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Why business conversations have become a lot more interesting…

There’s been a definite shift in the conversations I’ve been having with business leaders over the past few years.

The trend that we’ve seen globally towards the convergence of corporate strategy and learning in business is real – and it’s happening here. Our discussions have become more raw and honest and as a result, more interesting.


While I’d like to think this was reflective of a major re-think across industry towards the strategic importance of education – it’s more likely down to the global recession; poor performance can no longer hide behind strong financial metrics.

Business leaders are increasingly demanding that everything that happens developmentally be centred on the overall strategic business priorities. With this shift comes a strong demand for demonstration of return on investment. There’s certainly no shortage of internationally acclaimed RoI models in executive education. But have things moved on? I think business leaders need something more immediate.

Long before the application of an academic model there are three simple questions I ask of the business:

– Do you know what talent looks like?
– Have you got it?
– How aligned is that talent to what matters?

Regardless of whether our conversation is about major diversification due to a collapsed market, a semi-state redefining what performance really means in order to stay relevant or, on the other end of the spectrum, a growth trajectory so steep organisational realignment is critical.. the organisational development strategy that delivers return on investment will be the one that optimises people’s ability to deliver on the business priorities.

When it comes down to it, what matters for all organisations, regardless of the business challenge is whether the people in the organisation know enough, do enough and believe enough to make a difference.

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Julie Ryan is Head of Executive Education at IMI. She leads a team responsible for improving performance in IMI client organisations through the creation of bespoke executive learning models. Her interests lie in the co-creation of talent strategies for organisations.

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