The New Corporate Philosophy | Mindful Compassion


By design, we human beings THRIVE on our social instincts.

Because, we are energized by emotions that are far more layered and nuanced than those of our counterparts in the animal kingdom. The shelf-life of our bonding far outreaches that of our brethren. Our interpersonal ties are networked on such intricately impassioned scale that the logical realms blur, just like that. Because, as observed, emotions rule. Big time.

But, does this mean all of us think and act alike? The answer isn’t a mere NO… it’s the exact opposite that’s so stunningly true. Each one of us is so bizarrely unique that not one is even remotely like another. We are as varied from each other as our finger prints are.

It isn’t surprising then that sparks fly quite often, short-circuiting our relationships. Yet, there’s this constant ’emotional’ effort – orchestrated by organizations, for instance – that’s doing rounds in architecting common grounds where like-minded souls can synergize. And, produce some miracles.

So far, so good!!

But, what happens when people belonging to the same group get scissored by irreconcilable conflicts that threaten to insidiously corrode their team spirit? This can be serious given that such conflicting dispositions could span longer time-frames, by their very nature of being insidious. Where then does the solution lie? A tough one this, because, as noted earlier, it’s not without any reason that tug-of-wars sometimes strike a perennial note.

The way-out seems like a much tougher one… the act of cultivating a disciplined mind that’s willing to practice MINDFUL COMPASSION.

The Dalai Lama – as quoted by John Stepper in this article – articulates: “There are two kinds of compassion. One is the kind you get from being loved by your mother… But love is not enough.” “There’s a second kind of compassion you do not get from being loved by your parents. This kind you only get by mental training that allows you to even love your enemy. Our species is going to require a mental training that allows us to give both kinds of compassion.”

Extend this philosophy into the corporate atmosphere with the intention to reconcile marked differences that stalk healthy working relationships. The point to be taken into account is the indomitable fact that CONFLICTS ARE INEVITABLE. We need to respect the fact that all of us think in our own ways… all of us have our own take on any given situation. If we don’t factor in this truth, we would confront, negate, and impose our point of view. This approach would work on a hierarchical note maybe, maybe for sometime, but wouldn’t take us far.

The solution lies in practicing a mindful compassion that CONSCIOUSLY empathizes with the other person, on their take on the context… see where they’re coming from… seek that relevance – even if it’s just an iota – that can help the situation in the larger interest of the organization.

The mindful compassion also reminds us that we stand a much better chance of succeeding if we work harmoniously in groups/teams. To quote the pope, “None of us is an island, an autonomous and independent “I,” separated from the other, and we can only build the future by standing together, including everyone. We don’t think about it often, but everything is connected, and we need to restore our connections to a healthy state.”

The mindful compassion promises us that rising above in our mind and looking at every colleague (irrespective of their designation and irrespective of their disposition) as an extremely purposeful and meaningful resource in the entire scheme of things is the sure way to transcend ourselves into truly ‘productive’ beings.


The intrigue behind LEARNING TO LEARN!


The concept behind learning is no secret. Neither is it a mystery. It gets initiated so spontaneously in childhood without any triggers whatsoever (what with the little learning minds constantly trespassing into the peaceful existence of the satiated adult minds with their relentlessly curious queries).

But, unfortunately, this state of mind is not to continue forever, because, there comes that most dreaded numbing u-turn for most of these souls… getting boxed in a rigid structure nailed by the dictum that says, “This, this, and this is what you’re supposed to learn”… and getting injected with an unhealthy ambition that says, “You HAVE to excel in your ‘studies’, so you could excel in life.”

This ‘intrusion’ suddenly changes the very trajectory, shifting the focus from the DESIRE TO LEARN to ACHIEVING THINGS IN LIFE. That, in turn, impacts the way information gets processed… it’s more to regurgitate during exams what’s been swallowed in a hurry, so one could get more scores… only to be forgotten once unloaded on the ‘paper’. Learning? Zilch!

Consequently, this has serious repercussions in later parts of life because the TRUE QUEST TO LEARN had, long back, got extinguished and what stares in the eye is nothingness, an upshot of that meaningless processing of information.

And, against this backdrop, the concept of ‘learning to LEARN’ resurrects with a renewed sense of purpose and urgency… and, with a strong reiteration of the message: WHAT YOU LEARN IS NOT AS IMPORTANT AS HOW YOU LEARN… awesomely explained by Clark Quinn in this post, albeit in a slightly different context. But, the essence remains the same. “…graduates from those courses might be out of date before long, unless they’ve learned how to stay current. Unless they’ve learned meta-learning. That can be added in, and it may be implicit, but I’ll suggest that learning to learn is a more valuable long-term outcome than the immediate employability”.

