Shahid Din, Group Chief Executive Officer, The Learning InitiativeShahid Din, Group Chief Executive Officer
The increasing use of digitalization through AI, ML, and RPA is fundamentally changing the way the global economy is organized, adding more speed and flexibility in terms of how people work. This digital disruption, coupled with the gig economy, is driving exponential growth for business leaders who can master it. To make the most of this digital revolution, business leaders have to relearn new leadership patterns to lead in the ever-evolving landscape of the digital and talent revolution; only then can they spearhead their transformation activities to accelerate business value in this fast-changing landscape.

In an exclusive interview with Manage HR, Shahid Din, Group Chief Executive Officer, and Sameer Noorali, director of talent transformation of the Dubai-based The Learning Initiative, share how their company helps adaptive business leaders accelerate business value in a complex digital world. The Learning Initiative is a leading people and digital transformation consultancy focused on developing a new breed of business leaders who are able to master the new digital landscape.

Please introduce us to The Learning Initiative and the leadership development approach you take?

We are a KHDA (Knowledge and Human Development Authority, Dubai)-accredited, multiple award-winning global talent transformation consultancy headquartered in Dubai since 2006. Our highly sought-after, award-winning leadership team is featured on Harvard business case reviews and has worked across four continents. We have recently opened offices in Singapore and the UK during the pandemic, serving clients across APAC and Europe.

When it comes to leadership development, we believe that training isn’t one-size-fits-all, and in some cases, training is not the only answer. Our consultative approach allows us to discover unspoken behaviors by focusing on today’s business leaders and helping them accelerate towards their business, technology and people goals. To be successful, they need to master the five essential tracks: leading self, team, organization, innovation, and technology. We deploy these tracks to help develop leaders ready to roll their sleeves up and transition to visionary leaders during these times of uncertainty and change. To make this happen, we take a hybrid learning approach, which incorporates the physical and digital world together and the third and vital—experiential world, to amplify an authentic experience that leaders can relate to and apply immediately in their daily operations. Going a step further, we also offer next-generation business simulation workshops that combine a range of skills and create a realistic physical and digital experience, allowing leaders to learn fast and work together as cross-functional teams.

What leadership development best practices do you employ on behalf of your clients?

With the rise of digital, especially during and after the pandemic, we see a shift in leadership moving from managing to genuinely leading with purpose. We call this adaptive leadership.
To support this, we take a client-centric partnership approach, where we collaborate with our partner organizations at every stage of their journey. We begin by taking the ideas of design thinking and identifying where the roadblocks lie in their organization, particularly in their leadership teams. We offer tailored different intervention options like simple reskilling or mentoring to fix the issue based on an assessment. If the challenge is more nuanced and has cultural or behavioral roots, we can even bring in an advanced intervention to help organizations understand new principles and coach them on how to solve organizational impediments. Using a cadence approach, we help the business identify gaps and then provide a solution before moving to the next value increment. We even help our clients measure the outcome of these learning and coaching services at every step through different indicators independent of ROI-based performance measurement. This shortens the overall client feedback cycle and helps them realign the training or coaching modules as and when necessary. Finally, we always stay by our clients’ side on their digital and people transformation journey. We provide continuous support as we believe the domain of technology is ever-changing, and business strategies need to be flexible enough to accommodate these changes.

At this juncture, can you please share a client success story to paint a better picture of your unique offering for our readers?

Recently, The Learning Initiative worked with a large property development organization in Abu Dhabi. The client was looking to undertake a cultural change to become one of the greatest employers in its domain. We took a step-by-step approach to help them achieve this goal. In the first stage, we defined the current situation and where they want to be professionally in the future. The Learning Initiative then established three discovery sprints; the first one was at an individual level to get to know each of the employees, the second one was at a team level to understand the dysfunctions that they were going through, and finally, the third was at a leadership level. Based on the insights, we set up personalized learning journeys for over 92 people and a team of seven leaders. This is unique because we didn’t put them all into one box and train everybody on customer service. Instead, we ran a world skill matrix that enabled us to put people into quadrants and identify different strategies to develop them. Furthermore, this was supported by profiling each individual’s personality to help them understand how to flex communication depending on the situation or the person they are working with and finally work with the leadership team to develop an agile, growth mindset, inculcating a culture of trust, communication, innovation and empowerment of their teams. This approach left our client with a highly engaged workforce because we have designed every intervention in partnership with the business.
  • We help you understand the vision, take a deep look at what the reality is and using our knowledge and wisdom help you take the steps to transform

On a concluding note, what does the future look like for The Learning Initiative?

In the future, we want to complement our consulting services with different e-learning tools in the coming months to further strengthen our leadership training modules. In this regard, we are already assessing the potential of the Metaverse to simulate unexplored business models and evolving human behaviour to heighten the learning experience. This holds untapped potential for engaging more and more leaders and employees during their developmental training by delivering more exciting content. Besides, the immersive benefits can offer more meaningful ways for different teams to collaborate and come together unprecedentedly. With these innovations on the horizon, The Learning Initiative is eagerly looking forward to the future and emboldening its endeavor of creating better leaders. Because we don’t sell products, rather focus on experiences, this focus on outcome drives real results for our clients.