Being a fan of lifelong learning, I’m always looking for opportunities to learn something new or ways to challenge my existing standpoint. As I mentioned in a previous post, I do find conferences something of a mixed bag, but generally speaking, there are usually a few highlights that make them really worthwhile.
With this in mind I recently attended the AITD 2017 Conference in Sydney and happily got my grey cells fired up. This year the conference focused on a number of themes including invisible learning, meta-learning, collaboration and design thinking, to name a few. However, there were three key ideas that kept coming up and which resonated strongly with me.
Outside of work, we use different tools to stay in touch, Facebook to share what’s going on in our lives, Twitter to highlight snippets of information, Pinterest to get creative. We’ve also become familiar with a whole host of tools including Snapchat, YouTube, What’sApp and many more. These tools have fundamentally changed the way we communicate and connect. So, it makes sense for us to expect a similar approach to how we communicate at work, and for our learning experiences to follow the same approach.
Connie Malamed (@elearningcoach), delivered the keynote on the first day. She reminded us that it’s infinitely more valuable to share knowledge than to hoard it. That’s precisely what social tools enable us to do. For me, I feel that the sooner L&D recognises this, the better. Connie also talked about how big data can help us better organise and personalise learning.
People can only really process three or four bits of information at a time and the social tools mentioned tend to highlight and reinforce this. There is a limit to the amount of information that we can effectively process and use - we can’t cope with being bombarded by too much information. We respond far better to smaller amounts of information spaced out over time.
Social and collaborative tools obviously feed into the informal learning landscape. But, as Andrew Gerkens (@andrewgerkens) pointed out, we need to reduce the gap between learning and work and we need to think about how we make informal learning intentional. We can’t just cross our fingers and hope that it happens. What strategies can we put in place to make sure that we take advantage of and encourage informal learning? By encouraging and facilitating personal learning networks or communities, L&D can start to formalise the informal, or certainly make it more intentional.
Communities need not be just work communities either. We can take knowledge and learning just as easily from social communities; the skills we learn from a photography or travel group can be just as important and transferable as any gleaned from work.
L&D is like a business, so it needs to continually look outside it’s boundaries in order to remain relevant. As Kate Fraser (@katefraser15) noted, a business without customers won’t be in business for long. Similarly, L&D’s customers, the employees, need a reason to keep coming back. They need to be engaged by the learning experience in a way which taps into their preferences, habits and experiences.
There were two distinct highlights for me and they came from Arun Pradhan (@arunzpradhan) and Sahana Chattopadhyay (@sahana2802). Arun’s message was simple - L&D has mistaken it’s reason for being as packaging and selling training rather than empowering and enabling better performance. Until L&D calls time on this outmoded way of thinking then change cannot happen.
Sahana went on to reinforce this by saying that until L&D fundamentally disrupts itself, it has little hope of disrupting learning and changing they way that learners view and engage with learning. This isn’t going to happen overnight, but as Sahana said: “A collection of micro changes implemented over a period of time has the power to bring about a bigger shift’.
I’ll leave the final word to a comment I heard from a conference delegate who said simply:
“It’s nice to hear so many people agreeing on all these new approaches and technologies, I just wish people would actually do something about it and start implementing.”
This brings me back to my overriding concern with conferences. They can be a bit of a navel-gazing experience, but the reality is that people just leave the conference and go back to the day job in their own little bubble. They keep doing what they've always done and wonder why they keep getting the same results.
For L&D, it’s time to start making micro changes. Less talk, more action. It’s time to start the disruption. It’s time to work on cementing strong relationships with our business leaders and stakeholders. Most of all, it’s time to start looking at what our customers really want.