Dear [INL] Scientist: Did you know that you are over-qualified and under-served? Or at least once it comes to learning. And most likely, once looking at learning beyond your scientific field.

A 2012 Study (see page 11, section 5.1.6)c.) from the European Commission provides some evidence that there is little training available to R2 (Recognized) to R4 (Leading) researcher, and the bit that exists apparently focuses on their specific academic career development.

Don’t get me wrong here, it’s not that there is a scarcity in education and training offers as such. But there is an absence of education and training offers that go beyond master level pedagogic approaches, and that make use of science-driven and research-based pedagogy. This is to say that almost all education and training offers that you are going to find at the market, besides doctoral programs, will make use of largely descriptive learning materials, of backward looking case studies, of sandbox level problem or project based learning activities, and that will let you synthesise in the abstract.

That’s the best what you get. Like it, or not.

Let’s put this in perspective to clearly bring out why this seems to be problematic: You trained hard to become a scientists, you have developed sound and proper analytical and critical thinking skills, and you are familiar to navigate in unfamiliar and discomforting terrains. You are capable to learn at the highest and deepest standards. But all you get once it comes to structured and organised learning are master level pedagogic approaches.

That’s sort of putting an athlete swimmer into a paddling pool.

In practice this implies that if you want to learn about anything related to business, management, organisations, innovation, economics, socio-technical and socio-economic systems, behavioural matters and human interaction, communication, and so forth, you are either limited to learn by master level pedagogic approaches, or you engage in self-learning.

So then, self-learning it is?

Anyway, you are a scientist and can engage with the research literature, learn about related studies in the respective fields, and how to conduct them, and thus get your learning the science-driven and research-based learning your way. And sure, you know how to Google and how to find expert communities with whom you could engage, so you also can hook up with peers.

Sounds like a way out of such dilemma, just perhaps a bit more time consuming to organise the learning yourself.

And while this might be true, there is also the chance that you suffer from a double-loop learning disability caused by exactly the skills that you praise and that allow you to prevent failure in your day to day research environment. In accordance to a HBR article such double-loop learning disabilities could result from the fact that “…many professionals are almost always successful at what they do, they rarely experience failure. And because they have rarely failed, they have never learned how to learn from failure. So whenever their single-loop learning strategies go wrong, they become defensive, screen out criticism, and put the “blame” on anyone and everyone but themselves. In short, their ability to learn shuts down precisely at the moment they need it the most.” – But now that you are aware of such potential burdens, you sure can overcome them.

So are there perhaps any alternatives in between master level pedagogic approaches and self learning? Or are there really no advanced education and training offerings that make use of science-driven and research-based pedagogy?

Well, sort of, yes and no. As we outlined in the “INL – the Learning Organisation” document in chapter 4, there is an ever-growing number of practitioner doctorate programs in a varied field of disciplines. And the students in such programs are grown-ups in mid to senior positions and with a wealth of professional and potentially complementary knowledge. And many of such practitioner doctorate programs have taught subjects that would fit nicely into skills development at INL.

Just as an example, in the executive DBA program at the University of Liverpool’s Management School where I am acting since 2012, we run courses on Leadership, Change Management, Decision Making under Risks and Uncertainty, Complex Adaptive Systems, and Knowledge Creation. We also run courses dedicated to conducting research, such as Management Research and Action Research. And all courses do apply science-driven and research-based pedagogies. And students work on real life and workplace-based issues and problems, allowing for a triple learning outcome: individual subject related learning, individual research related learning, and organisational learning.

So there are some possible options at hand. And such sort of learning opportunities appear to be of high suitability for INL scientists to “blend in”. And it seems to be synergetic in terms of existing skills that the different learner populations could bring along. Or, at least, this is how I would evaluate this situation.

How about your perspective on this?