Working Smarter Is a Full-time Job

Working smarter is a full-time job — and the lessons keep changing. For a glimpse of the future, audit the classes at these four learning centers.

The Best Brains in the Business

The future of business is learning. but where do you go to learn? Not to traditional business schools with their out-of-date case studies. And not to old-fashioned corporate universities, where workers go to be “trained,” assembly-line style.


The future of business education belongs to a new breed of corporate learning centers, places where the curriculum focuses on the three Cs — communication, collaboration, and creativity; where how you learn is part of what you learn; and where your graduation certificate matters much less than your impact on the business.

No, you can’t cross-enroll at these centers — yet. (See “Intelligence Report: 5-Year Forecast” for a glimpse of things to come.) That’s why we’ve audited some of the most enlightened practitioners of the new curriculum to bring back a sampling of the best new learning philosophies, technologies, and methodologies.

Best Class: Learning How to Learn

In 1994, the Bank of Montreal built a $50 million residential facility for its Institute for Learning (IFL). It’s not another monument, but a dynamic environment for continuous learning. Vast hallways are punctuated with windowed alcoves designed for serendipitous meetings and informal conversation; eight role-play rooms with video-playback technology stand ready; and the central hall features an “affinity wall” on which clients engage in visible threads of dialogue.

“We spend a tremendous amount of time learning how to learn from each other,” explains Diane Blair, manager of Meta-Learning at IFL. “Our goal is not as much about teaching a specific skill as developing a person’s capacity for learning. That’s very different from: Tell me what I need to be.”

The best class, it turns out, is not a class at all: Open Forums are the “penultimate watercooler,” says Blair. IFL’s Productivity Forum ’95, for example, brought together 150 employees from all levels with no planned agenda or presentations. Participants created their own agenda, convened their own sessions, and generated a book of proceedings.

Contact Diane Blair at or (