Where do you find transformational ideas?

Andy Lancaster, Head of Learning and Development Content, CIPD.
Twitter: @AndyLancasterUK.

In our fast-changing world, organisations cannot stand still. In the context of disruption, organisations must actively seek ways to transform and innovate to avoid decline or extinction.

So, where do we find the key insights to underpin this transformation process?

Steven Johnson in the TEDTalk “Where do great ideas come from?” (1) makes the proposition that the best insights come from networks. We tend to think that a “eureka” moment is the result of our brain working in a “singular” sense, when actually the creative thinking comes from the connections of millions of neurons.

Similarly, some of our most creative insights come when we network with others; Johnson quotes “Chance favours the connected mind.”

In 1926, Nikola Tesla, the pioneer of alternating-current electricity, had an incredible prophetic vision. He predicted “When wireless is perfectly applied, the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain and instruments through which we will be able to do this will fit in our vest pockets.”

Today, we live in the realm of Tesla’s dream; an Internet connected world brimming with information delivered to our smart devices!

As I write this blog, every second on the Internet there are around 67,000 Google searches, over 8000 Twitter posts and 73,000 YouTube views (2). We are experiencing information overload and it’s a challenge sifting through to find out what is genuinely useful and what is irrelevant or ‘fake news’. Whilst there is a lot of rubbish recycled on the Internet, there are true gems available, but it’s often difficult to find them, especially when we lead such busy lives.

So, how can we help sort the wheat from the chaff?

One of the key roles of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) is to promote the importance of professional networking as a means to shape knowledge, thinking and practice.

If we are serious about discovering transformational ideas we have to be serious about being connected into Tesla’s concept of a global brain. As professionals, it simply isn’t tenable in today’s technology-connected world to stand back and ignore online social collaboration. Those passionate about transformational practice invest time in cultivating a personal learning network (PLN) benefiting from professional connections and linkages.

It is through a vibrant community that transformational ideas can be rigorously discussed and genuinely tested. Peer review remains a crucial process in verifying research.

And, being part of a vibrant community doesn’t just mean interacting with those in your own field or sector. Creative and applicable ideas emerge from adjacent communities. Part of the networking skill is to spot overlaps with other disciplines from which innovation can be translated. For example, in my field of learning, an interest in the potential of virtual reality in transforming people development cannot ignore what is happing in the field of gaming.

Personal learning networks are also a source of evidence-based practice, another passion at the CIPD. Our information rich-world contains much flaky content, so if we are passionate about effective transformation, it must be based on strong evidence such as sound organisational data, valid and trustworthy research reports, surveys and verifiable behavioural science from the academic literature. This should be coupled with evidence from professional expertise and an understanding of stakeholder’s values and concerns.

In pursuing a richer professional community and evidence-based practice in learning and development, the CIPD and Towards Maturity (3) a learning research and benchmarking organisation, have developed a strategic partnership.

Together we are gathering transformational insights about effective learning practice based on a global network of professionals from a wide range of sectors.

This commitment to professional networking is providing transformational dividends!

Towards Maturity’s latest L&D benchmarking report called “The Transformation Curve: The L&D journey to deliver lasting business impact” (4) is based on data from over 700 global L&D leaders and over 10,000 learners. It provides six key dimensions underpinning transformational organisational learning:

  • Governance and decision-making - Alignment of the learning strategy to business goals and objectives, with the smart use of evidence to support decision-making.
  • Formal learning - Building an efficient and effective portfolio of formal learning courses and resources – to address skills gaps and support individuals in their career development.
  • Informal and social learning - The interchange of ideas and mutual support to aid personal and business goals, collaborative problem solving and innovation.
  • The role of the learning professional - Business-focused and tech-savvy facilitation of L&D through blending performance support, training and professional advice and guidance.
  • The role of the individual - The modern, self-directed learner who is purposeful, curious, confident, social, connected and adaptable and able to take ownership of their learning and development.
  • The role of the manager - The cog that drives the achievement of organisational goals and champions transformation, committed to individual and business advancement through learning.

CIPD and Towards Maturity’s professional networking approach is realising evidence-based, transformational ideas that can be applied in organisations.

So, what about you? Where are you gaining your transformational ideas from?

Perhaps a key is to also expand your professional networking because, as Steven Johnson rightly notes, “Chance favours the connected mind.”


Join us for the CIPD’s International Webinar Series on Wednesday 21st March 2018 in which Andy Lancaster, Head of L&D Content at CIPD will interview Laura Overton, CEO of Towards Maturity about the report: “The Transformation Curve: The L&D journey to deliver lasting business impact.”

To sign up follow this link.

To explore the CIPD’s latest thinking on Learning and Development, evidence-based practice and the future of the people profession visit the Knowledge Hub on CIPD.ASIA, CIPD.AE, CIPD.IE, or CIPD.CO.UK



(1)      “Where do great ideas come from?” TEDTalk by Steven Johnson available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/steven_johnson_where_good_ideas_come_from

(2)      Live Internet statistics available at: http://www.internetlivestats.com/

(3)      Towards Maturity at: www.towardsmaturity.org.

(4)      “The Transformation Curve: The L&D journey to deliver lasting business impact”, Towards Maturity (2018). Report available at: https://towardsmaturity.org/2018/01/31/transformation/.

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  •  , browsing community blog posts, I came across your reflections here, from a while back.  I find it still very much relevant and timely today - as the pace of digital transformation accelerates post pandemic, and transformational upskilling needing to meet the challenge.  In my personal experience, I find that evidenced-based leading practice shared over networks is a key contributor to generating transformational ideas - the kernel of innovation.  I've found that, in lean environments where interpersonal dialogue (and face to face dialogue for that matter) may be less frequent, leveraging a network of research and regularly reading a variety of papers on emerging practice can be a significant help to staying connected, and a fertile group for these type of ideas to emerge.  While perhaps not generated through dialogue, reflection on peer-reviewed papers is, I've found, a 'next best thing;' where new ideas can come from reflecting on others' work and research, and where this reflection can consider trialling pieces of evidence-based practice in new and novel configurations.  In fact, this is where one of our recent marquee programs came from - reflection on research and published papers on leading practice, followed by dialogue with thought partners. All that to say, your reflection above is as timely as ever - thank you!