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All the World’s a Stage for Learning

 -  7/19/13

To help make the connections between theory and practice, some learning leaders are taking top talent out of the office and into alternative leadership development arenas.

Students in Michelle Buck’s management class don’t need their laptops as much as they need their dancing shoes. The professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University uses tango dancing as a leadership development metaphor.

After some professional instruction, participants are asked to dance the tango. The idea is to take them out of their comfort zone and teach communication and coaching skills that Stephen Burnett, professor of management and strategy and academic director for the advanced executive program at Kellogg, said can’t be developed from classroom or virtual learning.

“The key is once these principles are demonstrated, the instructor and students have to make sure there is a discussion of how what was learned can be applied in a business context,” he said. “If you fail to link the lessons back to business leadership, you have had fun but learned little of a practical value to your job.”

With leadership development spending on the rise — U.S. organizations boosted spending by 14 percent in 2012, according to Bersin & Associates’ report “The Leadership Development Framework: A Modern Approach to Leadership Development” — Burnett and Buck aren’t the only ones using unconventional leadership development methods and tying them back to the business.

Improv Learning Is No Joke
Second City Communications, a Chicago-based improvisational comedy club and experiential business training company, offers students opportunities to develop their communication skills. Consultants from The Second City teach students improvisational skills by placing them on the same stage that has been used by famed comedians such as Mike Myers and Stephen Colbert.

“We create an environment that supports risk taking and creates room for collaboration,” said Tom Yorton, CEO of Second City Communications. “Students have to think on their feet and make decisions with confidence.”

Tim West, an accounting professor at Northern Illinois University, has put his class of masters of accountancy students through a Second City session every semester for the past two and a half years.

Article Keywords:   leadership development  


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