Sheaths shape the future for personal development
This stimulating news from Durex should inspire those of us in the ‘people business’ to greater heights. Surely, the CIPD, DfES, CBI, SBS, LSC, Business Schools, Management Institutes, private sector training providers and all in HRD can stand in line to learn the lessons, on this one. Durex accepted that, despite outstanding sales, their own penetrative research called for a totally new product footprint (sic).
After rigorous testing with thousands of volunteers, presumably in private, they confidently announced, this week, the shape of the future. If they can do this, then the rest of us with minimal take-up of entrepreneur, management and leadership development programmes should be willing to put in hand a complete overhaul of the demand and supply infrastructure.
Humility is a great leadership quality and Durex’s Marketing Director, Sarah Rose, points the way forward for those of us hoping to turn something of a flop into something of a showstopper. Sarah Rose said “Hopefully the new design should help people overcome any objections they’ve previously had about wearing condoms. This is a great step forward in offering people the sort of condoms they’ve been waiting for”.
Straightforward isn’t it! Since the 17th century when condoms were made out of sheep gut, through the linen condoms made famous in the 18th century by Casanova, through the 19th and 20th centuries where vulcanised rubber was the norm, with 9 billion being used worldwide each year, we now know it was a case of supplier push rather than buyer pull. They sold well, despite being totally the wrong shape!
When it comes to management learning, all the surveys agree. Most business leaders and entrepreneurs prefer to get their ‘know how’ informally from other business owners, rather than formally, through trainer- led programmes. In the news this week, was the breakthrough announcement from Durex that all condoms will now be penis-shaped. The advent of this ‘easy on’ condom should be a lesson to government and management development suppliers who continue to try to pull the ‘one size fits all’ solution over the heads of the UK’s prospective entrepreneurs and business leaders.
If ever there was a case for imposing standards of good practice this is it. Fortunately, the new standards are about width rather than length. None of us in Britain want to go back to the friction of 1996 when the European Union stated condoms had to be between 6.63in and 7.8in long which rather embarrassed our UK standard of between 5.9in and 6.3in.
Norwegian men have never been forgiven for demanding the upper limit.
No, the lesson from this for management and leadership development in the UK should be transparent. We should stop measuring outcomes such as external training days, certificates, diplomas, MBAs, NVQs, Investors in People recognitions and the like. Rather we should measure ‘engagement’ of the number of business leaders participating in the formal or informal development activities that they want to and were not participating in previously.
This will mean that we, as suppliers, must give future business leaders what they’ve been waiting for, which is help in establishing informal networks with their peers, other business leaders, mentors and coaches, rather than formal programmes with teachers. Much of the £billions invested in formal management development can be invested in enhancing naturally existing networks of business leaders and managers with the kind of learning they choose.
Certainly, BAB is one service provider that will be learning from, what we will now forever call, the ‘Durex Breakthrough’. We recognise that to add value to the personal development of our existing and prospective clients, we will need to provide a myriad of offline and online informal opportunities for them to learn from each other. We should be first and foremost facilitators of learning, rather than ‘know-all’ deliverers. Like Durex, we must overcome objections, respond to need and change the shape of future development opportunities.