L&D should shift gears from ‘training people’ to ‘being with people’!


Because that’s where great insights lie.

Mingling with people helps watch them up close, empathize with their challenges and understand their varying degrees of knowledge. These insights trigger a reflection on what can be done further to help them perform better.

Helping them perform better is THE key, but as obvious as it might seem, this happens to be the most elusive factor in the entire gamut of Learning & Development. Not surprising then that ‘only 8% of CEOS see biz impact of L&D, and only 4% see ROI’ as reported by Linkedin.

It’s fast transpiring that there’s a tremendous void in the very understanding of purpose L&D is supposed to serve. The stubborn silo outlook quarantined from reality and cocooned in its own sweet interpretation of learning pushes managers hard to put their entire focus on content. Not on people.


It convinces SMEs to assiduously collate the most relevant material and present it on a platter without caring much about whether the ‘takers’ of this spread would relish consuming it.

This negative practice has a cascading (side)effect also on learning tools employed to disseminate the planned knowledge. E-learning, for instance, slips into a state of suspended animation gasping for breath as it chokes in the clutches of some meaningless stuff put together under the disguise of ‘meaningful activities’.

IMHO, it’s time L&D engages the reverse gear and back out of this ‘training the people’ funda and instead drive towards ‘being with people’… and, experience the sheer excitement of pumping the learning adrenaline into their systems. After understanding their real performance needs, that is!

This comprehensive report from Deloitte University Press says, “The concept of a “career” is being shaken to its core, driving companies toward “always-on” learning experiences that allow employees to build skills quickly, easily, and on their own terms.”

And, it adds, “At leading companies, the L&D teams help employees grow and thrive as they adopt the radical concept of a career described in The 100-Year Life.7 New learning models both challenge the idea of a static career and reflect the declining half-life of skills critical to the 21st-century organization.”

Clark Quinn is quite incisive here… “L&D could and should be a big contributor to organizational success. If they were adequately addressing the optimizing performance side of the story, and ensuring  the continual innovation part as well, their value should and would be high.”

Am extremely eager to reflect on the positive role L&D could play in bringing about a transformation in the learning landscape in the next post.

So long…


‘Behavior Change’ happens in the brain first! Only then does it manifest!

…which means, the focus goes straight to what happens ‘inside’ when a learning experience is in progress. Does this experience strike the needed neural connections inside the brain for the brain to change ‘physically’?


Does the brain change physically?  

I was quite intrigued by this question and started looking around for insights. What I discovered was one of those most obvious things, but it nevertheless turned out to be a revelation for me.

Just observing the way children’s brains perform as they – the children – grow is good enough a proof for us to appreciate the fact that the little brains do change physically. They do so to accommodate new impressions that keep coming in through various channels. They are also like clean slates registering whatever comes their way without having to contend with any of the previously formed impressions. This is understandable because these impressions aren’t simply there.

Now, this is where we have a bottleneck with grown-ups. The adult brain’s acquired knowledge (stored in the hippocampus) creates a conditioned reality. Some of the impressions created by this reality are correct and some of them incorrect.

Correcting the incorrect impressions to bring about the needed behavioral change is so easier said than done. Seth Godin enunciates on this rather abstruse angle so well in this article.

That probably explains why (some of) the adult brains slow down when it comes to adapting to new environments and why sometimes they even resist changing their behavior as demanded by changing contexts. Which means, the new stuff presented to them needs to be so convincing (among various other things) that they find it easy to spontaneously correct/fine-tune/enhance their existing impressions.

So, when we take adults through a set of fresh skill sets we want them to acquire, the first thing we need to do is, find out what they already know. See how much of what they know is correct and how much of it is incorrect. And, turn our focus on the latter by setting up appropriate learning channels that will help them experience a smooth course correction.

The key is to let them also realize where they are going wrong.  Once we get them convinced on the need to correct themselves, we would be on our way to achieve the needed behavioral change.

Here’s an excellent repository of insights from Clark Quinn on how we can help people learn to learn.

Learning is PHILOSOPHICAL. It happens on REFLECTION.

Enter any work zone. We find different kinds of people there.

Those who look bored and disengaged, who come to work because they have to. And, those who look tensed, anxious, exhausted and overworked, who desperately wait for that much-needed break.

For both these classes, work is far from inspiring. There’s nothing to look forward to. There’s nothing new to learn. There’s nothing to take home as ‘experience’. It’s just humdrum they need to put up with.

