’ve drunk this much aren’t allowed to drive or operate machinery, yet their equivalents are at the helm of some of our largest companies, making really scary decisions, every single day. Should shareholders be worried?

Read More

The Sticker-chart Generation

By | Business | No Comments

My Godson fixes me with a beady eye. “If I finish my peas, do I get a sticker?” I was on holiday, taking the twins on a Progress to meet their northern relatives, and visiting friends en route. Every fridge I saw boasted a sticker-chart, and every meal seemed to go the same way, coupled with endless negotiation about getting dressed, sharing toys, doing jobs, and behaving in general. The more enterprising children would have shocked Luther with their creativity in conjuring up fresh sticker opportunities. They reminded me of those cartoon Catholics of yore, who played the system by figuring out that sinning generates more God points than leading a blameless life, because it enables you to get grace top-ups through confession and absolution.

Read More

Looking forward to feedback

By | Business | No Comments

When I was at Deloitte, and a Partner fixed you with his beady eye and barked ‘Feedback – offline!’ your knees started to knock. I gather the culture at Apple was similar, if more public, and someone I know at Tesco once had his report torn in two by Sir Terry at a board meeting and was told ‘there’s your feedback’. This Apprentice-style approach seems only to be on the rise. A recent study of contract workers reports that fewer than 7% of them would consider returning to traditional employment, and I suspect this insidious ‘feedback’ culture is partly to blame. But why does feedback have to be such a negative experience? Read More

Dis-Honouring Sir Fred

By | Business | No Comments

When I was at college, much of the discussion about careers was whether you wanted to go for the ‘ks’ or the ‘k’ – a job that paid a lot of money, or a job where you would reap the rewards of public service. Fred Goodwin chose a path that gave him both sorts of k. While he has famously hung on to quite a lot of money, last week he rather publicly lost his Honour. Read More

How to Learn

By | Business | No Comments

I recently wrote a leaflet for Ashridge on how to learn, based on a combination of Ashridge’s 50 years’ experience in executive education and our recent research into the neurobiology of learning. Here are my Learning Basics and Top 10 Tips. Read More