The assumption that a more knowledgeable workforce makes for a more competitive one seems, on its face, hard to dispute. Over the last two decades many companies have invested in software and educational programs to make their employees sharper and more competitive.

A new corporate title emerged, that of chief learning officer. The CLO is supposed to strategically guide learning for the sake of competitive advantage. Over time, case studies tend to show that when it comes to the complex tasks of product development, risk management and innovation, managers learn more from peer interaction than from enterprise learning software.

This insight leads various companies, such as Saba and Cornerstone Direct, that specialize in learning software to make their technologies more social, facilitating the work of peer networks. The challenge is that these are tools, not strategies.

They need to be embedded in a culture that can leverage these innovations. This means bringing a set of players to the table who have a holistic view of the company and a vision for how learning can inspire change.