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Stephen Walker

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A look at technology and training pt2


Stephen Walker concludes his feature on how technology changes have impacted the training market.

'Learning to teach' skills

Imparting knowledge to another is not something many experts find natural. Teaching, training is a special skill in itself. Standing up and doing it is not usually going to work. The technology allows anyone to stand up and deliver though. Our NLP friends believe that what is communicated is what is heard, not unreasonably. The trainer is only as good as their client benefits from the training. Do you wonder why the UK Government finds it necessary to subsidise training? Perhaps they think, along with the clients, that the value of training is small?

As a sector we need to up the value of our products. We can do that in two ways. Our clients will have different learning styles and different content is better delivered in one format over another. It is our job to understand the clients, the requirements of the content and which format, or blend of formats, is best.

Future technology

You can imagine how the training industry in the Middle Ages, the strolling players, minstrels and troubadours, was wiped out by William Caxton and his printing press. No need to keep a troubadour in your court if you can read the stories in a book. The point is that technology shock and disruption is not new. It happens continuously.

The coming wave of i-innovation will be as disruptive, I’m sure. We have to continue to deliver value. The first wearable i-tech is around already. That won’t go away. Technology implants - a biological electronic interface - are under development. As ever our scientists and engineers are following the Star Trek story line: anyone want to be a cyborg? Some will.

Personal assistants over our phones or PC are widespread. It’s a nuisance having to interact physically, why not implant and communicate with A.L.I.C.E. over a neural net completely in your head? Let her link to the outside world. This is just the i-revolution when the next wave of innovation may be biological. Our understanding of DNA and our bodies is blossoming.

Our bodies have functions that boost our performance in circumstances like threat, where the adrenaline boost reconfigures us physically to run or fight. We have read too much about athletes who use artificial means to boost functions like fatigue resistance. What if those boosts were provided autonomously by some gene therapy? Your training product in 2060 may need to switch on the learning gene in your clients, make them receptive.

Knowledge or capability?

It is relatively easy to communicate facts. You can even deliver it during someone’s sleep allegedly. Turning that knowledge into understanding and then into ability are further stages. The market for knowledge is saturated. Whatever your speciality, somebody somewhere is giving it away, and now they can reach anyone with a phone or internet connection.

As trainers we have to create that understanding and even ability to use the facts. Then we have delivered value that our clients will pay for.


The technological innovation has changed the training market place. Every product can be available to several billion internet-connected consumers. As a result, the value of knowledge-based training has been devalued. The vast amount of low-value poor quality online training rubs off on our industry: we are all tarred with that brush. Much of that poor quality is caused by a lack of teaching skill in the trainer. It is also difficult, but necessary to produce a high quality product even if you are selling it for peanuts.

In the end all our clients want is to do something more, or possibly better, than they did before the training. The emphasis is on the 'do'.

Stephen is a co-founder of Motivation Matters, set up in 2004 to develop organisation behaviour to drive greater performance. He is a published author of articles and now a book “The Manager's Guide to Conducting Interviews”. He speaks at conferences and is a keynote speaker on organisational performance and the managerial behaviour needed for success. It is all about 'upgrading organisation performance by improving the manager-employee relationship', he says. You can follow Stephen on LinkedInTwitter,YouTube and Blog


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