Learning @ Communities: Citeman Interviews Abhijit Bhaduri, Chief learning Officer Wipro

“Create a difference with your own ability that’s inside you”, shared Abhijit Bhaduri, Chief Learning Officer, Wipro on TEDx, Delhi early last year. In one of his recent interview to Knowledge@Wharton, he emphasised “Learning is the ability to ask the right questions”. He reflects this from the several initiatives which he had taken over the years to promote learning through different arenas. He had balanced large canvas learning within the organization and sailed beyond the systematic structures. He had been teaching in management colleges extending his efforts to disseminate knowledge through HR associations and other knowledge platforms. He wrote two best sellers and has been an avid blogger, igniting minds, bridging unconventional wisdom to practice. He has been a pioneer in social networking creating new frontiers with taking a poll on twitter and encouraging to ‘friend him’ on Facebook. His contributions towards the industry coupled with credibility to remain social and share knowledge makes him a role model. Here we present his recent interview to Citeman on learning through communities and predicting its the future behaviour.

What is your view to the community based learning in the corporate world? Learning begins with systematic education but moves beyond the system from Degrees to experience. In an organization, it is managed through the training programs and the knowledge sharing initiatives. But in absence of such an infrastructural support how would an individual continue learning? There are several scenarios which can create roadblocks to learning. Recession brought in lower investment in training and long term unemployment. There can be further limitations. In case of an entrepreneur, who would be responsible for his own learning, but may not be able to take a sabbatical from his venture. Under such circumstances, how do you see continuity in the process?
Learning begins with a personal choice. It entirely depends on the individual. Organizations can create training institute, arrange programs and employees would attend them. But all these efforts will not convert into the change knowledge level until and unless one is willing to learn. It can empower an individual but the willingness to put that newly gained power to work will still depend on them. Anyone can be taught to strum guitar. But that will not make them a guitarist. To make it useful one needs to put an effort and practice. Such as 10,000 hrs of practice and consistency that will make learning ready to be used. The discipline to inculcate learning will remain a personal prerogative. Learning, implementing it and sharing the experience would add value to the individual. The interest to work through this process is ultimately an individual’s choice.

What role does the virtual community play or add on to this process for learning?
Virtual communities have brought learning closer to the learner. Wikipedia has brought in this change in learning. Authentic information available makes it easy to learn. Community leaders play a greater role in directing the learners. Cognitive surplus is another area. The free time is being redirected to create a huge mass of information, creatively and generously shared by people on the internet. This is making a lot of information available for reference. Whenever you have a problem you can Google it. Sometimes even find the solutions to the problems you never had. That’s the amount of information which is available, which makes it easy to learn as well as difficult to ‘choose’ what to learn. You just don’t find articles but videos and lectures on them. We all learn more by watching. So if there is a word that I am looking for and can see a video on how it is used with what reference, I will learn faster.

What do you identify as leading and lagging factor to it?
The leading factor is the personal interest and the lagging factor is the information overload with ‘too many choices’. Anyone can read an article on wiki on any topic. But very few would go research beyond it for in-depth learning. There are links to other documents mentioned in the article which provides further knowledge. We learn something new we need to propel further with it. One needs to balance the paradox of knowing too many things and not too much about everything. Digging deeper to what we initially find on the surface builds knowledge in the long run. Cognitive surplus builds on the paradox of choice with not just information available but how to use it such as lolzcats to Ushadi. Suppose, when one goes to an ice cream store, there are hundred varieties. The more one tastes, the more difficult it gets to decide. Decision making stands simple when we have fewer choices to make with its clarified consequences. In this situation when information has been tagged with the adjectives used with a reference to who have generated the content and what my friends read have major part to play in decision making.

Where and how do you see it emerging in three years from now?
As more and more people across the continuum, have greater access to internet, learning will increase through digital interactions. Virtualization and visualization will be the mainstay. YouTube will have a major part to play in learning. If you see, the youngsters are more likely to learn from viewing, and that includes everything for e.g. how to fold a shirt video. Anyone can shoot a three minute video and upload it. These three minute videos will bring in much faster and effective learning. Furthermore integrating different domains will ensure faster dissemination. Tagging information will stand elemental. Suppose there is a video of 30 mins. But what I need is 3 mins after 15 mins. Consequently an intricate tagging about the content will make the search and access effective. A precise input about a larger piece of information makes it easier to choose. Such as Twitter with 140 words provides the best reference to research on the topic that interests the readers. This brings in faster connects to the knowledge that would have otherwise taken a longer time to impart.

