fabernovel loader

Apr 25, 2018 | 4 min read


Learning expeditions: triggering transformation


Antonin Torikian


Of the many tools available to organizations going through the process of transformation, one is particularly useful: the learning expedition. A real accelerator for decision-making, running an “LX” can help to galvanize your group and forge strong convictions on subjects that you haven’t previously dealt with. And yet, the existing literature on this subject is limited. At FABERNOVEL we’ve been organizing them for seven years, and in this article I’ll be sharing some of the lessons we’ve learned.

Forging ideas through experience

Cities and regions across Europe, Africa, America and Asia are bursting at the seams with models and initiatives that are discussed in journals and specialist magazines, both in print and online. However, it’s rare to find reports that provide an objective view of the situation on the ground, and rarer still to find a manager willing to talk candidly, to reveal the workings of their inner circle. Going on a learning expedition means engaging with the moving ecosystem, facing up to reality and developing convictions through concrete experience and exceptional relationships with our hosts. “Learning by doing”, as Kenneth Arrow would say. Indeed, how can we understand:

The power of the WeChat platform and its 600 million users without ever testing it by sending an instant transfer to your friends?

The boundaries between professional and personal life in Denmark, a country often held up as an example in France, without talking directly to its trades unions and employees?

The immediacy of the dangers posed by widespread facial recognition and the associated metadata in some Asian countries without observing how they’re already being used today in day-to-day security operations?

San Francisco is undoubtedly a key destination. Closer to home, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Milan, London, Tel Aviv and Copenhagen are also pertinent learning destinations, depending on your objectives. Over the past decade, new ecosystems have emerged in Africa, Asia and India, with cultural particularities that are especially interesting in terms of the markets and opportunities that these regions represent for French companies: smart cities in Singapore, the sharing economy in China, robotics in Japan etc. But before we choose our destination, let’s talk about objectives.


Without objectives, there can be no results

As well as being a journey of exploration, a learning expedition should help to meet very specific objectives. Here are some of the challenges that we’ve helped big organizations face in recent months:

  • Building the group’s new head office within seven years.
  • Rewriting the remuneration and performance evaluation policy.
  • Improving the group’s social media presence in Asia, particularly in China.
  • Optimizing the organization’s IT delivery model.
  • Rewriting the learning and development policy.
  • Identifying suitable partners and signing agreements to launch pilot projects in Chicago and Boston.
  • Uniting the group’s executive committee around the new start-up investment policy.
  • Rewriting the group management’s internal communications policy based on the “all hands meetings” model used in Silicon Valley.
  • Launching a mobile application and making it the biggest app in the sector.

“The future is already here”, to quote William Gibson. Whether we like it or not. It’s already a reality in many parts of the world. In a borderless market economy that requires us to move beyond our comfort zones, reinventing our ways of thinking is a priority. Learning expeditions are a great tool for shaping the future to suit the specific needs of your business.


Twice as much work

A learning expedition is a lot of work! The goal is to design and then experience an immersive journey in just a few days.

Before setting off on a learning expedition, we need to define our agenda. That means adopting a clear editorial approach and identifying the right contacts: that might mean meeting with the top talent at IDEO, pioneers of the design thinking which has spread throughout the universities of the US West Coast, or a sit-down with the team assembled by Marc Andreessen, the venture capitalist behind Netscape, Mosaic, Facebook and eBay. It’s up to you to decide where to start your path to innovation. After signing off on the LX with your executive committee, you need to clear your diaries, align your interests and communicate more extensively on the reasons for the learning expedition and its objectives.

During the learning expedition, prepare for an intense, exciting sprint: getting up at 6 a.m., taking between 5 and 10 meetings a day, followed by a daily debrief and exercises where you transpose the lessons learned to your own organizational model. You’ll spend your evenings working on current projects back home, taking calls and making decisions. All being well, you’ll get to bed at about 11 p.m.

After the learning expedition, you’ll have to work through the backlog that built up while you were away. That still leaves a lot of work to be done: for example, integrating the results of the learning expedition, monitoring the decisions made, mobilizing your team, providing a summary for colleagues and conducting monthly reviews of the return on investment.

Going on a learning expedition means sparking a movement, inviting comparisons, forging an individual and collective state of mind that will allow you to shape the future of your organization and your philosophy, with a total understanding of the social, technical and political consequences at stake. It means developing beliefs based on a deeper understanding of the current standards and benchmarks within your industry.


Would you like to organize a Learning expedition ?

Contact us
logo business unit


We enable teams and organizations to move twice as fast.

next read