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Change management guru plots his course

The world of maritime learning and training is undergoing a revolution. The question is whether those driving it should have had a career in maritime or a journey in management consultancy.

Shipping is likely to experience a shortage of skills before it suffers a lack of people. How the train the next generation and, more importantly, who should train them is the question being asked.

Los Angeles-based management consultant Sarah Jensen Clayton (no relation) observed that few things are more important during a change event than communication from leaders who can paint a clear and confidence-inspiring vision of the future.

How true, yet how often forgotten.

It’s not easy to convince your own team – let alone an entire industry – that change is necessary.

But as another management consultant from another era, the renowned Peter Drucker, opined: the greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence – it is to act with yesterday’s logic.

Abhinava Narayana is a convincing communicator who recognises the requirement to begin using tomorrow’s technology to bring an element of control to a turbulent future for maritime.

And yes, he has a Master’s in Change Management from INSEAD business school in Fontainebleau, France.

As the newly installed Chief Executive at the digital learning and training provider OneLearn Global, Mr. Narayana can go one of two ways.

Either his transformational management style will accelerate development of his business at a time of rapid change in shipping or he will completely misjudge the size of the training task. It’s one or the other, and here’s why.

Maritime is 20 years behind the curve in its learning and training, he says. It’s the problem of the “comfortable normal”. Maritime is where financial services, manufacturing, and automotive were before the financial crash.

“Where there was money to be made in transformation, they changed,” he reflects, doubting that shipping has yet to be enthused with that same need.

Mr. Narayana sets out his roadmap for OneLearn Global concisely.

He wants better learning content – lots of it – and he wants better learning technology, with a hybrid suite of online and offline courses.

Further, he wants to tap into augmented reality and artificial intelligence to drive the “learning journey” from cadet to captain and he wants the business to become more customer-centric – moving away from the customer paying the bill to the customer benefiting from the training.

Finally, he wants to help companies to become “comfortable with the pace of change”.

Some of these milestones are short-term and achievable, some are further off and still visionary, however they are meant to stretch and challenge.

Turbulence in maritime is likely to come in the form of a shortage of skills before a shortage of people. As experienced mariners come ashore, the next generation will have the enthusiasm but not the proficiency.

And that will manifest itself in the boardroom as well as onboard ship. The next generation of leaders in maritime require learning and training, especially in communication and change management.

He has arrived at a business with what he describes as a strong foundation but he knows there is work to do.

“I build a team like a jigsaw puzzle. Each piece is unique and each has his and her own place; and I will get more pieces for my puzzle,” he says.

Abhinava Narayana is in Bangalore, India’s silicon valley, and is relocating – for some of his time – to Limassol, Cyprus. It’s a journey that mirrors the transformation he wants for OneLearn Global: pulling next-gen tech into the comfortable world of maritime.

After all, our only security is our ability to change.

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