Christian Kuhna
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Bringing the adidas Group Learning Campus to Life! – Learning in the 21st Century!

Bringing the adidas Group Learning Campus to Life! – Learning in the 21st Century!

At an All-Employee Meeting in November 2011, our CEO Herbert Hainer announced that the adidas Group will invest further in our employees by building a Corporate University for all our employees to learn and develop. A team was formed in HR in the Centre of Excellence Learning to develop ideas on how learning should look for present and future generations.

And instead of just re-packaging our training and learning offers and re-branding it ‘Corporate University’, the team realised that this was a unique opportunity to re-position and re-wire learning in the 21st century, to acknowledge training, learning and development as a competitive advantage.

Our vision of a capabilities incubator

Our Learning Campus is inspired by the Cluetrain Manifesto, open knowledge initiatives such as TED conferences and open education movements such as Coursera, edX and others. We want it to serve as a capabilities incubator to create innovative and engaging learning environments and solutions for present and future generations. It will enable our employees to achieve their personal best and set us apart from our competitors.

To this end, we believe we need to further and more drastically transform the company into a learning organisation by creating a culture of life-long, self-driven learning in a collaborative environment: an environment in which all employees equally teach and learn, and acquire knowledge and skills in a variety of ways to best suit present and future generations – reflected in our motto: ‘YOU LEARN, WE GROW’.

The first thing we did after some initial brainstorming was to go public: we started a collaborative experiment by kicking off a ‘Blog Carnival’, an open article on the adidas Group Blog on the Internet, where we asked all of you to help us define the new way of working and learning.

And we got tremendous feedback: in over 70 comments you told us what you envisioned future learning to be. Most of the feedback urged us to open up learning, make the access to learning available to anyone, everywhere and anytime, that learning is becoming more networked and should become an integral part of work, to have a combination of both formal and informal work hand in hand, to leverage open-source learning content found on the Internet, on Coursera, TED, YouTube, Twitter, etc. And, last but not least: don’t forget to go mobile!

So we crowd-sourced some initial ideas on the Internet and benchmarked with a lot of other companies. We used these results as inspiration to re-think and re-position our corporate learning approach. Our business strategy of The New Way of Working already includes the principles of being open & honest, fact-based and non-political as well as collaborative and efficient. Based on these principles, and in a quest to develop answers to the learning needs of today’s generation in a networked society, we derived the New Way of Learning.

The New Way of Learning

Please watch this short video on The New Way of Learning

To lead and grow, the adidas Group needs to create a culture of collaboration and innovation. To encourage collaboration and innovation, we need to create a new system for learning and development, challenging the way our leaders and our employees share, teach and learn.

Companies that continue to learn continue to thrive and learning doesn’t only take place in a classroom, nor is it delivered by traditional roles of teacher and student. Research shows that more than 80% of learning happens informally, yet as a company we spend the largest part of our learning budget on formal top-down training. We have set out to change this approach to something that makes learning fun, engaging and sustainable.

What we really want to bring to life is the integrated life cycle of innovation, learning and knowledge retention & transfer.

The New Way of Learning (NWoL) brings learning back into the workplace, where it is delivered by colleagues, friends, peers, in teams, online and, above all, in real life. Many of our employees represent some of the youngest working demographics in the world. They are already wired to live and work in a highly connected, digital world. In order to nourish their creativity and hunger to learn, we need to offer them new and more dynamic ways of learning.

Our Learning Vision is to transform the adidas Group into a true learning organisation, with sustainable learning as a competitive advantage.

The New Way of Learning consists of the following five principles:

  1. Working is learning and learning is working.
  2. Provide an open and collaborative, connected ‘social’ learning environment.
  3. Leadership means constant sharing, teaching and learning.
  4. Innovation is part of everybody’s daily work.
  5. Create a new culture of self-driven, life-long learning, in which every employee owns his/her career and his/her personal development.

