Agencies must learn to evolve apprentice model

Our business is changing more rapidly today than it ever has.

Our business is changing more rapidly today than it ever has. Think about that statement for a minute.

It's a sentiment expressed so routinely these days that we almost don't notice its significance.

Yet the fact is that, as professional communicators, our world is in a constant state of evolution. The old playbooks are out the window. New tools and techniques emerge daily. Today, PR is about dialogue and engagement rather than awareness and impressions.

As you might imagine, this all has massive implications for learning and development (L&D).

In the past – like most apprentice disciplines – PR took a traditional top-down approach to L&D. Beginners learned from masters. There was a lot of classroom teaching against a management-prescribed curriculum. This was Learning and Development 1.0.

Fast forward to today. If we continued that approach, our curriculum would be taught in the rearview mirror. We would be teaching yesterday's agenda, not what's happening today or tomorrow. And, especially for those of us on the agency side, isn't “What's next” what clients pay us for?

Today, the key to unleashing knowledge and innovation is collaborative, peer-to-peer, community-based learning.  You can call it Learning and Development 2.0, or the “dual-apprentice model.”

In this model, social media tools are used to supercharge L&D. Those who have knowledge teach, while those who seek knowledge learn, without regard to job title or who has more years in the business. The approach turns the traditional agency apprentice model, where knowledge flows only from senior to junior, on its head. And it can create a real competitive advantage.

Given the extreme pace of change, the future belongs to organizations that can adapt most rapidly and reinvent themselves. In PR today, winning isn't about doing the old things better; it's about innovating better things. The advent of peer-to-peer learning will help us achieve this.

Gary Stockman is CEO of Porter Novelli.

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