March 10, 2014

Executives Address the Future of Learning

On March 7, leaders from a variety of industries took part in the second annual Future of Learning Forum held by Columbia Business School Executive Education. The event, hosted by Michael Malefakis, associate dean, and Stephen Newman, program director of Executive Education, illustrated how advances from a wide array of fields, including technology, social psychology, and neuroscience, are spurring fresh, innovative approaches to learning today. “We have deliberately created an eclectic group,” Malefakis told the room at the start. “I hope we can draw inspiration from each other.”

Carol Becker, dean of Columbia’s School of the Arts, was the first speaker of the event. She put forth the importance of creating a protective environment to encourage creativity. She wants art students, she said, to feel safe enough to be themselves and to take risks in their work. “Some of it’s going to work,” she said of their art, “and some of it’s going to fail. But the process is what’s important to us.” That idea was reinforced by one of the later speakers, Erica Fox, director of people development at Google, who cited studies that say feeling safe is the single best predictor of a team’s success.

Other speakers were Richard Saul Wurman, an entrepreneur known for creating TED, who warned against getting too comfortable and neglecting to push yourself, and Wei Jiang, the Arthur F. Burns Professor of Free and Competitive Enterprise and curriculum director of the Program for Financial Studies. The event then concluded with a discussion on how participants would approach learning in their own organizations in the future.