LILA ~ Learning Innovations Laboratory at the Harvard Graduate School of Education

Looking for content and documents from our Gatherings? Login


Founded in 2000 at the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Project Zero, “Learning Innovations Laboratory (LILA)” is a consortium of researchers and practitioners who are leaders in the field of organizational learning and change. They collaborate by sharing experimental work and emerging thinking in order to generate effective future practices. With the input of academic experts from a variety of disciplines, these leaders collectively become a ‘learning lab’ in which they learn with and from one another about the contemporary challenges of human learning & innovation in organizations.

LILA has three main goals:

Create social connections: Generate high-trust relationships among top global Chief Learning/Innovation Officers across industries and with top academic thinkers and researchers in the fields of organizational learning and innovation.

Craft intellectual insights: Develop powerful conceptual frameworks that synthesize the latest research and illuminate the challenges facing leaders and organizations.

Have practical impact: Members support one another in making real advances on the organizational challenges they face through soliciting critical feedback on organizational initiatives, exploring questions in small and large group formats, and reporting in on their progress throughout the year.

The LILA community involves non-competing members from three synergistic perspectives:

Organizational Leaders: The Learning Innovations Laboratory (LILA) is a small community of researchers and practitioners dedicated to advancing the understanding and practice of organizational learning and innovation. We are not a best practices group but instead we focus on “next practices” based on robust innovative research and multidisciplinary perspectives. Since its inception in 2000, LILA’s practitioners have been Chief Learning Officers, Chief People Officers or Talent executives from non-competing industries who have established themselves as leaders in their field. At LILA they collaborate to share challenges, ideas, and innovative practices, and to explore current issues in the field through in-depth conversations with academic experts from a variety of disciplines. By limiting the size of the group to twenty-five members and by encouraging continuity of membership, LILA members engage in a deep level of confidential, collaborative inquiry and problem solving. LILA members include leaders from Apple, Deloitte, Mooney’s, Visa, Santander Bank, BlackRock, Great Place to Work, Meta, US Army and Publicis Sapient.

Scholars: To fuel the exploration of the annual theme, each year LILA convenes 10 leading academic thinkers from a variety of disciplines who are pushing their respective fields. These guest faculty join LILA members for each of the multi-day gatherings. Faculty have included such illustrious scholars as Heidi Brooks (Yale), Peter Senge (MIT Sloan School of Business), Mary Uhl Bien(  Ryan Quinn (University of Louisville), Roger Martin (Ritman), Dusya Vera (Ivey), Damon Centola (University of Pennsylvania), Deborah Ancona (MIT), Dave Snowden (Cynefin Centre) John Seely Brown (University of Southern California), Amy Edmondson (Harvard Business School), Sandy Pentland (MIT), Bill Khan (Boston University) and Hahrie Han(John Hopkins).

Harvard Researchers: A half-dozen Harvard Project Zero researchers and Harvard graduate students work closely with the community to expertly facilitate and document the gatherings, conduct analysis on relevant research, synthesize practical findings, and conduct investigations in the quality of the learning process and outcomes of LILA.

The community has a commitment to model a progressive learning environment, with a set of norms, customs, and tools intended to advance members’ own learning.

From September to June, the LILA community explores a theme that connects to current member challenges. It convenes four 2-day gatherings, each of which focuses on a topic within that theme. At each gathering, members are provided research briefings and book summaries that synthesize the latest research and thinking on the topic from a variety of disciplines. Members may lead “learning rounds” in which they have the opportunity to invite feedback from others on particular initiatives or challenges. After the gathering, members receive comprehensive documentation of key ideas and discussions, and articles that recap central insights.

Between the gatherings, members engage in monthly conference calls to further our understanding of the theme as well as contemporary issues of practice, which are largely defined by members themselves. Members also keep in touch via our website through ongoing blogs and discussion hosted by other members, LILA researchers, and thought leaders from a variety of academic institutions.  The online website contains the briefing documents for all of the events that LILA has hosted since its inception in 2000.

The exploration concludes with a 2-day Summit that recaps and synthesizes insights and progress made during the year. Member organizations can send several additional representatives to this gathering that will also include LILA alumni Chairs, Associates, and faculty guests.

To date LILA has hosted over 92 gatherings and produced research briefings and insight articles on themes around knowledge, organizational effectiveness, learning, collaboration and leadership in organizations. Recent areas of focus have included Flexpertise:  Developing Adaptive Practices in Organization (2014), Managing Complexity(2015), Adaptive Cultures (2016) and Emergence in Organizations (2017), Collective Mindfulness (2018) and Ecologies of Learning (2019), System Leadership (2020), The Human Factor (2021) and Placemaking (2022).

Harvard Graduate School of Education