CLO Magazine Articles

Elliott Masie has been a columnist in CLO Magazine since 2005. He writes about a range of learning, leadership, and technology issues that leaders of today and tomorrow should consider. Although CLO ended its print publication in 2020, Elliott will continue contributing to the digital magazine and looks forward to engaging learning leaders online!

Leadership Lessons from Breaking News?

Published in CLO Magazine, February, 2021

This is not a political article.

But, leadership development and corporate culture will be impacted by the events that our current and future employees witness in these stressful times.

Over almost 50 years of working in the learning and leadership development field, I can recall hundreds of times that we reached into the history books of national/political events for a key story or quote.

I took a group of rising leaders to the fields of Gettysburg and we talked deeply about courage, conflict, and lessons from that battle.

I brought my friend Kathleen Kennedy, the daughter of RFK and niece of JFK, to my learning conference and we explored what “Profiles of Courage” mean in the corporate workplace.

We interviewed keynoters that included First Ladies Laura Bush and Michelle Obama about lessons they took away from their political lives that were powerful elements for leaders in corporations.

My interaction with General Colin Powell in front of 2,000 learning colleagues focused on tough lessons from politics and military leadership and how those impacted his brand as a leader.

We can think of so many ways that rising leaders look at and either emulate or reject the styles, values, and approaches of national and global political moments.

As this article is being shared in the digital CLO publication, I can be very “right now” in what I write. As learning leaders, we are experiencing – right alongside our current and future employees – the intensity of these times:

• Pandemic Leadership: How did our Presidents of the current and previous administration handle the challenges and pressures of the Coronavirus Pandemic? What were their leadership approaches and how did they deal with transparency, data, science, and empathy?
• Racial Injustice: How did our political leaders and the corporate leaders around the United States choose to respond to the focus on Racial Injustice in recent times? What were the range of responses from leaders – on both personal and organizational levels?
• Election of 2020, Rioters at Congress, and Impeachment: What do we take away about leaders’ approaches to conflict, to due process, to accepting loss, and to accountability?

As I said at the start, this is not a political article. Readers will have a range of personal reactions to these events and a spectrum of take-aways about Leadership Lessons.

As Leadership Development designers, we need to accept that one cannot gather a group of employees in a leadership program at work without touching on these key words:

• Empathy
• Transparency
• Collaboration
• Honesty
• Ambiguity
• Storytelling
• Accountability
• Listening
• Diversity
• Leadership Culture

In the leadership programs that I am running now (virtually), these words come from the mouths, stories, and souls of the participants.

Empathy, the first word, is the most powerful one to use as leadership developer, to address and leverage the lessons of today and yesterday: empathy for the differences among people, and empathy for the impacts of those events on current and emerging leaders.

Our workforces are at a moment of being Exhausted, Energized, and Challenged by political events in the United States and around the globe. A group presenting at a virtual conference was so excited to promote social media as a learning tool, until they were confronted by many participants who are upset with the role of Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms disseminating what they feel is false information. The social media leadership conversation had to immediately adapt and add context from breaking news.

We don’t need to have sessions called “Lessons from the Pandemic” or “Lessons from Impeachment”.

But we do need to honor how the current events in our lives will impact how we and our rising leaders will lead. Over a year of pandemic isolation, the deep divisions between neighbors and families, the pain of seeing a man die with a knee on his neck or a Capitol Policeman being crushed by the crowd: these events are real and will help shape current and future leaders.

Everything is changing. Support and encourage your leaders of tomorrow to clarify, explore, and stretch their own “Profiles in Courage”.

Yours in learning,

Elliott Masie
Chair, The Learning COLLABORATIVE at The MASIE Center


My Pandemic Learning Lessons



Published in CLO Magazine, September 2020

Question: “Elliott, what lessons about learning are you discovering during the Coronavirus Pandemic?”
Answers:

• Digital Learning Explodes: I had 86 global early adopters for the start of eLearning at a meeting in the early 1990’s. The Pandemic has expanded that number to over 1.8 billion workers, students, and patients around the globe who had to suddenly become digital learners.

• Learning Tools Must be Simple: We watched Zoom meetings become the dominant connection, collaboration, and knowledge sharing video tool around the world. Zoom became dominant because it is a simpler-to-use tool. While there were few learning-focused features in Zoom, its simplicity made its use viral. Watch for redesign from WebEx, Microsoft Teams, Facebook, and Google’s Meet. They will “zoomify” their interfaces rapidly in the coming months.