But, amidst this crowd, we do find another breed… souls that are quite excited, that are constantly on the run. Not because they don’t fail. Not because they’ve mastered their game. But because, for them, work is learning. For them, learning happens when they experiment, when they push themselves out of their comfort zone… ’cause, that would demand ‘new mindsets and behaviors’ to handle the un-comfort zone comfortably.

And, this personal growth mindset comes full circle when it takes its experiences also seriously and reflects on them because there’s so much to be learned from them as well.

Arun Pradhan puts it so wonderfully in this inspiring post of his, “Without a reflective process, the experience that lies at the centre of this model would be relegated to being ‘stuff that happens’”.

He also adds, “The process of listening to one’s ‘internal voice’, which is representative of mindset, and positively engaging with and redirecting that voice, requires a deliberate and sustained reflective process (not to mention buckets of patience and self-compassion).”

I just love this phrase ‘buckets of patience and self-compassion’, because we are limited beings, we come with our own baggage that conditions us to think in a particular way. ‘Challenging one’s mental models’ and going beyond them takes time. But, “over time, such an open reflective process might call into question things we assumed to be true, as old and new mental models fight for their place in our minds. In such cases, the process of unlearning and letting go of redundant mental models, is just as important as developing new models moving forward.”

All that’s discussed so far is at the individual level… where people are committed to their own personal growth. But, how does this work from an organization perspective? What should the organization do to achieve the same reflection based learning amongst its employees?


Here are some of my reflections… things I (would) love to do when I’m with my colleagues.

Spotting excited souls is probably one of the easiest things we could ever accomplish. Because they stand out clearly from the rest of the crowd.

Pick them up. And, start small. Give them all the support required. Help them learn and grow. And, use them as the showcase material for others to emulate. Basically, lead people by examples.

While doing all of this, empower these talents with other real-life traits such as taking on challenges bravely and coming through them successfully, because creamy, smooth situations are never perennial. And, through all these ‘enaction’ scenes, let them know they are not alone. Let them know that they have our full support.

As I see it, when we start our proactive people measures this way, we can feel confident that we will move towards making our organization a learning organization.

For more thoughts, check out Arun’s yet another post on Workflow Learning.

Key to Earning a Perennial Learning Mindset: Master the Mindscape!!

The biggest challenge to getting a perennial learning mindset is OURSELVES. Our mindscape is so dimensional and vast that tracking all its subliminal processes becomes quite difficult, if not impossible.

Things happen on a pre-programmed mode and decisions get taken on an automated note. Complacency, for instance, is one of the common mind-traps most of us fall into. It charms its way in, almost unnoticed. The resulting ‘let-go’ feeling is so addictive that when we give in to this irresistible temptation, we slide into that amazingly therapeutic basking mode. Nothing really matters then! So what if the world is passing by in a delirious hurry? Let it. I’m all chilled out at the moment. That’s what matters.

Which is why, Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) is elusive. Harold Jarche enunciates in this article, “I think it is because it’s hard to sell a difficult journey in an age of instant gratification.”

To mend one’s own ways is easier said than done. The way out?

Start with a keen observation of the mind’s landscape. Watch all its movements carefully. Become aware, first. Awareness is THE key. Appreciate the beauty of being dynamic. Being dynamic just for the sake of being dynamic!


The next step… Seek the company of dynamic souls. Be in their midst. Watch them ‘move’. Keep watching. Somewhere it rubs off into the subconscious. Though PKM is all about personal learning, “our deepest learning often comes from our engagement with others. It can even hurt to learn. We learn socially, as humans have for millennia. While we need time for reflection, we need real experiences to reflect upon. This makes our learning personal: felt in our gut. Real learning is not abstract.”

Nothing comes easy. Mastery takes time and effort. It’s an arduous journey, yes. But, good company can make the journey truly enjoyable. Don’t you agree?

Sensitive Learning Design! Boosts Inherent Cognitive Load. Eases out Extraneous Cognitive Load.


Cognitive load is a necessary ingredient of an impactful course design. Acquisition of indepth knowledge happens only as an upshot of successfully overcoming friction, difficulties and challenges. But for these stimulants, the learning can possibly turn into a damp squib.

As much as boosting inherent cognitive load is key to designing a successful learning experience, easing out extraneous cognitive load is as important to weed out incidental processing that’s not relevant to the learning task.

Long-winding sentences, confusing user interfaces, visually cluttered layouts, and jarring background score are some of the most obvious extraneous loads that complicate the learning process.

Is there anything more to it? Are there any more nuanced forms of extraneous cognitive loads that learning designers can sensitively track and design some counter initiatives that will help learners? There are, as Connie Malamad explains so wonderfully in this article. Here are a couple.

