The 6 learning books every leader should read

Now more than ever, learning should be a top priority for leaders worldwide. However, many business leaders see L&D as a cost-centre, and perhaps do not realise the full potential of learning as a competitive advantage and a driver for business growth.

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The 6 learning books every leader should read
November 9, 2020
The 6 learning books every leader should read

Now more than ever, learning should be a top priority for leaders worldwide. However, many business leaders see L&D as a cost-centre, and perhaps do not realise the full potential of learning as a competitive advantage and a driver for business growth. With that in mind, I thought I would share the six learning books I think every business leader should read. Five of these books directly map to our DNA here at Stellar Labs; that is the 5 pillars we believe every organisation needs to become a growth led, learning organisation. So let’s get started:

1. How people learn

People are at the heart of all things learning. Whether it’s the learners themselves, or your learning designers and subject matter experts. So a fascinating first book I think all business leaders should read is How People Learn by Nick Shackleton-Jones.

This is a challenging book that may change the way you think about training. Examples and case studies from successful companies demonstrate how people learn from experiences rather than expensive LMS systems, events or courses, Learner centred learning is something we are really passionate about at Stellar Labs, and we dedicate an entire programme to teaching people how to learn for this very reason. So this book is a must-read for any leader who truly believes in the power of a learning organisation.

2. Neuroscience for learning and development

I should start with a disclaimer, this book’s author is my co-founder, Stella Collins. However, it was this very book that brought Stella and I together (that, and our passion for people and performance, of course!) And I truly believe every business leader should read Neuroscience for Learning and Development: How to Apply Neuroscience and Psychology for Improved Learning and Training.

In this book Stella explains the intricate details of the ‘science’ element of our DNA including the implications and value of understanding how our brains process and retain information and learn skills, new behaviours and habits. Neuroscience for Learning and Development is also highly practical with easy to implement suggestions in areas such as:

  • How to create effective learning environments
  • Promoting motivation in learners
  • Making learning ‘stickier’ through the use of stories

This is the second edition of this book, which now also includes chapters on digital learning and the importance of sleep – a great read for business leaders wanting to implement modern learning strategies.

3. Evidence-informed learning design

Process isn’t usually associated with the creative world of learning. But it should be. At Stellar Labs we use the Colin Rose MASTER model, as part of our process to consistently design and deliver effective training – whatever the mode of delivery.

Evidence-Informed Learning Design: Creating Training to Improve Performance by Mirjam Neelen debunks the fads, trends or personal preferences that L&D programmes are often based on. Instead, she explores how learning professionals can move away from this approach and shows them how to assess and apply relevant scientific literature, learning science research and proven techniques to design their training in a way to make a measurable difference. And being able to observe a measurable difference post-learning is what all business leaders want, after all.

4. Artificial intelligence for learning

Technology is of course paramount to 21st century learning, shaping both our delivery and communication methods with our people. Artificial intelligence is an area which has really impacted and shaped learning in recent years – and shows no signs of slowing down. Which is why I recommend every business leader reads Donald Clark’s Artificial Intelligence for Learning: How to use AI to Support Employee Development.

In this book Donald explores the opportunities created by using Artificial Intelligence in workplace learning. A practical guide, this book includes:

  • Specific guidance on how AI can provide content curation and personalisation to improve learning effectiveness and reduce costs
  • How AI can be implemented to improve the efficacy of evaluation, assessment and reporting leading to greater efficiency
  • How chatbots can provide on the job support to a global workforce

5. Learning analytics

Analytics and data aren’t used well enough in learning. The right data can be the source for sophisticated measurement, analysis and evaluation and can drive the transfer of learning into the workplace. Which of course, leads to organisational impact – something we all want! For that reason, I recommend all business leaders to read Learning Analytics: Using Talent Data to Improve Business Outcomes by Cristina Hall, John R Mattox and Peggy Parksey.

This book outlines how analytical approaches can respond to business challenges, such as effective evaluation and measurement, identifying gaps for improvement and aligning learning to business goals. Using case studies from organisations that have successfully applied these approaches, Learning Analytics enables readers to understand the impact of data driven learning in organisations.

6. The expertise economy

Now this final book is an all-rounder and truly proves the importance of having a learning organisation. The Expertise Economy: How the Smartest Companies Use Learning to Engage, Compete and Succeed by Kelly Palmer and David Blake provides the latest scientific research on how people really learn and examples of organisations worldwide who are driving the conversation about aligning learning innovation with business strategy.

We all know that the world of work is going through a transformation, especially due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, merely digitising your learning is not enough to create a modern learning organisation. The Expertise Economy shares case studies and examples of how some of the smartest companies in the world are making learning and expertise a real competitive advantage.

So there you have it, six learning books I believe every business leader should read. Let me know what you think or if you want to discuss any of your thoughts about how learning impacts on your business. But in the meantime, happy reading!

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