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Experiential learning for leadership and sustainability at IBM and HSBC

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to draw on empirical data from two major organisations (IBM and HSBC) to offer insight on the question of the effectiveness and potential value of experiential learning approaches to developing the mindsets and skills needed by organisational leaders as they respond to the pressures and opportunities of sustainability. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The data in this paper are drawn from semi-structured interviews with previous programme participants in IBM's Corporate Service Corps and HSBC's Climate Champions Programme. Findings ‐ Interviewees reported that the learning programmes had a powerful impact and that a range of outcomes was achieved. The experiential, immersive experience was a fundamental factor in the achievement of these outcomes, from the perspective of participants, but only alongside a number of other key aspects of the design and facilitation of the programme, and also a number of factors related to the wider organisational context. Research limitations/implications ‐ It would be valuable to explore similar questions with a larger sample of programme participants, and also to explore variations across a wider number of organisations. Similarly, it would be valuable to gather longitudinal data to explore how the perspectives of participants on the impact of these learning programmes vary over time. Practical implications ‐ The findings lend weight to arguments that those involved in management development might usefully give more consideration of the potential value of experiential learning approaches. The findings also suggest that appropriate consideration be given to a number of other design and facilitation factors, as well as the scope for influencing a range of relevant factors in the wider organisational context. Originality/value ‐ This paper contributes original empirical data on the effectiveness and potential value of experiential learning approaches.

Keywords: Climate Champions programme; Corporate Service Corps; Corporate governance; Earthwatch; Education; Education for sustainability; Experiential learning; HSBC; IBM; Leadership; Leadership for sustainability; Service learning; Sustainability

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2012-03-16

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