What is Executive Learning?

The word “learning” is ambiguous. At school teachers impart and students absorb universal truths, knowledge and theories. In this sense “learning” is a cognitive phenomenon, separate from experience and action.

But senior executives should question this limited definition of learning. For them learning should also be synonymous with adaptation, change and growth. Experience and action are important sources of learning.

Our Focus

The research of the IMD CEO Learning Center focuses on a range of dissonant experiences that have the potential to trigger learning and change. While these provide rich opportunities for learning, they are often not realized. To benefit, CEOs must remain alert to the enablers needed to extract potential learning from experience.   

The Center focuses on the human dimensions of executive leadership and approaches the development of CEOs and senior executives at three levels: organizational leadership; team leadership and personal leadership:

Organizational leadership involves:

  • How CEOs and executive leaders shape organizational values and cultures by understanding their own inner conflicts.
  • How and why they create silos and how they break down silos.
  • How they lead in a global, virtual, digital, uncertain and ambiguous world.

Executive team leadership involves:

  • How CEOs lead executive teams with greater awareness of dynamics between senior executives.
  • How they can become more mindful of tensions, competing interests, subgroups, transparency and team integration.
  • How they can intervene more effectively in team dynamics and integration.

Personal leadership involves:

  • How CEOs and senior executives learn from success and failure (or not).
  • How they learn when taking up a new role, as well as sustain learning in an existing role (or not)
  • What and how they learn and unlearn from their own personal experiences in life.

Our approach

The approach taken by the IMD CEO Learning Center is to facilitate learning through dialogue, reflection and experience. Personal insight is the primary learning vehicle and the learning is supported by theoretical and conceptual knowledge. The Center works on three learning principles:

  • For senior executives, learning from experience is a more impactful development process than conceptual, theoretical or “toolkit” learning.
  • Experiential learning can be uncomfortable at times, but discomfort can also be the birthplace of significant learning and change.
  • In order to change others, we must first learn about ourselves and change ourselves. Change begins with “me”.