We are thrilled to welcome Stephan Thoma to the CoDE team, as Visiting Professor of Management Practice in the Business School’s new Department of Digital Economy. Stephan is formerly Senior Director of Global Learning and Development at Google (‘Google University’). Now, he has founded Samphire Learning Solutions, a consultancy working with a range of organizations in an advisory role, to look at the skills and organizational challenges of the digital economy.
Stephan has a great background, and excellent insights into some of the key challenges for digital transformation. On top of this, he is also a Surrey alumnus!!
Over lunch in the Business insights Lab, Stephan spoke candidly with us about some of his experiences at Google, the lessons he learned there about L&D, and how he is applying those lessons with other companies. Who knew that trains, tracks, dog food, and 24-hour workplace catering had so much to teach us about management practice?
Stephan’s experience with people, systems and organisation dovetails with many of CoDE’s research themes – especially Agile principles of product- and service-development, and also the challenges of innovation in a corporate environment, and the most effective way to coordinate innovation and operation.
Google deliberately eschewed conventional business strategy – Stephan’s analogy compared the company to railway workers laying track just a few steps ahead of the moving train – and their success at fostering innovation at scale within a global tech giant was founded on some bold principles:
- An atmosphere of creativity and challenge;
- Low bureaucracy; high meritocracy;
- ‘The fast beat the slow’: act on your idea quickly, and iterate until it’s right;
- Spaces for play, relaxation and recreation are at least as fertile for new ideas as the desk and the screen;
- People are your best resource.
Stephan’s examples of how these principles were applied at Google made for fascinating hearing, and raised a lot more questions about digital transformation in practice.
But what does it mean for Learning? What is the phenomenon Stephan’s experience illuminates, and how can we apply his insight today? Could Digital lead to ‘S2S’ (Student to Student) teaching?
We are looking forward to hearing Stephan’s take on the tough questions of the Digital Economy. Stay tuned to find out where the Team is going next.