10L: David James

10L: A few simple questions about how leading professionals see their work.

About David:

David has been a People Development professional for more than 20 years, most notably as Director of Talent, Learning & OD for The Walt Disney Company across Europe, the Middle East & Africa. As well as being the Chief Learning Strategist at Looop, David is a prominent writer and speaker on topics around modern and digital L&D as well as an active member of the CIPD L&D Advisory Board. For the record, David sent in his 10L questions in January

So, what do you do dear? Describe your work to an elderly relative. 

I help people to be better at their jobs and achieve more in their careers, Gran. I do this by fixing the problem that training promised to solve but didn’t.

What was your favourite learning experience (could be work, personal, school…anything is valid)? What were you trying to do? Why did it work so well for you?

The one that sticks out is when I changed the windscreen motor of my old Mini, way back in the mid-90s. To that point I didn’t think I had it in me to fix something with cars – or much of anything for that matter. I did it via the Haynes Manual that all drivers over a certain age would depend on. It helped me to converse with some confidence at the garage when ordering the parts and then I did it. It had a huge impact on how I view my capability and I have a flair for DIY to this day, which I certainly didn’t have before then. For anybody wanting to know how successful the repair was, it worked perfectly until the car itself gave up the ghost.

Enough already…What one thing do you wish people in your industry or profession would stop doing? (What gets your goat?)

Stop developing solutions without data! If you can’t find data to show that what you’ve been asked to work on – or what you’ve determined is a priority – then it’s likely not to be a real problem. And if it’s not a real problem then you have next to no chance of influencing people to change. 

Same again please…What has changed for the better in your professional world as a result of COVID working practices? Should it be retained for the future (whenever that might be and whatever it might look like)? 

When we went into Lockdown, organisations had very similar problems – and they were the most pressing priorities that people needed to address: How to work remotely; How to manage remotely; and Employee Well-being. All of a sudden, L&D almost universally aligned with these organisational priorities. If we can stay aligned now as we transition from Lockdown into goodness knows what (yet) then we’ll continue to make an important contribution. If we go back to responding to limited observations, stakeholder training requests and implementing ‘best practices’ that we convince ourselves are important but aren’t then we’ll be doing ourselves a disservice. 

From the good old days…What do you miss most about working life from the pre-COVID world? Do you think it will return? 

Being a homeworker, not much has changed for me but I did really enjoy travelling to meet colleagues, customers, prospects and connections. So many of these meetings were in London and I do love that smoky, overcrowded, old city more than I even knew. The first time we carry a meeting over into the pub will be very special too.

Theft is the sincerest form of flattery…Which part of which other industry or profession do you think we should learn from and adopt (or just steal)?

We should shamelessly steal the Digital Marketing profession and apply its approaches and tools to all of our Digital Learning efforts. What Marketing has done to be where their prospects and customers are, to educate and influence them over time using data, various forms of digital content, automation and customer engagement has shaped the internet that we know today. By doing this we’d pivot from being topic and content-centric to user-centric and then truly make progress in building deeper, more productive relationships with the employees we seek to influence and help all parties (employees, customers, managers, leaders and, ultimately, our organisations) in demonstrably influencing behaviour and results.

You know who would be great for this…Which famous person (live or historical) do you want to join your team and why?

Can we contract Steve Jobs in for a bit, please? His vision and how he convinced people to want his products was peerless. He had the power to move people, employees and customers. I’m not sure we’d want him around for too long but if we can bring him back then I’m sure we could agree terms.

If only I had…What did you learn from your most recent mistake?

I recently tried to install a Google Mesh system I’d just received in the post whilst I was on home-schooling duty. It’s a lesson I’m often taught: Make time to do things properly rather than try to do another thing on top of what you’re doing. It was frustrating when it didn’t immediately go to plan and I, wrongly, paused home-schooling to troubleshoot. I hope I’ve learned this lesson now (but I’ll wait and see).

There can be only one…Which one tool or piece of kit would you keep if you could only use one from now on?

I’d get the most recent iPhone. I’m a couple of years behind so well overdue an upgrade. But has there ever been a more useful and adaptable tool in the history of the world? 

The picture of success…Which image or picture is a good representation of how you would like to develop your practice over the next five years?

Where can we find you?

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