This article is sponsored by Center for Creative Leadership.

Have you encountered the ‘buffet mentality’ in L&D – more is better? Chris Looi, senior faculty, Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), carves out three tips to get your digital learning solutions looking like a dessert table.

I, for one, love food. While I enjoy all food, my ultimate weakness - Achilles heel is my deep penchant for dessert. While staying at a hotel in Hong Kong, I discovered the joys of dessert buffets. What pure indulgence! An amazing spread of treats was laid before me – creamy, homemade ice cream, small, sublime soufflés, a chocolate fountain overflowing with Belgian milk chocolate, wonderful warm waffles… the list goes on. As I surveyed the scene, I actually felt overwhelmed for a moment by the staggering sweet smorgasbord.

But what does all this have to do with digital learning? Did I just make you salivate for nothing? Fear not – there are lessons to be learnt from this.

The ala carte mentality

As we have worked with clients globally to develop digital leadership learning solutions, we sometimes encounter the ‘buffet mentality’ – more is better; the largest possible amount of digital titles is optimal. After all, “big, better, best”, right?

Wrong. Well, at least to me. While this may work in some contexts, CCL prefers the ‘less is more’ mentality, or – to carry on with the food analogy – the ‘ala carte mentality’. As a rule of thumb, when clients approach us for digital solutions, we do not recommend investing in all of our digital assets. Rather, we conduct discovery conversations to understand the specific client learning objectives, and then select and suggest the appropriate assets.

A recent whitepaper by Samir Mehta, digital learning manager, and Holly Downs, senior evaluation faculty, says, “Learning initiatives need to focus on the unique needs of learners in the context of their organisation’s culture. The right amount of learning, served at the right time, and in the right portions keeps a leader growing”.

The right sommelier

“Would you like an accompanying beverage?” asked the sommelier.

“What’s your advice?” I asked in reply.

“A Riesling? Ice-wine?”

This went on throughout the evening in the hotel in Hong Kong. The sommelier, John, provided great support and advice.

The right amount of learning, served at the right time, and in the right portions keeps a leader growing.
When trying to create a successful digital learning initiative, key stakeholder support is critical. Our experience shows that support from the top is a vital and critical ingredient for any successful learning initiative. Have you sought their inputs? Their perspective? Their support?

As part of an organisation’s leadership transformation, we partnered in creating a blended solution for a thousand front-line leaders. It was the first time that this organisation was utilising digital learning, and given their unfamiliarity, HR knew the importance of gaining the support of the CEO. The CEO himself undertook all the digital learning assets and recorded a video that outlined the importance of digital learning and why his leaders should invest their time and effort in completing the resources.

Always get support and advice from your top leaders when undergoing a digital learning initiative.

Your dining companions

To wrap up my night in Hong Kong, I’ll tell you what truly made it great. While the ambience, desserts and top-notch service were magnificent, the core ingredient that truly made it a memorable evening was the company, the people who shared the experience with me.

Likewise, sharing the experience and interaction is vital for digital learning success. Learning a new leadership skill isn’t easy, and implementing that skill in your everyday life can often be even harder. Learners often require the support of others to stay motivated and engaged to ensure that learning is sustained.

Samir Mehta and Holly Downs say, “Two kinds of partnerships can provide the necessary support needed for in-depth learning: accountability partners (peers who learn together, share experiences, discuss challenges and goals and push one another to move beyond the status quo) and learning partners (those whom help the leader reflect on ideas and insights from the development experience. A learning partner may be a boss, mentor, coach, HR business partner, peer, or other trusted person)”.

Always get support and advice from your top leaders when undergoing a digital learning initiative.
So the next time you’re dining out and enjoying a meal, I hope you are reminded of some key ways to increase the success of your digital learning initiative:

1. An ala carte mentality – less is more, be focused and strategic.

2. The right sommelier – be open to advice from stakeholders and get support from the top.

3. Your dining companions – sharing the experience and ensuring learning partnerships is key.


The author is Chris Looi, senior faculty, Center for Creative Leadership (CCL). He brings a unique and diverse set of experiences into each programme he facilitates at the Center for Creative Leadership. Before joining CCL, Christopher worked as a management consultant for Cap Gemini Ernst and Young, consulting with Fortune 500 companies in consumer goods, banking and finance, and retail. 

chris looi, ccl


Lead photo / iStock