An Organizational and Individual Challenge

Anna Simioni

"Did the financial leaders learn something from the crisis?" Well, in terms of responsible leadership, I would say that this crisis was a terrible thing to waste. But unfortunately the real answer is "not yet." One of the reasons why we, as financial industry, did not learn, is because there is not a "learning framework" around us. In the last decades our business and the environment we were living in was not pushing for learning. Learning does not happen by coincidence indeed, it happens when you are deliberately prepared for it. And this is what we are currently doing in order to shift to a learning culture and get our company prepared for learning in the next future.

What I am going to describe now represents one of the attempts we are doing at the moment for making our leaders and colleagues at UniCredit change their mindset in terms of learning. Not a wishful thinking then, but what we are communicating to the organization. You might find it neither surprising nor as new material for reflection but think of people working in an organization: they did.

The first time I approached the theme and presented the learning inside was in April 2010. Since then we have been working on this concept, trying to educate mostly our populations of human resources (HR) business partners, senior leaders and talents, who have a major role to play in terms of learning in the organization. The concept behind is, that learning is a key characteristic of those with a real potential to grow. If you feel inside yourself, inside your "hardware," to have this "chip" that is learning, your path to grow will be different.

Contrary to those who claim that learning happens outside, according to the "someone teaches something to someone else," I strongly believe that learning happens inside instead. One can create the best environment for others to learn, but not provide learning to others. We tend to forget that human beings can deeply transform. The learning inside chip is a unique device that operates as a software that can transform the hardware. This is not only an individual but also an organizational challenge. Learning is not easy. It does not happen every single day. It is not random, it is infrequent. If you want to enhance learning, you must be aware of all the challenges that people and organizations face.


C. H. Krulak, is a former General of Marines. His curriculum is an interesting one: he left the Marines for becoming the CEO of a major consumer credit company in the United States. He then retired but is still member of the boards of several corporations. We met Krulak during a particular situation. After the crisis many leaders at UniCredit were complaining about the difficulty to execute strategies because their people were not following orders. They used to say "if we were in the Army, this would be not a problem. People would make things happen and everything would be much easier." I thought this was a stereotype and an alibi, so I decided to challenge them. Rather, in my opinion it was even easier to follow a banking leader's orders then a Marines General's: in a bank you do not risk your life! We invited General Krulak to a 2 days event where the top 400 of

C. H. Krulak

C. H. Krulak

UniCredit were gathering. During those 2 days Krulak stressed the fact that training is useful only when you know exactly the results, while learning is the preparation to the unexpected. This being said by a Marines General, it sounded as a an alarm bell to our leaders and to the whole company. So this concept was driving a lot of consideration and the new vision of what we do today in terms of training. The shift was, and still is, difficult but necessary. From training to learning, from "what I say as a teacher matters" to "what they learn as learners matters."

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