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  • Michael Spencer

Soundings: The Leonardo European Corporate Learning Awards

It’s interesting how connections are made, and how far back they sometimes reach.

In 2010 I spoke at the Academy of Business in Society conference in Berlin.

It was my first experience of Petcha Kucha and also of the challenge of negotiating its 20×20 seconds slide format to talk about the temporal nature of sound.

At the evening reception I had the good fortune to sit next to Professor

Wolfgang Stark, Director of the

Music Innovation and Corporate Culture Project at the University of Duisberg Essen.  From this came an invitation to contribute to a forum at the awe inspiring Zollverein Coal Mine Complex, now a UNESCO World Heritage site,  focusing on the implications of contemporary free jazz and architectural patterning language for organizational structure.  Not perhaps the most obvious of relationships.

It was during my own workshop, exploring the importance of patterns in musical structures, that I met the anthropologist film maker Peter Kalvelage and his colleague Günther Szogs, the knowledge, learning and innovation specialist and co-founder of the Leonardo Corporate Learning Awards.  Both enthusiastic participants with many thoughtful questions, it was Günther that was to float the idea of involving me in the award ceremony which would take place in the stately Schloss Bensberg near Cologne.

This proved to be a bonus on two fronts.  It gave me the opportunity to look at corporate learning from a more European perspective and also to work with Corinna Pregla; mezzo-soprano, facilitator and one of the ambassadors for ‘Germany: Land of Ideas’.

The vision for Leonardo grew in response to the report, ‘Learning: The treasure within‘, compiled by the International commission set up by UNESCO to review educational requirements for the 21st century.  It was led by  Jaques Delors who subsequently became Leonardo’s first award winner.

In looking at the possibilities for encouraging relevant, sustainable learning within a global context four pillars were identified which became the touchstone for Leonardo. Learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together, learning to be.

They function much like the 4 neucleobases that are the building blocks of DNA, and which are bonded together to form two separate ‘base pairs ‘.  In the case of Leonardo one pair faces inwards towards personal enablement – Learning to know, learning to be – and one faces outwards towards social obligation – learning to do and learning to live together.

The intention behind the Awards was, therefore, twofold. To address the challenges surrounding life long learning, and in particular the gap between higher education and retirement, and to highlight some of the progressive models of good learning practice which exemplify the terms of its statute.

In 2011 the award was given to Jimmy Wales.  2012 was the third year of the awards and the first time that three were presented. They fell into three different categories – Thought Leadership, Company Development, Crossing Borders.

The luminaries who received the awards have contributed on a global scale to educational thinking, both for organizations and individuals.

Professor Hans-Jürg Bullinger (President, Fraunhofer-Geselschaft), oversaw the development of  outward and inward reflection both at organisational and employee levels. Doctors Wilfried and Kurt Stoll (Founder-owners of Festo) have promoted an holistic approach to education for their stakeholders looking, Janus-like, in these same two directions and absorbing a wide range of trans-disciplinary influences, from natural phenomena to the Arts.  Professor Sugata Mitra (MIT, Newcastle University, Hole in the Wall Learning) has stimulated the development of significant self-determined learning pathways at both the personal and shared level amongst children in rural India.  Whilst these operate at local level they have considerable global implications, as indeed is the case with the other two awardees.

It was a privilege to be invited to take part, and the quote from Leonardo (da Vinci) I used at the end of my speech at the ceremony seems as appropriate here as it was there.

“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned upwards, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return”

Michael Spencer

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