With our Learning Campus, we will provide open, innovative and collaborative learning solutions to grow our people and the business.

This very concretely means for more than 50,000 employees worldwide:

  • You decide when and where you learn.
  • You choose how and what you learn.
  • You teach and you learn.
  • You network and collaborate.

The learning campus logo.

To illustrate this approach, the adidas Group Learning Campus has chosen the Dazzle Camouflage design as its visual identity, symbolising the New Way of Learning. We have been inspired by the challenging nature of it: We want to challenge and flip the perception of what learning is (or was). Read more on Dazzle Camouflage here.

We will launch the adidas Group Learning Campus globally this summer – and we’ll keep you updated with more information as we go on. Thanks again for all your constructive feedback, your comments and suggestions – please accompany us on this journey by commenting and sharing this.

 

Learning Campus Infografic NEW xxl

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  1. That’s really a great idea!
    It’s nice to see how you really take care of people working in there.
    Companies should spur individual growth rather than putting blockers.
    And such a digital and flexible way seems very cool!
    Well-done Adidas. This is a very great plan.

  2. hope someday its can be real

  3. Congrats, Christian, for successfully launching this. Knowing how hard it is to get budgets and stakeholder commitment for visionary projects like this one, you did an incredible job. The Group Learning Campus will not only add to the adidas brand, but is also a tangible manifesto for the type of learning organizations need these days. I wish you tons of success and can’t wait to hear about the first experiences you make.

  4. […] – Working is learning and learning is working. – Provide an open and collaborative, connected ‘social’ learning environment. – Leadership means constant sharing, teaching and learning. – Innovation is part of everybody’s daily work. – Create a new culture of self-driven, life-long learning, in which every employee owns his/her career and his/her personal development.” Christian Kuhna, adidas Group blog, 24. März 2014 […]

  5. Hello Christian, what an inspiring and great project: congrats to you, your team and Adidas. I’m really impressed of the total concept and the approach you choosed. I think you all created a landmark learning approach here. I’m very curious on how this will evolve and sure I will follow the news. Keep up the good work, be proud and enjoy. Best regards, Ger Driesen

  6. Dear Roland, thank you so much for your kind encouragement: also thanks to all the inspirational conversations with you and the fantastic global network of the ECLF, The Executive Corporate Learning Forum (eclf.org), we are where we are now. Very much looking forward to continue the engaging journey with you – Cheers from Herzo – Christian

  7. Love the innovation. (Always loved the brand!)
    There is a lot of info here, but can I ask you to clarify how is learning consumed? Is there any “push” (if so what?) or is it all pull and user/learner/employee generated?

  8. […] Great initiative http://t.co/n3VYO5OZfu @elgreco66 would be interesting to see how much learners buy into it?  […]

  9. I like the concept very much! I would add a section on reflection of learning and outcomes. (Impact). Evaluation allows for true growth.
    Still the best sports brand out there!

  10. Hi Martin and Rupert, thanks for your comments. Yes, measuring the outcome and impact will be important, and yes, we cover formal and informal training and learning. We will go more into detail on what exactly we offer in some follow-up posts over the next months, happy to keep you posted.

  11. Dear Mr. Kuhna,

    what a great concept, a great process – this is really trend-setting!
    Although many companies discuss about self-organized learning, only few implement it because they are afraid of a loss of control. At Pink University, a company who is something like a Khan Academy for businesses, we face this problem on a daily basis. “How can I make sure that our employees really use the video training library?” Even though we offer the technology to control the use, this doesn’t really hit the bull’s eye: People actually learn easily when they have a concrete necessity – I believe everybody has made this observation. Hence, it is not a matter of motivating people but it’s all about providing them with the resources they need to fill knowledge gaps and to conquer new fields of knowledge. And all this exactly when a certain knowledge is needed.
    And let me make a remark about the “70/20/10 model”: When I learned to play the guitar at a later age, I found out that it actually should be named the “10/90 model”: first we need high-quality input and then we need to implement it. As successful people from Mozart to Tiger Woods have shown it’s all about practise, practise, practise.
    I wish you every success with the Learning Campus.
    Best regards,
    Wolfgang Hanfstein

  12. This appears to be one of the most innovative and audacious projects in Corporate Learning today.
    The shift to “more self-driven learning within a collaborative environment” with opportunities for all employees to engage, was long overdue prior to the arrival of the new open learning platforms.
    User surveys show that the shift helps the Learning Function within any organization in becoming much more visible and influential.

