Conventional training and classrooms are archaic. How do you then learn?

K Ramkumar, Executive Director of ICICI Bank and D Shivakumar, Chairman and CEO of Pepsi India talk about learning, unlearning and staying relevant in a rapidly changing world

Nilofer D'Souza


How do you stay relevant—in the sense of knowledge, skill and ability—for what is emerging in the world?

Training programmes and passive classroom-based learning are archaic. So how do you create a learning organization with a focus on applications and results?

And what about technology—how is it changing the way people learn?

We caught up with K Ramkumar and D Shivakumar to dwell on these questions and more, on the side-lines of the National Human Resource Development Network (NHRDN) conference held in Delhi on November 19-20.

Ramkumar is the national president of NHRDN, executive director, ICICI Bank and president, ICICI Foundation. Shivakumar is the chairman and CEO of Pepsico India.

Part 1: How to stay relevant in tomorrow’s world

As business leaders, very rarely do we sit back and ask ourselves, “What have I done in the last 12-24 months, to be relevant?”

Few will walk up to you and tell you, you are not relevant. So it is important to engage with people across generations, and with those outside your company or industry. When you step out of your cocoon, you also encourage your teams to invest to be relevant for the future.

In addition, ask yourself, how will my industry look three-five years hence? How will money be made in this industry? What capabilities will be required to be competitive? Ramkumar and Shivakumar give the example of how the film industry’s business model has morphed and how banking is changing.

Part 2: What leaders can do to drive learning

You learn the most from consumers. Every touch point is a learning opportunity.

The second biggest learning opportunity is, when you encourage people to challenge a decision in a meeting. Facilitate a discussion and a flow of ideas.

As Shivakumar puts it, “One of the biggest things a leader can do is, coach people in meetings. Facilitate a dialogue and step in only when it is going off gear.”

Also, articulate the reasoning behind a decision, adds Ramkumar—that itself is a learning for others.

Part 3: How technology is revolutionizing organizational learning

What technology will do is, make people curious, says Ramkumar. It will make knowledge from anywhere in the world accessible to everyone. Harvard, Yale is available without having to go there.  

It is reducing the cost of accessing knowledge. It is democratising learning by making knowledge available to you at the time you want, in the dose you want and without having to reveal that you don’t know.

But it is a double-edged sword, says Shivakumar, because there is so much information out there. We live in a data-rich, insight-poor world.

People still want face-to-face interaction. So, a bit of human intervention is still required.

Part 4 – Why unlearning is overrated and the emerging trends in organizational learning  

Lecturing people to unlearn the old to learn the new never works. Unlearning happens automatically when the application of knowledge does not lead to results, says Ramkumar. For example, when you start using a new software, you automatically unlearn the old software.

So, you have to make people experience the value of the new learning.

Memory-based abilities and learning for the sake for learning is irrelevant. Learning will have to be designed for people to apply, experiment and understand what it is creating. So, a problem is stated, you are asked to apply that learning and see where it takes you.


Virtuoso features conversations with a cross-section of veteran entrepreneurs, business strategists and thought leaders from India and abroad

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About the author

Nilofer D'Souza
Nilofer D'Souza


Whenever people ask me "what do you do for a living?" I always quip back saying, "what do I not do?" In my career as a journalist and now at internal communications, I've had the privilege of seeing both sides of the coin: an external and internal environment. I have also moved across various platforms like radio, print, television, the Internet and social media in both environments.

It's been an interesting journey as it has deepened my understanding of what works and how you can leverage the learnings in both to maximize your reach as a storyteller. Ultimately, as a communications professional, there’s no greater high than having your communication effort reach the right audience.

My favourite platform has always been radio, and it is here at Founding Fuel that I will anchor their podcast offering. I will work with the influential contributor network to build out distinctive world-class audio shows. I will also anchor my own show based from my perch in Bangalore.

I have an M.A. degree in audio-visual communication from COMMITS, a mass communication institute in Bangalore and a B.A. degree from Mount Carmel College in Psychology, English and Communicative English.

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