What role would this learning available in the virtual community play in the real world where theoretical knowledge and information might not be available to the users?
Cognitive surplus creatively and generously contributed by the users, with escalating man-hours of knowledge that is built over the years along with the social media pacing its availability for ready reference. Every organization should build it. Promote and encourage employees to build an internal wiki. Create a mass reserve for knowledge in collaboration with institutions, organizations and experts. Make a huge collaborative effort to bring it all together. It’s important to bring knowledge in summation to avoid gaps. Suppose, if every one learns how to strum one string of the guitar that will not make them learn how to play it. How to strum every other chord is the complete learning which needs to be made available.

What map would you suggest an individual to learn through the community? Any step that you would suggest which would insulate the process from the insurgencies.
Inculcating the ‘Must read habit’. It’s essential to read from every available source relevant to them. Become a human sponge and absorb learning. Though, it will remain a personal choice. Not everyone would be willing to learn through the available sources. Experience and knowledge sharing will build the greater platform. On the top, that learning gained on how to strum all the chords with which note will require practice to gain perfection.

How do you see the role of HR in this balancing act between the structured and unstructured learning?
HR needs to play the role that Facebook did to friends, they need to identify people, connect ideas, and help them to run programs by creating in a platform. HR has connection and knows where those ideas can be implemented so help the ones who are looking for the opportunity. They need to facilitate learning and knowledge sharing for others to avail and help them complete the learning cycles.  They need to act as the gateways and not gatekeeper to knowledge.

The growth from a neo-to-pro state is facilitated by learning. This process may seem natural and may stand automated. Yet, it stands productive when this effort to gain knowledge is refined, focused and guided for a desired outcome. Knowing what one needs to learn, moderating the process and finally implementing culminates as growth. The gap between what is perceived to be important and what is required is often realized from live interactions with experts. This is where repositories backed with live online communities help in learning. Authentic information which gets ranked by its users would help in shaping a reference. A successful implementation emanating from the know-how of the experts who can relate to the problem and offer a solution that befits the situation. Consequently it will embark a fruitful knowledge-sharing.

Web economics signifies surplus. Guided use of information through requirement based searches would initiate the process. Interest based repository are more likely to grow faster. As pointed by Daniel Pink in A Whole New Mind, the right brain thinking will supersede the left brain. The conceptual age will integrate information faster. Hence the technology offering that level of engagement and fueling interest will meet the demand. This would in turn generate revenue for the firms. Similarly, every individual would benefit through Personal Knowledge Management Program. As envisioned by Abhijit it would begin with the curiosity, backed by relevant research, implementation of the understanding and finally disseminating through sharing in knowledge forums. We thank him immensely for this guidance that he offered us , with which every individual can gain their imperative edge.

  • Ashish Shah R

    The desire to learn is akin to the thirst of a horse. One can provide the water, then take the horse to the water but it’s the horse who must will to quench that thirst and then act to fulfill the thirst.

  • Thanks Ashish, agreed. This is what Abhijit had emphasised with personal choice, asking the right questions and creating the magic from within. All these ideas sums up the integral effort of an individual.

  • Raj Kumar

    Thanks Nabomita for the message (drawing my attention towards this interview).
    I find it exciting and invigorating, and shall be posting my queries; and needless to add that I had been a great fan of AB’s creative writings.

    About the previous comments; it is an oft-repeated quote; in fact a cliche.. “you can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” True, very TRUE.

    But then, what prevents you from thinking of IDEAS to make your horse THIRSTY ??
    I have tried it several times, with successful results !!
    Yes, make the horse thirsty – then he will drink.

    Warm regards.

  • Avsjai

    We live in the world of ‘expertise’ but hard to find of ‘experts’.

    Our history has produced:
    Dr Radhakrishnan- a teacher who knew enough to be become a walking University.
    Dr A.L.Mudaliar – a doctor who knew enough to start a University.
    TVS Iyengar- an Engineer who knew everything under a car’s bonnet.