    You may want to check out the recommended TED Talks by getAbstract: http://www.getabstract.com/en/summaries/ted-lib/. The latest one “What it takes to be a great leader” is very close to the Adidas learning vision: http://www.getabstract.com/en/summary/leadership-and-management/what-it-takes-to-be-a-great-leader/21701/

  13. Dear Christian, Congratulations!!!
    It´s not only that our companies closely cooperate when it comes to important things like football, where you produce the great Brazuca football for the next world championships and we deliver the raw material, but even more. The discussions that you started about the new way of learning and working is inspiring us to also working further on this topic, which is currently also shaping the way how we are going to operate our new Bayer Academy. So you have not only started to change the world of adidas, but also the world of Bayer. Your team did a truly great job to re-shape the world of learning businesses and will do further. Like in the MOOCs, you also role model the innovative and collaborate mindset and sharing this with us. I truly believe that the way you describe the future of learning will become reality in future. Still I want to share some additional observations with you, which I find important talking with my stakeholders. The first one is about the engagement of the manager and leaders in this process. Referring to your statements “Leadership means constant sharing, teaching and learning…. and ….Create a new culture of self-driven, life-long learning, in which every employee owns his/her career and his/her personal development.” I would like to emphasize the importance of the leaders role. While the first thing about constant sharing is for me a question of what I do myself as a leader day to day and might be somehow easy to adopt, the second topic about “creating a culture” requires (at least in some organizations) much more attention and effort. The leaders and employees of today and still the employees of the future learn from school and university, that there is always someone who tells you, what to do next. Nowadays modern schools talk a lot about “free-working-time”, “self-directed-development” and so on, still in the background there is a teacher / professor, who is shaping the frame, gives context and gives direction and there is always a time schedule linked to learning activities. This has been proven successful on one-hand, and on the other hand is currently adjusted. What to learn from these facts, when it comes to the NWoL? To my opinion, leaders should know about this and need to put focus on activities, that give a frame, they need to give direction (e.g. communicating on Business Strategy) and create time schedules (or call it “make sure that there is free time in the schedule”), where employees can learn. You state: “You decide when and where you learn. You choose how and what you learn.” and I agree to the “when, where, how”, but have the feeling, that we should give freedom in the “what” on one hand, but also should give guidance on the same. Leaders need to be clear on their expectations. My example from the Bayer Academy: we give access to e.g. WBTs to everyone, but tell certain groups, which kind of competencies we expect and which learning offerings are available to support development of such competencies. The rest is the same like with your approach. The employees can decide on the rest and could also go beyond the recommended learnings at any time. The second thought is on classroom learning. Reading and knowing your approach, and having experienced the adidas culture on-site I believe, that adidas has already created large opportunities for people to meet physically, which they are used to leverage to discuss their learnings and develop and innovate together. What still is required and what you also did, is to have a physical place (the adidas Group Learning Campus) for learning. So we might not call it classroom in the future, but as learning leaders we should not forget, how important it is to bring people physically together. It´s in the nature of human beings, that face to face interactions creates more belonging and also there are some very good formats that also work better in a “room”. I have seen it with IDEO, where they still bring together all the experts for the first rounds of innovation brain storming and learning from each other. So grabbing again your principles and their meaning… “You decide when and where you learn”, I would like to add, “you decide when and where to learn, and we invite you to collaborate and innovate at least once in your time with adidas to do this at our campus”.
    All in all – it´s the best and most innovative approach to learning I have seen so far. The whole Bayer Academy Team wishes you great success. Wish you all the best and see you soon.