• Learning Deserves Design: Connecting to learners is just the first step. The design process is essential but predictably ignored in the Pandemic crisis reaction. Teachers poorly ported their classroom lesson plans to online delivery, without creative design. College students forced to learn online were often bored. Home-based workers were flooded with webinars galore. Design becomes even more important with distributed and digitally connected learners and expertise.

• They Want to Be Supported Workers, Not Students: Your workers, at home or in changed workplaces, want to be supported. But they don’t want to be students. They want expertise, advice, and feedback in order to be more effective at tasks or new approaches; yet, they don’t want to be placed in the student role. Organizations have changed online courses to become more focused interactive briefings, lectures have been shifted to Q&A sessions, and webinars have been over scheduled.

• Empathy is a Key “E” in eLearning: Your workers are under stress, with uncertainty and unclear pathways to the future. They are often sharing home offices with spouses, partners, children, and pets. They are balancing changes in every aspect of their lives: work, home, community, and family. The key word that has emerged is EMPATHY! Our workers need empathy: connection, communication, and authenticity. Empathy is not counseling or coaching. Empathy is respect for the different realities of your workforce. Give them content, context, collaboration, and EMPATHY.

• Digital Learners Need Breaks: Learning from home requires more breaks. I watched people drop off at about 45 minutes into a multi-hour-long session. They want bio breaks, or just mental breaks: time to get up and walk around. Breaks also give learners opportunities to process newly delivered content and frame up questions.

• Online Learners Want Office Hours: Think about a teacher’s behavior in a face-to-face classroom session. Some of the best conversations with teachers happen when there is a coffee or lunch break. Learners come up and ask questions or share stories. Online learners need the same one-to-one, private conversations. Consider a time when learners can easily sign up for 10-minute slots in digital office hours with experts or teachers. Both learners and instructors will come away smarter from these interactions.

• Workflow Support and Job Aids for Digital Learners: Make sure there are job aids, infographics, and workflow support for your digital learners. They will need reminders, refreshers, and “moment of need” support as they transfer new knowledge into workplace action.

• Social Issues Matter: The Pandemic’s virus intersected with the Racial Injustice virus that has surged during these unprecedented times. I believe that the Pandemic “tenderized” society to watch/react to the murder in Minneapolis and large-scale demonstrations. Social issues will be part of the conversations that our learners and workers are having now.

• Let’s Get Data from Pandemic Learning: Much of our recent digital learning did not “hit” the LMS, but we need to gather data about those formal, informal, and collaborative learning activities. Let’s look at what we are collectively “learning about learning”, from almost 2 billion learners.

• Turning 70 in the Pandemic: I turned the fun age of 70 in May. In the Pandemic, this birthday was more virtual with hundreds of friends and colleagues celebrating online. And, turning 70 has triggered my need to be a more active learner and learning advocate. I look forward to the next decade of learning innovation, with you!

Elliott Masie is the CEO of The MASIE Center and Chair of the Learning CONSORTIUM. He has spent 3 ½ months working from his home in Saratoga Springs, NY and collaborating by video with tens of thousands of global learning colleagues.

A Learning Watch?



Published in CLO Magazine, May 2020

Look at the wrists of your workplace colleagues, friends, and neighbors. Check out how many of them are wearing a digital, smart, electronic watch.

I just did this assignment in the Amtrak car where I am writing this article while riding to Saratoga Springs, NY. There are 38 people in the car, and I have observed around 20 digital watches. That means almost 51% of passengers are wearing one of these watches, not counting those passengers with sweaters covering their wrists.

The rise in digital watches has been driven by the e-Health & Fitness phenomena. Many smart watches have motion sensors, blood pressure monitors, and even physical stress data capture. While at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, we saw loads of new sensors and monitors that can be added to digital watches to provide real-time data about mindfulness, total talking time, and other bio indicators.

Smart watches are moving beyond e-Health & Fitness to integrate workflow performance, group collaboration, and behavioral coaching. Data from your enterprise systems or manufacturing machinery could be displayed on a smart watch for alerts and safety. Our watches could indicate which people in the workplace have the knowledge we need to answer a quick question, including if they are close to our location or available for a digital coaching moment.


Smart watches will be woven into digital and voice-based ecosystems, including Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s Home. The speaker and microphone (and someday an optional camera) in the smart watch will allow us to ask a question and get a rapid, personalized response that comes to the watch or maybe to an earpiece of audio-enhanced eyeglasses or goggles.

What I am predicting is the future of the smart watch as a powerful and personal device that can optimize learning, collaboration, workflow performance support, and “me data”, providing data dashboards for employees throughout the workday.

