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Use of Technology in Leadership Development

April 2006
Author:  Eilif Trondsen
Contributors: Rob Edmonds
Peter Bartlett
Rob Edmonds
Bjorn Helge Gundersen
Jeff Munks
Bill Ralston
Scott Saslow

The use of technology in corporate learning and training is increasing steadily, although even today technology plays a role in only about 27 percent of all learning and training delivery in the United States (according to the latest statistics from the ASTD). What is the case for using technology in learning and development programs that target corporate leaders—top executives as well as midlevel and junior executives? To what extent is technology finding use at this level? Very little research has taken place so far. This report fills at least part of this void.

The report examines the current reality of technology use, as well as emerging trends and developments, in leadership-development programs in organizations from different industries, in different countries, and of different sizes. Our research included an international survey in collaboration with two organizations (one in Europe) that focused on leadership development. In addition, we interviewed and had discussions with a number of other organizations and analysts. The report describes the results of this research, including in-depth case studies of three organizations—two in the United States and one in Europe—that are early adopters of technology for leadership development.

The first two sections set the stage for the detailed case studies by examining some key factors that contribute to change in the use of technology in leadership programs. Our research confirms that technology has low use today in most organizations' leadership-development programs. Evidence points to growing use, but we cannot expect quick and dramatic change, because rapidly changing technology does not necessarily imply accelerating adoption unless the culture is conducive to technology use. But a number of driving forces that the report discusses are likely to boost the adoption of technology in leadership-development programs.

Technology is now seeing growing use or will soon see greater use in the following areas:

Leadership portals. Portals have existed for many years, although new portal design and underlying technologies enable leadership portals that facilitate and support a range of executive learning experiences. The case studies in this report illustrate how organizations are providing a range of learning tools and resources through these portals and point to the types of uses we may see in more organizations in the near future.

Simulations for interactive, experiential learning. We have seen growing interest in and use of simulations—in some cases, use of game-based simulations—and this interest is extending to leadership programs. Simulations can offer virtual, hands-on learning experiences that can be difficult to create in other ways. Team-based simulations, often in blended formats that combine computer- and classroom-based delivery, can be particularly effective.

Rich media content. Audio- and video-based content is expanding rapidly on the Internet, and early indications are that both types of content will find growing use in leadership development. Audio files—especially in MP3 format that is easy to create, deliver, and use in the popular Apple iPods—are seeing growing use and may find interesting applications in leadership-development programs. More widespread use of video players on the Internet will also open opportunities for use in formal and informal learning programs for executives and managers.
The pervasive use of technology in almost all parts of business operations will increase senior leaders' understanding of the role that technology can play in leadership development. As technology becomes more user-friendly and easier to use, requiring little time investment to learn to use it, technology will find new applications in leadership development beyond those already in use in the early-adopter organizations in this report.

Download the report here:
Use of Technology in Leadership Development