Learning Technology & Trends

As a learning professional, it is incredibly refreshing to take a step back from “doing” learning and instead be a participant in the process. Taking the time to be in the same place as others who have similar ideas, wants, needs and desires really enhances the learning experience. As I’ve been reflecting, processing and synthesizing the information overload from the Masie Learning 2012 Conference last week, I’ve started to draw some parallels and conclusions about trends in the learning profession. This post shares some of those ideas.

The first concept that I’ve synthesized from a variety of conversations centers around the idea of what it means to be a life-long learner. It was very interesting to note that General Colin Powell, Marshall Goldsmith and even Elliott Masie think about learning as something well beyond the boundaries of the “corporation” and as something that continues to drive and influence them at all stages of life. I think that as part of the work we do in our profession, we sometimes get wrapped up in how the organization we work for can drive our perception of both what and how we need to teach people. However, if we create a culture of learning, then the expectation that learning is part of who we are seems to have a greater chance of success, no matter the path in life we choose.

Another synthesized concept for me was the idea that “mobile” and “social” are just technologies that allow us to deliver personalization, presence and collaboration. To some extent, technology is just giving us more and varied ways to approach the age-old business problem of where and how we do training and how we get teams to better perform and communicate.

While this theme pervaded the Learning 2012 conference, it was driven home to me again just today as I saw Chris Laping, SVP of Business Transformation and CIO at Red Robin talking at YamJam12 about the fact that we are still facing the same problems today that we were 40 years ago. His thesis was that we don’t work to solve problems; we just work to make problems go away. In other words, we don’t take the time to get to the root cause and address it, rather we slap a Band-Aid on it so it stops bleeding, and declare it fixed.

So the question becomes, in the rush to incorporate technology into the picture, are mobile and social just more Band-Aids that we are trying to apply, or can we be deliberate in a way that allows us to appropriately use the tools to address the root cause of the business issue we are trying to solve?

A third concept that struck home was the idea that there is no one solution for mobile, and that if you think you have the answer, just wait a day. Something else will happen to cause you to question your solution or make you redo already done work. There were overwhelming nods of agreement from most presenters and participants at the conference regarding this point. A trend to support mobile in the workplace is to take a step back, define the strategy and standards, and then decide how to move forward.

This approach to the mobile question became more solidified for me upon my return home. As part of a focus group discussion with one of our clients, the demand for a mobile answer was strong, but the ability of the team to speak to the strategy and the standards for adoption are still missing. Without those answers, moving forward to mobile at this time doesn’t make any sense.

Finally, throughout the general session presentations, I found myself most drawn to the stories presenters told, which truly made my learning an immersive experience, not just an event. Jenny Zhu spoke about the experience of teaching English in China and opened my eyes to the blindness of our cultural biases.

Ken Davenport gave me a nugget of insight to watch for the physical reaction of the audience in order to figure out what to pay attention to when creating learning, so that you can enhance the chances of making learning stick. And John Ryan touched my heart and reinforced a core belief of mine that every person offers us value when we take the time to really get to know and understand who they are.

This theme of making learning an experience, not just an event, really speaks to a trend I’ve been observing among our clients. Creating stand-alone learning solutions is often no longer the only answer. Clients are taking a step back, and really looking at ways to wrap learning, thinking through all the elements to be delivered, so that learning has a greater chance of success. We see a trend toward solutions that address communication, learning, change management and performance support all together with an eye to greater impact and chance for success. And it’s a trend I applaud, as it gives our profession way to offer value to learners that lasts well beyond the event, and maybe even beyond the “corporation”, putting us on that path to life-long learning.

If you attended the conference, I invite your comments and questions. If you didn’t attend, but this post sparks thoughts, ideas or questions, I welcome the opportunity to continue the conversation.

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