More for L&D to learn from the digital world (via Learning Live)

It is coming up to a week of chewing on and digesting my experience of Learning Live last week. Essentially, I enjoyed a day and a half of absorbing content and conversation with new contacts and old. Despite all this digital lark, some extended and dedicated time for conversations and analogue handshakes are most welcome.

Inevitably, my own time at the event was preoccupied with digital matters. Whilst the same themes orbited the event, I was encouraged by the debate moving on from previous years. The panel debate on digital transformation was full of real possibilities and advice. Yes, it’s more than technology – this much we know. (Don’t we?). There were some smart stories about managing traditional stakeholders and finding sources of energy in the business. There was refreshing realism about the limits of technology efficiency to change practices and outcomes. There was common cause about new disciplines and capabilities required and signs that they are broadening horizons (UX, testing, design skills etc. were mentioned amongst nods). 

And then, today, two experiences knocked me off my happy perch.

One item was this really interesting LinkedIn post from Ed Monk of the LPI. It highlights a few of the main findings from recent capability self assessment research amongst LPI membership. (The comment thread with the post is valuable too). The table shows that the greatest weakness or gap in capability is Data Analytics, it ranked 25th in the list of 25 key capabilities. As Ed and others comment, this is a cause for serious concern. Given that the foundations of digital are connection and data, it is alarming. As the businesses that are changing the world around us continue to focus on the gathering, analysis and meaningful use of data in all forms of decision making, it leaves L&D in the shadows, if not in darkness.

The top five capabilities are, perhaps, more predictable: face to face learning, designing and developing solutions, developing L&D capability, creating and managing content and developing continuous learning skills. The concern is that the confidence with which these capabilities are applied is on shaky and possible evidence-free ground. The will to make stuff is powerful in L&D, as we know. I doubt that will change but with the support of data, testing and iteration it might not have to. But there is cause for concern that the analysis is absent or thin.

I was given further pause (and a source of hope) this afternoon. I am currently working with a digital organisation within a large traditional business. They were running an update session for the teams and for others in the business. Following a business update each team had 10 minutes or so to show us what they are focused on, why, how it is going and what to expect next. Each team was multidisciplinary across design, UX, development etc. Each had a product owner and a scrum/agile coach (or access to one). Each routinely showed current performance data. They showed their product roadmaps and how they interrelate. They showed testing data and proposed tests to support decisions. One included a consumer panel test for an ambitious but very new product extension –  a closed live test and investigation. One team is called Data and Business Intelligence – that’s the team’s entire responsibility.

So there is a long way for L&D to go on its digital adventure. There is much catching up to do. And yet…the ways of working, roles, tools and techniques are all out there to be picked up and employed. All strong digital teams use them. They are transferable to any business as far as I can tell. 

There is a lot for L&D to learn but we like a bit of learning I think. We also have some good stories and storytellers in our midst who can help set a good direction.

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