Identifying complex parts of the course and providing learners scaffolds of helpful hints so they can handle them better is an empathetic way of diminishing extraneous cognitive load.

Any increase in complexity is inversely proportional to an individual going for it all alone. Identifying such contexts and opening up windows through which learners can reach out to experts and peers is another caring way to dilute the extra load they would take up otherwise.


Digital Learning is the NEW ATTITUDE!!

Learning has sloughed off its previous conventional, traditional style of acquiring new forms of knowledge. It has started breaching the ‘limited information’ channels, flowing in all possible directions seeking and absorbing intelligence of its choice.


All thanks to the evolution of technology that has made this possibility possible!

“In only one generation we have gone from traditional corporate universities to e-learning, blended learning, talent-driven learning, and then continuous learning. Tools like Google, YouTube, and soon Microsoft Teams and others have totally changed the learning landscape, so our job now is simply to deliver learning to where people are.”

What does this mean for the L&D experts? “If we don’t make an effort, people may not use the L&D department as much, and a lot of the investment we make will likely go underutilized or unliked.”

What’s the way out of this stark reality? Check out this wonderfully crafted article by Josh Bersin.

Recipe for divining great learning solutions: Break the Conditioned Reality!!

Break the ice, first.

Look at accountants. What do they do to hit it big in their profession? They think finance, they breathe finance, and they live finance. The more they do this, the more seasoned they become in their subject.

Now, look at Learning Designers from this perspective. They’re at the other end of the spectrum. Not one day is like another. Not one subject they handle is like another.

What are the terrains I strode into in the last couple of weeks? It was Japanese Candlesticks, first… then, it was Cisco IVR Systems… then, I veered off to mutual funds… Utterly contrasting topographies with no mutual connections whatsoever!

I understand that learning designers need to cultivate an agile mind that can quickly get acclimatized to such polaric variations. And, it’s not only about handling such varied subjects in a short span of time, it’s also about divining effective learning solutions for each of these subjects that WORK.

What kind of a mind should be at work here?shutterstock_146438018A mind that’s like an emptied tea cup that can receive – and keep receiving – different kinds of ‘inputs’ and a mind that can willingly break the conditioned reality it’s used to seeing through its ‘limited experience’ vision. A mind that’s thus evolved is all set to tackle the tough stuff.

I was in awe as I read an incisive Clark Quinn in this article, delineating on our limited conceptions and biased thinking that stymie the burgeoning of the Original.


Learning Theory: Behaviorism | Part 2

One of the classic differences between theory and practice (when the theory gets actioned) is, when we see an action, we pretty much see a defined form of theory executed well… while the theory by itself could continue to remain abstract.  

Okay!  Let me put it this way…

We wade through an ocean of theory, cull the required part that we believe is the most important for our current context, chunk it nicely and present it in an action form that our audience can comfortably relate to. What we offer may be just one of the perspectives on the subject but we are fine as long as we present an angle that is satisfactorily representative of the truth.

Now… we are going to do something similar with our theoretical reflection on Behaviorism… get a quick traction of one of its ‘threads’, assimilate it and proceed from there, clamping our way into understanding it as comprehensively as we can .

I’m aware that as much as this prelude might sound redundant for some, it may be as reassuring for someone who’s a bit theory agnostic.

So, here we go…


I want your behavior to change in as far as your knowledge of countries is concerned. After a few interactions, I check if you are getting Ethopia’s capital right. You say Addis Ababa, then your ‘behavior’ has changed for better. You say Mogadishu, you aren’t there still.

Either which way, the outcome of the exercise is measurable. Which is to say… the hallmark of behaviorism is ‘objective evidence of changed behavior’.


In the analogy we discussed in my previous post Learning Theory: Behaviorism | Part 1, the child’s observable behavior of not harming other kids becomes the (only) measurable parameter for us to go by… not those non-measurable elements such as emotions, thinking, contemplation and introspection that (need to) happen before the desired behavior is achieved.

So, behaviorism doesn’t care much about the internal process as much as it’s focused on the external outcomes. And, to achieve those external outcomes, it invests all its energies on extrinsic stimuli such as rewards and punishments that condition the subject to respond in a particular way.

So, what are these stimuli? And, how do they condition the desired responses?

Am eager to contemplate on these questions in the next post.


The earlier posts connected to this discussion are here:

  1. Learning Design Basics: Introduction
  2. Learning Design Basics: Definition, the take-off point!
  3. Learning Design Basics: Bifurcating Pedagogical Content Knowledge
  4. Learning Design Basics: The Coveted Side of Theory
  5. Learning Theory: Behaviorism | Part 1