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Ten learnings from Learning 2009


For those who didn't make it over to Learning 2009, Martin Addison pulls together the best bits...

An audience of over 1,300 global learning practitioners recently gathered in Orlando, to network and to hear insights from leaders in business, learning, technology and the media on the current and future states of learning.
Called Learning 2009, the event was organised by Elliott Masie, a researcher, analyst and author on workforce learning and emerging technologies. It included sessions on organisational learning successes (and failures), examples of innovation and tips, guidance and best practice.

On the rise

I noted ten trends at the conference that have interesting implications for L&D teams. All of these are growing in importance. They are:

1. Social media

L&D teams need to become both designers of learning experiences and adept at using tools such as Twitter and Skype to communicate, educate and connect. They should also be adapting social networking tools to give learners the same access to the ‘wisdom of the crowds’ that they may have at home with Facebook or LinkedIn. It’s certainly in an organisation’s interests to have employees collaborating through social learning and social networks. ‘We’ is smarter than ‘me’ and the knowledge that comes from working with multiple people can benefit the business.

2. Storytelling and the role of the ‘Griot’

In early Africa, there were tribal members, called Griots (pronounced gree-oh), whose role was to pass on the history of their tribe from one generation to the next. In organisations, stories play a powerful role in the transfer of knowledge. Like Griots, today’s leaders need to have the ability to be good story tellers, story listeners and story gatherers.

3. Video in learning

The days of all content coming from the recognised subject matter expert are gone. Increasingly, organisations are using short, YouTube-like video segments, either professionally-produced or shot by employees. Elliott Masie claims that video in learning will increase exponentially. “While reading will never go away, we will see a significant rise in the use of video, both edited and live videoconference formats, to shift e-learning to a watching and listening mode, rather than just one of reading and writing,” he said. However there was a note of caution in using video. At Learning 2009, CNN, the news channel, gave tips on how to shoot ‘user generated video’. They warned that just because there are HD cameras and editing software, it doesn’t necessarily make everyone a filmmaker, in the same way that having Microsoft Word doesn’t make us all Pulitzer prize winners.

4. Virtual leadership

Virtual working is becoming increasingly prevalent. This creates a challenge for anyone who is trying to lead and motivate a group around the world that they rarely or never get to meet. L&D teams need to help leaders to recognise and respond to this challenge. 

5. Putting learning into context.

Content may be king, when it comes to learning, but context is the kingdom. Individual learners increasingly have the ability to contextualise learning for themselves and their peers. Learners need to understand ‘why’ they are doing whatever they’re doing (from the frontline context) as well as ‘how’ they should do it (which is covered by the learning content). Fingertip knowledge and search is becoming key, as learners are using Google and online knowledge management resources to gain access to a wider range of content.

6. Blending

Most learning today is blended. It is a combination of self-study, online resources, community/group projects, interaction with a teacher/instructor, assessment and finally, transfer. L&D teams need to learn how to get the ‘magic in the mix’ by identifying which different components would make the optimal blend.

7. Coaching, mentoring and good old ‘on the job training’

In uncertain times, when budgets for formal learning are under pressure, these techniques are coming to the fore.

8. Measuring the impact.

Instead of just focusing on the return on investment (ROI) of learning, L&D teams should be looking at the impact on the business (IOB) whenever they make a case for learning.

9. Speed to competency

Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, Blink and Outliers, noted an exception to his ‘10,000 hour’ rule. He has famously claimed that those who practice a skill for 10,000 hours before the age of 20 can achieve elite levels of performance, in fields such as music and skill-based sports like football and basketball. At Learning 2009, he said that in some sports, such as golf and tennis, the training or learning experience has been enriched to such an extent that athletes can peak far quicker. By improving learning effectiveness, organisations can benefit from enhancing the speed to competency of employees.

10. Elearning

Elliott Masie wants to drop the ‘e’ in elearning. At first, this stood for the electronic delivery of content but it began to refer to learning that can be distributed to everyone, everywhere, with new degrees of engagement and efficiency. E-learning should be about a significant process change in how organisations are linking learners with content and expertise. Masie claimed that learning in the future will always need to make the best use of resources, collaboration and interaction between learners and teachers. He claims that the ‘e’ should evolve to be about ‘excellent’ learning that naturally uses these traditional and emerging modalities.
L&D teams should note these trends and their implications, as they could have a far-reaching impact on the future of learning in their organisations.
Martin Addison is managing director of Video Arts, which was a sponsor of Learning 2009. Martin also manages the Video Learning discussion group on

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