In late 2020 I read a book called The Curious Advantage. One of the co-authors is Simon Brown, who is the Chief Learning Officer at Novartis. The book looks broadly at why curiosity is important to individuals, organisations and societies, particularly as a way of navigating through ambiguity and uncertainty. It also offers a practical framework for putting curiosity into action. It is peppered with examples of how curiosity can be fostered from a range of organisations, including, of course, Novartis.

Simon joined us in the Learning Uncut Emergent series to speak alongside Nigel Paine about Culture and Curiosity. In this episode, he is back to dive into how Novartis is creating a culture of curiosity, with a particular focus on the work of the learning and development team. While the L&D team at Novartis is very big – 1,000 people globally serving a workforce of 110,000 – there is much that you can take away and adapt to an organisation of any size.

If you’d like to dig further into being more curious as an individual, or building curiosity in your organisation I recommend reading The Curious Advantage. My copy of the book is jammed full of sticky notes and scribbled ideas and is fuelling lots of little actions. I hope you enjoy both the book and this conversation as much as I did.

Learning Uncut – Emergent Series: Culture and Curiosity – Simon Brown and Nigel Paine

Episode Highlights

– Novartis as a large scale global medicines company with 110,000 staff, supported by 1,000 L&D professionals

– Curiosity as “having an attitude of wonder with a spirit of exploration.”

– How CEO, Vas Narasimhan, evolved Dan Pink’s work on Drive to evolve autonomy, mastery and purpose to inspired, curious and unbossed.

– 2019 decision to go BIG on learning with $100million additional funds over five years to ramp up support for learning and curiosity across the company.  The rationale for this investment.

– How curiosity differs from growth mindset.

– What curiosity looks like at Novartis.  How it’s changed the daily experience of Novartis associates.

– Why Novartis has set a target for people to spend 5% of their time (100 hours a year) on learning. How this is measured, and the controversy surrounding this decision.

– How the Novartis learning organisation is structured to provide both alignment and flexibility to local conditions and needs around the globe.

– The four elements of the Novartis learning ecosystem: culture, content, channels and infrastructure.

– The ongoing conversation at Novartis about culture, and the linkages between leadership, culture, learning and curiosity.

– How ‘Curiosity Month’ has evolved into an ongoing series of events and activities.

– The increasing importance of data-based decisions in L&D, and how this is accessible to L&D teams of all sizes.

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Full Episode

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