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Product and Topic Expert
Product and Topic Expert

SAP Education & Accenture hosted an exclusive conference in September 2013. Social Learning – Innovations for the Future Workplace was the motto of the 4th Professional Learning Executive Forum -especially designed for executives in HR, Education and related functions of European corporations. Organized by the hosted by the HRM institute it took place at the nice Guest House of the Federal Republic of Germany  - Grandhotel Petersberg in Bonn. The Professional Learning Executive Forum combined an introductory presentation with interactive formats. Keynotes, a plenary discussion in fishbowl  format and interactive discussion rounds in world cafes. Through the collaborative informal set-up it was a great exchange and platform for the attendees.

The motto was social learning. Why? The future workplace demands the optimization and continuous adaptation of knowledge work. This requires fast, dynamic, collaborative and self-organized learning. One of the key approaches is "social Learning" which occurs when people work together, exchange experiences and knowledge. Companies that ignore implementing processes and technology supporting Social Learning will face competitive disadvantages in the future.

My takeaways from the conference

Twitter Hashtag tag was #lef13 – which was not overused – perhaps more in the next years when also executive will use Twitter more. 🙂

Keynote speaker Dr. Boris Nemsic, former CEO of Telekom Austria, shared his vision of Social Learning. He presented insights in the development of the telco industry and its importance on the whole internet. From a business point of view he pointed out the importance of innovation for growth and to avoid a slow dead as a company. After the interesting storytelling also on the Russian market and hands on innovations he focused on the importance of technology for education. Out of an C-level view he sees much improvement in knowledge work – up to 35% could be done more effective. Thus he sees the boost of productivity as a key value, which can also be supported by new social technologies. And – calculated on the worldwide GDP of 73 trillion € he calculated that 34 can be digitalized somehow – which means a huge market for knowledge-relevant applications and tools.


The fishbowl with Mr. Cruyff from Accenture, Boris Nemsic,  myself on behalf of SAP, facilitated by Norbert Büning from Taloon Solutions discussed questions like the following:  

  • Can you let us know what kind of role social media has currently in corporate learning? I answered this  - highlighting the different use cases on how to use social media for learning & talent development.
  • Can you explain the need of innovation in learning for your clients? Johannes Cruyff from Accenture shared some highlights from his customers – like being more flexible, open, but also always look at efficiency via practices like outsourcing.
  • In a bestseller  Manfred Spitzer, a German Neuroscientist,  has illustrated his skepticism regarding the use of technology tools in learning. He states that the internet is making people dumb. Our response to this? All were clear that if the internet is used smart – it makes you smarter. If one looks positive to Spitzers argumentations you see that we should better discuss how to use media right and smart – not how or why they make us dump.


SAP Mentor @MGillet who was also part of the event jumped into the discussion sharing e.g. the importance of social media guidelines or his experiences with using social tools for innovation. There were lots of more interesting discussions – the detailed answers would outreach the post here.

After lunch Raul Varma – CLO of Accenture – shared his experiences with learning at Accenture in a further keynote. At Accenture social learning is seen as a powerful way to enable people to be "learning all the time. The numbers he shared were impressive: Accenture spends for their 260k people 850 million for learning & training. Accenture tries to embed learning everywhere and sees a massive democratization in learning content via using social media.  Please find here the insightful blogpost from Moritz von Radowitz from Accenture summarizing Rauls keynote.

Afternoon was World-cafe time.
In interactive table sessions different thought leaders discussed key topics in learning & development

  • “Leading and sustaining a strategic outsourcing partnership through different economic cycles” was discussed by Eammon Eaton, Bank of Ireland, Head of Group Learning & Engagement 
  • I presented “How SAP uses social media in Learning and Talent Development. Different use cases were presented where social media can add value in Learning & Talent Development – from learning, communication, change management to talent & performance management. You can see the slide input here on slideshare. Of course I outlined also how we run our own solutions for social learning - like SAP Jam. As Intro into social and informal learning I used the 10/20/70 model which is a helpful framework for effective learning.
  • Rahul Varma, Accenture Chief Learning Officer had the topic: “Leveraging open communication for corporate learning” – from MOOCs to OER (open education resources). Something which is currently high on the hype curve and where Learning Éxecutives need to check how to leverage it.
  • Martin Gillet from the SAP Mentors presented how to use the power of social media to share, collaborate & learn. Martin described the SAP Mentors program, how he personally uses social media for learning & development, like  Moocs, communities, blogging and more – what works, what doesn’t. See here one of the results as a mindmap.
  • “Governance and roles in social learning” was the topic from Dr. Matthias Görtz, Accenture Talent & Organization. Matthias has lots of experience on that topic – which range from social media guidelines to how to facilitate & moderate social learning communities.
  • Christian Böhler, an e-Learning expert from a large utility company  (RWE) shared his insights on Learning onsite, on-demand and on-time: How to integrate Learning & Qualification into the work-process & machine operations. In mining and energy substations machines have embedded Bar-, QR-Codes or RFID-Chips for service and operations reasons. They also can be leveraged to offer documentation or simulations to support service technicians, or to get the qualification to authorize the machine usage. Looking in the future, information like 3-D simulations can be accessed via mobile devices or smart-glasses as Electronic Performance Support. Current state at RWE (one of Germanys largest electric utility companies), future ideas  were presented discussed with the world café participants.

In the evening there was a parallel event where the european corporate learning award "Leonardo" was presented - incl. a nice festive ceremony with dinner and speeches. Further infos and recap can be found on the Leonardo website.

You want more impressions from the event? @MGillet catched the excellent atmosphere and also fantastic view from the Petersberg hotel in many of his pictures  (thanks for holding the impressions) – you can check the related Flickr stream. You can find an official recap by HRM on the PLE LEF website - further related posts will follow and I will update this blog-post with it.

I hope this post was useful and informative. Please feel free to share your comments, experiences, thoughts with me right here in the community.