Reviewing the learning cycles around experimental research processes lead to the development of a new educational approach for executive education: the GOLDEN Action Learning in Sustainability (GOALS). The approach is based on strengths of the GOLDEN network: Teaching excellence, action learning (i.e. active work on real life cases), applying research scenarios for learning processes, experiential learning for the development of personal CSR skills, developing alternative solutions to sustainability challenges, and the application of these solutions in experimental settings.
1. Teaching Excellence
The curriculum and course materials are based on the research work of the GOLDEN network and hence represent the latest knowledge in the context of sustainability and business. The strength of the approach lies in the collective knowledge base and teaching experience of the network.
2. Action Learning
The learning approach is represented by the work on real life cases. Particularly in executive education the direct access to business cases is possible for managers in their own organizations. The application of the course content in the business context the participants know well is therefore possible in most cases. This allows the application of several layers of expertise (business skill, sustainability related knowledge, ethical aspects) with multiple learning loops through changes of the perspective by addressing sustainability issues.
3. Applying Research Methods
The analysis of real life business cases requires the application of tools usually used in research, like interviews, short surveys and the analysis of archival data material (like sustainability or annual reports). GOLDEN has developed a range of such tools with clear application protocols. The participants will get trained in the use of these tools and will gain new insights by their application during the course.
4. Experiential Learning
Besides the cognitive learning components is also important to provide a certain amount of training on the non-cognitive level (e.g. the emotional side of business). The development of the necessary skills to become a socially responsible manager requires training beyond cognitive input. GOLDEN has worked with experimental learning approaches in various contexts connected to sustainability and CSR already.
5. Solution Development
In the case work the participants will have analyzed sustainability issues in a business organization – this is an important first step which has to be followed by the development of alternative solutions. The work on the solutions will again require a different set of thinking from the participants. On the one hand this will be the application of theoretical knowledge in a business situation. On the other hand the development of applicable solutions requires an in depth view on the potential effects and impacts of certain interventions.
Once a set solutions is prepared it might even be possible to apply them in an existing corporate context. In many cases companies have a vital interest to have a group of training people apply their minds on one or the other issue they are struggling with in order to save their own resources. If such an opportunity opens up the best two alternative solutions will be chosen and applied in a pilot form in a selected department of the company.
With the application of the above mentioned principles GOALS combines learning and research outcomes in one concept. The way this approach produces more than the immediate learning outcomes for the participants. The research data collected in the classes will enable further insights and hence deepen the knowledge on how companies organize their actions and learning around sustainability challenges. Thus GOALS updates and renews itself constantly.
If you are interested in this line of GOLDEN’s activities please contact Frank Brueck.