    It seems,we live in the modern ‘digital age’ with a satisfaction of ‘swallow knowledge’.

    Even before we are student enough,we begin to think we are teachers……
    Even before we have apprenticed enough,we begin to think we are experts.

    We are yet to care about getting our fundamentals right.

    The thirst of knowledge is dying.

    Will the ‘experts’ rule the world again?

    Please comment.

    A.V.Srinivasan (AVS)

  • Thanks AVS,

    I agree with you on the special effort that we tend to miss out on. That extra mile which can make us pro is less travelled ! Mostly we fail to see the value that we can contribute with an higher level of expertise. At that level on contribution , the reward is immense as it goes far beyond the individual. All the hardships faced and prices paid to make that journey becomes worthwhile.


  • Kinj28

    I completely agree with Abhijit on point that lot of read through many topics but fail to research further to gain in-depth knowledge and many a times the reason is too many choices to decide from.
    Also on topic, that watching makes us learn faster.
    Overall, really nice insights from Abhijit.

  • Thank you for your kind words. I liked the way he put the analogy of learning ‘how to play the guitar’ . Just because we take a course doesn’t mean we will learn how to play it. We need to supplement it with sufficient hours of practice. On the top, if everyone learn how to strum one string of the guitar , its still remains an incomplete learning !

  • Thank you Raj, I appreciate the idea of making the horse thirsty. Thanks to the escalating professional competition and survival of the fittest, almost every horse is thirsty !

  • Vishwajeet Rajwaday

    The idea of HR playing the Facebook role is really interesting. I would also like to expand it to “companies” providing that environment and importantly culture of learning. Building an organization focussed and importantly, interested and keen on learning is a challenging but surely a very rewarding experience building long term sustainability. I also think learning organizations have far lesser attrition than non learning ones.

    thank you for the insight. I will sure use this thought of “HR playing role of Facebook to create the platform”.

  • Yes Vishwajeet, even I found that idea very interesting ! Please do share your experience on implementing HR as Facebook to the organization. We will wait to know your journey through it. Do connect with us if you need any help.
    You are so correct on your observation as the learning organization grooms motivated employees who is empowered create a difference through their work. Consequently that impacts with lower attrition rate.

  • Ritesh’s views as received from LinkedIn:

    As I understand, the main idea behind the entire interview is to point out the way of capability enhancement points of people by providing right path. People doesn’t corresponds to the employee of any company, people corresponds to anyone who is resource of the company. This article is good one in current scenario of IT company architecture.

    Right now, especially Indian IT resources are fundamentally involved in maintenance kind of activities. They are bonded in certain predefined activity. HR team can/should provide an adequate environment to increase the learning curve.

    Another aspect is that, IT research is not related with any bookish knowledge or googling. IT research depends on information which some one possesses and tried to implement in day-to-day activities. We need to think that, Newton is NOT the only person who discovers that the apple is coming down towards earth and NOT towards the sky. But the fact is that Newton has desire to (re)search and has the finding capacity of facts.

    IT demands, forced the recruitment team to hire peoples who has no significant relationship with computer knowledge. Many surveys suggest that more than 65% fresher engg are from other than computer stream. So, This is big challenge for HR Team to provide a good learning curve to such resource. And it is big challenge to those people also, who joined to another stream which is very new for them.

    In my view, if some one want to dig the information then he/she should have very much interest in that area. Re-search and experiments are very much depends on person to person.

    I am looking forward to comment on my thought.

    Thanking You,

    Ritesh Sinha
    Sr. Advisor
    Digital Anticipeos

  • Here’s a comment as recieved from Mr. Vidyananda Garg
    Thank you for sharing this interview.It is quite informative and well written.Let me say , the questions for the interview were very well selected and formulated.My compliments to the person who framed the questions .
    I agree that virtual communities will play more and more role in learning , both at individual as well as collective level .More choices do create difficulty of choosing , given that time is limited .Yes, there is a need to build knowledge by taking the help of experts .
    Thank you once again , for sharing and for enabling me to learn.
    Best regards,
    Vidyanand Garg
    Senior Civil Servant at Government of UP
    Lucknow Area, India Government Administration