  14. […] important, for business leaders to understand the significance of learning in the workplace. Even Adidas has adopted my adage that today, work is learning and learning is the […]

  15. Inspiring! I also have two questions: why create a separate learning platform when your philosphy is that working = learning? Collaboratiion, finding experts/mentors, and sharing knolwedge can be embedded in a social collaboration platform, connecting the learning and working more closely together. My second question: creating a learning culture involves a different mindset and different skills (e.g. personal knowledge management). How will you stimulate this?

  16. Hello Birgit,
    thank you for your questions, let me answer directly: We are not building a separate learning platform per se as our Learning Campus Online will be fully integrated in our new intranet platform a-LIVE. Later this year we will be sharing more about our online initiatives on this blog.

    And regarding the different mindset: yes, I absolutely agree, that’s why we’re also offering Learning Kits with workshops, videos etc. on behavioral training – and we will build up knowledge retention & transfer processes as well as design thinking workshops step-by-step to make this culture change happen.

    Thanks & best – Christian

  17. Being for more than 15 years in L&D myself I love the video and soooo agree and hope a part of this becomes practice. Thanks Christian. Great work!

  18. Great initiative that Adidas and Christian are pushing forward here. From everything I hear as an Adidas outsider from my contacts within the organisation, it is moving forward in a fast pace and already helps tremendously, although it is still in its early stage. Seems to be one of the few initiatives within organisations that actually sees the light of day. Good luck for the next steps!

  19. Congratulations on the Group Learning Campus! From my point of view, you’re building a knowledge network, which is the new possibility the Internet affords our species for enabling knowledge to scale far beyond our individual brains. I look forward to seeing the knowledge and practices that emerge.

    - David Weinberger
    co-author, The Cluetrain Manifesto

  20. Dear David, thank you so much your comment, I told you that your book, The Cluetrain Manifesto is one of the biggest influences for our concept of the New Way of Learning at the adidas Group. You have a good point that it’s really about building knowledge networks: this is why we put this holistic knowledge circle in the centre of the manifesto (see the infografic), because for me the core of re-wiring and re-positioning learning in the 21st Century is to holistically connect innovation with learning and knowledge retention and transfer!

  21. Christian…it really looks great. Your holistic approach to learning, grounded in the belief that learning needs to happen closer to the point of need, is a refreshing, pragmatic and contemporary model. It will be exciting to see how it materializes from a learner experience perspective and how the direct 360 environment of the learner is connected to this experience. Well done for a visionary approach, keep us posted along the way! Sylvain

  22. Looks like you really know what to do! :-) Nice video and infographic!

  23. Nice infographic, nice idea. And if it comes true, learning will be more viral than most of all elearning-platforms. But your idea is truly a buttom-up strategy of learning. It reminds me on Joseph Jacotot, who teaches, what he doesn’t know. Jacques Ranciere wrote about him as symbol of the intellectual emancipation. In his character the social web / or maybe the internet evolves a mythos that the intellectual emancipation of learning soon comes true. Actually I don’t think so – because you have to change not just the culture, but also the market system itself. As long as Adidas is working in a market, it will be difficult to turn the world upside down. By the way, there is a bunch of elearning-platforms. Like at Lecturio it is already today possible to learn whenever and wherever you want. On the other site you are right. Elearning should generally become more social than it is now.

  24. adidas has taken their vision of YOU LEARN WE GROW and brought this to life in an engaging and yes entertaining way! Learning and working are really one and the same and the vision, learning principles and short video capture this thought brilliantly! Kudos to CEO Hainer who realized the potential of investing in learning as a competitive advantage to grow the business.
    And congratulations to Christian Kuhna for bringing this vision to life! The launch this summer will be interesting to follow as employees now have to adopt a different mindset one where learning and working are one! We know this as learning professionals, but let’s not forget the employee–our learner- who has spent the better part of several decades in a classroom equating learning with formal training. Christian you have provided an excellent toolkit and I am excited to follow this and see how employees engage with this and see how they react when they are FREE to learn when, where they want!!