Let’s imagine some of the functions, features, and technologies that could facilitate different and expanding experiences to enhance learning and readiness:

• System and Workflow Changes: The smart watch could indicate that a piece of machinery, a product in a retail store, a technology in a hospital, or a screen on a system is new or updated. In other words, it could provide a gentle note or vibration that says “new”.
• Mental Readiness to Learn: Learning requires a physical and cognitive readiness to engage and personalize new content or knowledge. Imagine 8 bio indicators that could measure your readiness to learn. I would not start an online module if my brain was working slower, my level of tiredness was higher, or my stress level was peaking. A smart watch feedback indicator could advise learners about learning “right now”.
• Knowledge Right Next to You: An employee is planning a trip to Atlanta to work with a new customer: Coca Cola. At lunch, their watch indicates that a fellow worker used to work at Coca Cola (by searching LinkedIn). They might seize the moment to get a context story about Coca Cola culture from this colleague.
• My Behavioral Patterns – Digital Coaching: Imagine two employees in leadership programs working on improving their interactions with colleagues. One wants to lower their tendency to interrupt colleagues in mid-sentence. The other one wants to increase the number of questions they ask their team members. The smart watch could provide real-time or end-of-day feedback to each of these employees about observed shifts in their interruption or question asking patterns.
• Real-Time Nudges for a Keynote Speaker: I would love to be the first user for a smart watch app called “Better Speeches”. It would have a range of quiet vibrations that could prompt me on timing. It would listen for key phrases that I had programmed, perhaps to switch a visual display or play a media segment. And, it might someday be networked with the audience’s watches to provide real-time curiosity or boredom notes.
• Experiences vs. Courses: As we explore the role of experiences – ranging from stretch assignments to field road trips to simulations – we will want to design and facilitate actions and interactions in the workplace that are “experiences” – with “aha” and even a few failure moments. Smart watches can be used as guides for experiences.

Smart watch learning assets will come from both the enterprise and from employees as consumers, who may use meditation or health apps that are their personal tools. And, our learning and workflow systems will build apps that are “smart watch ready”. Let’s explore “Learning Watches” and apps, being sensitive to both privacy and data accuracy realities.

Stopping vs. Starting: Perhaps More Impactful!



Published in CLO Magazine, March 2020

It takes courage to be a leader willing to say “STOP” or “END” in the learning field. Our field is always excited about the new or shiny object, emerging technology, or hot leadership theory book that says, “ADD ME”.

What if we started the learning innovation conversation with a focus on STOPPING or ENDING elements of our approaches?

I am exhausted by the endless chant of START, ADD, EXTEND, or SUPPLEMENT to make learning strategies more effective.

The learner, the learning organization, and the learning professional are often exhausted and overwhelmed by the continual addition of new programs, technologies, and resources. While we may think learners will be excited about the 30 new modules or videos that have been added to the leadership program, look at your data and you will be surprised.

The learning ecosystem cannot be focused on ADDING. Our employees already live in a world of increased change and shifting roles and business models. Their “mental buffers” for handling MORE are close to FULL!

What if you focused on STOPPING or ENDING a learning element each quarter? Yup, just END it.

For example, take a look at your onboarding or orientation meetings and pick one or two elements that you could just DROP. What if you STOPPED doing the talk about “Topic X”? Would the compliance people go berserk? Would the employees not adapt to the culture without it? Try it!

The jungle beat of the learning marketplace is almost always about ADDING. Suppliers, vendors, consultants, analysts, and learning conferences are going to be focused on ADDING. Most articles that you read will share the positive elements that happened when an organization ADDED a new system or methodology. Most conversations between learning colleagues often focus on what is being ADDED to the learning menu. Marketing vibes will support continual ADDING.

Yet, the most powerful innovations that I have seen in the world of learning have often come from STOPPING. One large consumer-facing organization decided to phase out its eLearning efforts in its stores after 12 years. The organization decided to END eLearning because it was not really impacting employee behavior or readiness. The learning leader had the courage to hit the END button.

Dissect the history and growth of your leadership programs. Many of them have ADDED elements every 2 years, stretched in length, and put MORE and MORE on the learning plate of your rising leaders. What if you hit the DELETE or PAUSE button on several of those elements?

Why the focus on STOPPING vs. ADDING? Every time we ADD an element, an organizational change moment is triggered in our learning ecosystems. The learner needs to build trust in the new approach. Systems need to track the new element. Peers of learners, who supply context and recommendations, need to adjust their view and conversation. Yet, we often look at the addition of a new approach as a “gift” to the learning community.

The researcher in me loves the idea of doing an A/B test around the DELETE choice. Remove an element of the learning design for 10% of new learners while continuing the current approach with the other 90%. Look at how all of those learners behave during and after the learning process and compare the differences between the A and B groups. Learning data analytics could radically enhance our willingness to test the DELETE function in our strategies.

