10L: Donald Clark

About Donald: Donald is a serial entrepreneur, Professor, Investor, CEO, Author, Speaker, podcaster and Blogger.

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

Help people and organisations learn better. In the end they’re all run by people and most of those people need to learn to do things better. My focus is on learning technology. On a practical level, that means I’ve started learning companies, invested in learning companies, been a Director and advisor for learning companies. Been a trustee on some very large public learning organisations, such as LearnDirect, University for Industry and City & Guilds. Now a Professor, written two books; ‘AI for Learning’ and ‘Learning Experience Design’ and give talks all over world on these subjects. Also do a lot of sharing, teaching, blog a lot, do podcasts…

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?

Don’t really have one as I see learning as a process, not an event. Took me a long time to understand this. We learn without thinking (walking, language, face recognition etc.) as we’ve evolved to do so (Geary) and mostly learn from simply doing, unintentionally, informally, accidentally but also formally. What works for me is keeping at it, habit and self-conscious improvement in my learning strategies. Life is not a course. I tend to avoid seeing learning through the lens of ‘learning’.

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

Groupthink around fads, same old practices, sitting around tables in cheap hotels, flipcharts… also cliques – our industry is full of them. They can be very self-serving. I tend not to join clubs and cliques (even the scouts) – it’s a habit that has served me well.

Also, less focus on the already well served. I’m tired of vacuous Leadership training (I’m tired of that word ‘Leader”). We need to seriously rebalance education and learning towards competences and skills. Vocational learning means a lot to me.

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)?

Been working in technology based learning for 40 years and there has never been a bigger shift in practice. Blended work, blended learning, blended entertainment (streaming), blended eating (Deliveroo etc.), blended finance, blended health (phone and email have been great). The world has changed irrevocably for the good and when the tide went out many institutions were exposed and found wanting. Let’s grab this opportunity and move on.

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

Nowt. I tend not to look back. I have been working, mostly online, since 2005, so nothing much changed for me. I’ve seen a company I’m involved with deliver stellar results, do massive deals, without furloughing anyone. Gartner sees up to 80% of classroom training not returning. I worked for years in offices – I can’t stand them now. That would be great.

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 need to look deeper within the learning world. Understand more about learning theories, research and good practice. This could make us more professional and move us more towards centre stage in organisations. I completed 120 learning theorists series and am doing a series of podcasts on this. We can’t carry on with the fun factory. Learning is not a circus and we are not clowns.

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

Nietzsche. Read him all of my life. Bravest mind that ever walked the earth. Makes you face up to deep and dangerous questions.

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

Signing a contract with so-called ‘experts’. In this case a large well known consultancy group. They turned out to be hopeless and just wanted to use me. Think they were surprised when I cancelled out of the contract with them. Funny how journeymen get to think they’re competent when they get a card with a brand and some exaggerated title. I’ve always avoided taking advice from these clowns, as everyone has an agenda, and it’s often not yours!

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

Campervan. Watched Nomadland, went straight out and bought one. Been working from it, even delivered lectures and talks from the van. Mobile learning!

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?

Focus on AI for Learning – book ‘AI for Learning’, investments, started AI company, Director of others, give talks on subject…

Where can we find you:

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