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European horizons

This post first appeared on the LINE website on December 1st 2010.

Ade Derbyshire-Moore, LINE’s General Manager in Zurich, describes our one-step-at-a-time approach to expanding the business into Europe.

Being responsible for LINE’s Zurich office has meant that I play a large part in our expansion into continental Europe. Notice I say continental Europe as the UK is still part of Europe but as a nation, we are good at forgetting that!

We are seeing very exciting possibilities for that territory – partly because a lot of global organisations use English as their main business language and are into exploring new ideas in L&D.

LINE has a unique offering in Europe which revolves around the fact that we’re industry all-rounders – a one-stop-shop. What is apparent in a lot of the companies in the territories we work in, like Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Italy, is that they specialise in one thing; maybe it’s e-learning, maybe it’s serious games or maybe they specialise in upfront learning analysis. But, the idea of bringing all this together; forming a coherent strategy that allows an organisation to train their employees better. Forming a strategy that aligns itself with their business goals and then to deliver it with a bunch of exciting methodologies, be that e-learning, video or whatever gets the job done – that is a new message for where I work.

We’ve noticed that since we opened the Zurich office in 2007 there have been a number of exciting European developments. We’re now certainly in the top 10 companies in the industry in Switzerland and have an enviable client list from top banks like Credit Suisse; to leading pharmaceuticals like Novartis. LINE works with major insurance companies like Swiss Re, as well as agribusiness mainstreamers like Syngenta. We’re now seen as a fixed part of the learning community in Switzerland and we’re further building our profile in that territory.

Zurich Office Europe

I don’t think people see us so differently in continental Europe as they do in the UK but I do think there are differences in emphasis. In the UK we are the leading provider of bespoke e-learning, whereas in mainland Europe, whilst we are certainly seen as experts in that field, equally clients value our consulting and analysis skills. A lot of the courses we’ve created over there have been less focussed on the e-learning side of things and more about general communications and consulting elements. Our business has moved away from – “here’s the content, make us a course” – and over the last few years, the success of that has filtered into the rest of the business.

We’re looking very carefully at presenting that thing which is uniquely LINE to other cultures. We know that what works in Switzerland won’t necessarily work in Italy, what works in Italy won’t work in Germany. So we’ll still be presenting ourselves as LINE but we’ll be doing it in slightly different flavours, in a way that works for that market. It will take time – it’s something we’ve got to grow carefully and organically to make sure we still convey our same message but in the different formats required. Not just growth for growth’s sake but so that it is going to make a difference to the organisations that we meet.

Any company that wants to create learning for a global audience, they have to have understanding how different people in different cultures learn. This is something I’ve learnt after working in various different cultures over the past decade.

What impressed me about LINE, when I joined, was that even though it was a UK based company with offices in London and Sheffield, it had already an impressive portfolio of impressive, high-level projects that it had done throughout the world. It had spent a lot of time, effort, money and energy, not just making assumptions about how people best learn but testing assumptions on a country by country basis, which is something I don’t think any company of the same type has ever done.

What this means is that now that I’m going out to these territories, as we establish permanent footholds, I can give them a message saying, “This is what works in different cultures and different regions of the world, and why do we know this? It’s because we’ve taken the time to test it with our clients to get the results we need to be absolutely sure that this is going to work.”

Sometimes our research has been counter-intuitive. For example, in some of the Germanic countries, a slightly cartoony, frivolous style may not work, but that wasn’t born out of the evidence. So no matter what people tell me, I can show them what the evidence says. Based on that evidence we’ve created a whole range of new programmes to pan-European and global audiences and we’re enjoying the same results that are synonymous with LINE.