  25. Dear Jeanne, thanks for your kind and encouraging words! Please allow me to mention that it wasn’t just me, but I’m just part of a great team who all together is working on bringing this to life!

    I’d also like to mention that beyond the digital and physical transformation, we are also looking at The Future Workplace as a learning space, where learning is fully integrated into work (“working is learning and learning is working), this will also be reflected in our new office concepts. And let me say that your book The Workplace 2020 was and is a great inspiration! Thanks for that. Looking forward to speaking to you soon.

  26. […] von Digital Learning Environments angeht, nahezu vorbildlich aufgestellt, wie zum Beispiel Adidas. Bei anderen machen wir, wenn es um die Implementierung unserer Videotrainings geht, beispielsweise […]

  27. […] into a theatre stage, a flexible and open space for learning. Here we can demonstrate and apply the New Way of Learning: with collaborative and innovative workshops and flipped learning sessions, face-to-face training, […]

  28. Dear Christian, congrats to you and your team for this brisk and courageous corporate learning approach – which in my opinion is absolutely keeping with the times and considers the way people live, think, and learn today. Thanks again for the opportunity to visit your campus last week. It was a very inspiring experience for me. I wish you and your team all the best – see you soon!

  29. Dear Learning Campus team, I like that you link learning closely to innovation.
    Although this linkage seems pretty obvious to everybody, it is sometimes important to clearly state how learning at the end contributes to an organisation’s bottom line – in this case by enabling it to create innovation. The knowledge cycle is a nice and simple visualisation of what is behind your headline “you learn, we grow”.
    I have looked into innovation management lately and I found one open-innovation concept particularly interesting: the “Innovationskraftwerk”, a project of the initiative “Deutschland – Land der Ideen”. Companies can create competitions by asking a question like “how would you like to be supported by your running watch?”. And then they get many ideas from the open community. The best ideas are rewarded.
    In one of your older posts, Steve Fogarty had the idea of creating Adidas crowd sourcing projects that all employees could get involved in and then be rewarded with “learning credits”. This is a great idea; the Innovationskraftwerk demonstrates how to implement it.
    And speaking of learning how to innovate: I found the “lateral thinking” method by Edward de Bono very useful to create innovative ideas. If I worked in R&D, design or innovations management, I would like to be educated in lateral thinking. An idea for your learning curriculum?…
    I wish you all the best in bringing this New Way of Learning to life

  30. xiomara harris
    May 15, 2014 3:03 pm

    Just experienced your presentation to the 2020 Workplace Network in Crotonville. Feeling energized and inspired! Thanks for sharing your journey.

  31. “I have a dream” that learning will become more easier and modern than yesterday! Concratulation!

  32. […] Bringing the adidas Group Learning Campus to Life! – Learning in the 21st Century! […]

  33. Hi all,
    here’s the latest on the adidas Group’s learning initiatives and it’s newly launched Corporate University.
    http://www.adidas-group.com/en/group/stories/smarten-people/
    Enjoy.
    Best,

  34. […] prime example is Adidas Group, which launched a new learning and development vision, called New Way of Learning, this week. The HR team, led by chief human resources officer Matthias Malessa, decided to toss out […]

  35. This is phantastic! A great graphical display to summarize how employees want to learn, share and connect. Not only will this initiative tap into the “collective intelligence” of its workforce and surface it but also it will bubble up the stars in the organization who are thought leaders. Much of (hidden) talent will rise to the surface. Another benefit is that by inviting employees to share, some of the institutional knowledge locked in the heads of employees will be unleashed and made available from the person who has it to the one who needs it. (According to industry studies, up to 90% of an organization’s knowledge and expertise is locked in the heads of its employees).