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Large Cohorts: Developing With Speed and Scale

Thursday, April 26, 2018

What do you do when you have to quickly build leadership capability across your organization? I see this request coming from the C-suite to the CLO more and more frequently as the pace of change continues to increase, whether through transformation, mergers and acquisitions, retention and engagement challenges, or any number of other business and industry shifts. It’s clear that business as usual won’t work, and this holds true for leadership development too.

Organizations can no longer solely rely on the traditional model—develop senior leaders and then drive a learning cascade through the organization over time. Similarly, the model of developing 25-50 people at a time in a classroom or even virtually cannot have an impact on the business quickly enough in many cases.

Large Cohort Learning Strategies

As technological innovations are fueling a fundamental shift in the field of corporate education, a model is emerging that aims at development with speed and scale. Many of our clients are increasingly turning to large cohorts–or even “massive” cohorts—to accelerate their development initiatives.

Technology is enabling organizations to embrace large cohort learning strategies—delivering a highly contextualized learning experience that reaches hundreds or even thousands of managers and leaders in a short period of time.


Through a cohort-based, virtual blended-learning approach, leaders across the globe experience the same curriculum, message, and conversation together, which creates a common understanding, language, and frameworks for driving the strategy forward. It builds critical alignment and empowers leaders to take ownership of the strategy to move it forward quickly.


American Express Partnership: Driving Innovation, Reaching Large Numbers

One of the companies leading the adoption of a large cohort development strategy is American Express. At Harvard Business Publishing, we are partnering with American Express to design and implement a learning experience to engage and build capabilities for thousands of American Express leaders around the globe.

Want to know how we are approaching this massive challenge and creating a broad impact? Come to our ATD 2018 session,Growing Great Leaders: Accelerating the Development of Your Next Generation Leaders,” and find out. During this session (May 8 from 10:00 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.), you will hear first-hand from the people overseeing this leading-edge approach. As part of the session, you will have the opportunity to experience this program from the point of view of a learner, an American Express Learning professional, and a sponsoring executive.

About the Author

Josh Brand is senior director of global delivery and is responsible for the delivery of Harvard Business Publishing’s Solutions for clients around the globe. Josh has more than 15 years of executive education and management consulting experience and has built management education programs for clients around the world. Josh was a senior member of the Babson Executive Education team, focusing on designing and delivering customized executive education programs. Before that, he spent over a decade as a management consultant, focusing on helping global companies formulate strategy.

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