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In Conversation With Komal Gandhi: On Experiential Learning, Leadership Development and More

Last month I had a chance to meet with Komal Gandhi, an L&D Professional and Experiential Facilitator. An hour-long conversation at a Starbucks resulted in some fascinating insights on leadership development, organisational effectiveness and the direction in which professional learning is headed. Read on to find out how Komal is working on her passion and how experiential learning programs are finding great appeal in organisations across industries.

The Start Of An Exciting Journey

Komal, an alumna of MDI Gurgaon and Lady Shri Ram College, first started out in this field in 2004 in Delhi. It all began with outdoor and adventure-based learning. In 2012, she started Management by Arts in Mumbai. “I want to help businesses enhance the performance of their employees through arts-based learning solutions,” she says. Intrigued by her approach, I ask her how does art mix with business. “It’s about creativity and innovation. Management by Arts is a collaborative platform that brings together L&D and organisational development experts, filmmakers, artists and facilitators together to explore managerial learning through various art forms. My focus is to enhance productivity and efficiency of those in an organisational setup. We are helping build presence, communication & influencing through storytelling, performance and theatre-based workshops.”

Arts meets business in these innovative organizational learning programs designed and executed by Komal and her team.

Think about it. Arts, after all, allow people to find their authentic voice. While analytical problem-solving means that the old methods of education in the workplace aren’t entirely done away with, growing uncertainties and complexities in the business environment demand a different view to corporate learning. Business leaders must have a strong vision; they should be able to navigate through chaos smoothly and connect the dots to deliver unique solutions.

Moving Away From Traditional Learning

Komal’s passion for education and creating innovative learning solutions is very evident as I talk to her. She also works with experiential learning solutions that are designed to enhance team effectiveness and develop leadership qualities. “It’s about including elements of play and humour in these workshops,” she tells me. There are several areas Komal works on – presence & business storytelling, teams & leadership development, creative problem solving and designing learning interventions

Experiential learning scores big time when compared to traditional learning methods. This method of ‘learning-by-doing’ is a bridge between academics and practice. Also, it incorporates collaborative tools and techniques to enhance engagement between team members and even different teams within an organisation. No wonder, the level of ownership felt by trainees in such programs, is high.

In a world where everyone (or at least those who intend to survive and thrive) is continuously looking for new concepts and ideas, borrowing lessons from creative industries can be a huge plus. All businesses work towards a profit. However, at the end of the day, all their stakeholders – their investors, customers, and leaders are living and breathing people – all of whom have a soul and a passion. This is why traditional learning beyond a point, stops being effective.

An Organisational View of Learning

Driving learning programs on leadership development and team building with long-term progress in mind

Having a deep understanding of organisational behaviour for building such programs is critical. I ask Komal if she ever finds it tough conveying to people the value of such an arts-based program. If corporate learning departments or HRs ever look at her askance. “Sure, there can be deterrents. But most organisations today understand the impact such a program can have on their people. They take a long-term view. They make learning a part of their culture. They are constantly exploring impactful solutions.”

Whether it is used for developing leaders with the future in mind or building up teams for meeting immediate business objectives, arts-based learning programs make use of the intuitive mind. It teaches the trainees to be more observant and notice the nuances of the trade, allow them to find shared values and align themselves with the organisation’s overall mission. It heightens their awareness. It builds their capacity for arriving at breakthrough ideas. That is exactly what organisations need from the people who make the wheels go round every single day.

In an experiential learning program, knowledge is enhanced along with a person’s emotional quotient, and this takes such programs far beyond a traditional classroom training. It is crucial to determine the success of such innovative learning programs by assessing its impact on both the trainees as well as the organisation as a whole. “The way to measure success for a presence intervention is to gauge how effectively a professional can deliver or communicate his messages to his stakeholders – both externally and internally. This also reflects in their performance at work, their overall ‘stage presence’ and the way they begin incorporating elements of storytelling in their presentations and meetings,” adds Komal.

The Future of Learning

Corporate learning programs, when they first started, were  focused on skill-based training. They then moved to man-days based training. Now the learning programs are moving from fixing problems to future readiness.

“Individuals are driving their own learning agenda these days,” says Komal. “People are taking ownership of their learning which means that online learning is getting increasingly popular. People are consciously moving from being passive recipients of information and data to active learners.”

Experiential learning meets this demand for personalised learning. The fact that corporate learning is being led by content curators and experienced facilitators, leadership development is becoming a self-driven pursuit. It isn’t just about updating the skills of the workforce. There are advancements in technology and constant competition in an extremely crowded marketplace, which call for highly energetic and passionate learners.

Every organisation needs leaders that learn fast, adapt fast and move strategies to execution really fast. Employees at all levels in the organisational hierarchy recognise that better revenue for the organisation (and by extension better earnings for the employees themselves) are driven by their learning curve. In fact, I found this interesting graphical representation on Deloitte Insights about how important corporate learning across countries.

Learning: Percentage of respondents rating this trend “important” or “very important”.
Source: Deloitte Insights

The takeaway from it all is that both organisations and individuals together are driving this new trend of putting the learners in the driving seat. And Komal is here, leading initiatives and programs through innovative concepts that make learning not only highly relevant to the business in context but does so using arts in a scientific manner.


To know more about arts-based learning programs or have a tete-a-tete with Komal, please write to us at sg@c4e.in

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