Leading Learning in South Africa

By David Wentworth

South Africa is a nation in flux; simultaneously modern and developing, equally innovative and traditional. There are new, dramatic political and economic developments almost daily. Yet, through it all, organizations press forward.

I had the tremendous honor of delivering a keynote address at Learning Innovation Africa, a conference held by leadership development consultancy The Networking Company. The event took place in Johannesburg with attendees from all over South Africa and the surrounding countries.

These organizations feel immense pressure to train and develop a population that often enters the workforce with gaps left by the education system. In keeping with the duality of South Africa itself, these organizations must focus on basic business acumen and traditional learning methods, while simultaneously creating the type of modern, flexible learning environments that allow them to keep pace with the rapidly changing business climate.

Attending organizations were eager to hear about new trends, techniques and technologies in learning. Some of the innovations on display included gamification for IT learning programs, virtual reality for high-altitude construction and collaborative platforms like Facebook Workplace. There was even a session on the power of proper sleep regimens!

The LIA sessions were highly interactive and purpose-driven. Heads of learning worked together to focus on issues, there was a card-based gaming battle, a hands-on sci-fi construction project, digital learning simulations and VR goggles everywhere.

South African companies face the same challenges organizations in the U.S. and other countries face, along with a few unique ones. It was gratifying to see the drive to embrace technology’s potential for solving these challenges at levels equal to those in North America, where I have had most of my exposure. I look forward to continuing to work with the people I met there to solve these challenges together.

David Wentworth, Principal Learning Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

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Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company’s growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company’s global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike’s tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.