DELETE will often be difficult due to both tradition and budgeting. If you suggest DELETING a leadership program, you will probably hear from alumni who feel that the program, while flawed, was something they “survived” – and so should the new candidates. And, budgeting is often wrapped around the ADDING instinct. It is easier to get more resources when ADDING an attractive element or system.

The agile learning organization should approach innovation as a continual process of adjusting learning resources to optimize outcomes for learners and the business. Have the courage to recognize the power of STOPPING. Our learners will get there before us. They will curate and assess those resources that are no longer impactful. As designers, facilitators, and performance support leaders, let’s consider the DELETE, END, or STOPPING functions as powerful friends!

Ironically, one of the most powerful things a CLO can do is to bravely and authentically say, “STOP”. Amazing outcomes happen when we use the learning strategy brake pedal!

Your Job is Being Updated – Click Here to Activate!



Published in CLO Magazine, January 2020

Picture this: an employee logs in for work in the morning and sees a box on their screen that says, “Your Job Is Being Updated – Click Here to Activate”.

In the “old days” we would talk about changing jobs, systems, or skills as complex and difficult processes, often requiring training and coaching over relatively long periods of time in order to overcome resistance.

But, in these days of rapidly changing business realities, shifting customer requirements, data analytics, and more, we should prepare for a workplace and workforce geared towards regular “updates”.

Back in 1994, Bill Gates asked me to host a 9-month TV show called “Microsoft TV – Preparing for Windows ‘95”. Each month, we had hundreds of thousands of IT professionals receiving this satellite broadcast about the upcoming changes as the new system was rolled out in August 1995. Millions of end users were sent to an “Upgrading to Windows ’95” seminar that often lasted 2 days.

Now, our Apple and Microsoft Systems offer fairly regular updates that are downloaded and deployed with workflow support built into the applications and screens. What once took weeks of preparation and training is now almost seamless and integrated into our work.

My Tesla electric car has really changed my view about job updates! Every few weeks, the screen on my Tesla displays this message: “Update Ready to Be Downloaded”. It does not say what the new features or changes will be. I am always surprised and curious, so I click the activate button to be greeted an hour later with the new things that my Tesla can do. Very often, the changes are evident in a changed dashboard, controls, and even basic features of the car (e.g. accident avoidance alerts and alarms based on input from a dozen sensors and cameras). With just a click, the car and even I, the driver, are now updated.

Prepare for job, system, role, and skill “updates” to be integrated and sometimes automated throughout your enterprise. Here are a few trends that we are forecasting about “updates”:

• System Updates are Continuous and Personalized: Corporate sales, customer service, manufacturing, and HR systems will shift from “big bang” updates once or twice a year to continuous feature updates that leverage a personalized notification system based on each user’s current and future needs.
• New Info Needed for Next Week: An employee’s agenda for the coming week will be scanned by an AI-based curation system that provides updated information on the people, accounts, meetings, and realities the employee might face.
• Skills for Tomorrow: Imagine a retail store that will begin selling a new line of cell phones that will use 5G technology. The skills needed by the salesforce will be framed up in a Skill Mind Map that highlights what each employee can do to articulate 5G. The skills are color coded red, yellow, or green, based on each employee’s readiness. Several weeks before the roll-out of the new cell phones, learning resources are targeted to and employees are assessed on their yellow and red items.
• “Updates” Sometimes Delete! As we evolve roles and work processes, “updates” may be more focused on deleting rather than adding elements. When my Tesla loses a function, I need to understand why it has been deleted. Updating will require sensitivity around removing functions or favorite tasks in the workplace.
• Data Analytics will Drive “Updates”: The goal of shifting to “updates” in the workplace is to become more agile and target how specific changes in systems, skills, roles, and tasks can lead to better outcomes. We need to use data analytics to predict and target “updates”.
• Failure is Key in the Change Process: As we update skills and roles, there will be a natural and even critical role for the employee to occasionally fail or forget a change. Our systems might provide warnings and increased prompting for tasks that are new, even allowing the user to simulate a new action and fail safely. Embedded simulations will provide a healthier role for failure.

Managing and optimizing the update process is a new and exciting role for Learning and Development leaders. We will need to leverage and combine our expertise in skill development, workflow support, organizational change, learning data analytics, and user experience. Let’s update our readiness to lead the charge in workplace “updates”!

Learning Personalization Gets Personal

Published in CLO Magazine, November 2019

I’ve been writing about Learning Personalization for more than two decades. Influenced by the perspectives of Sir Ken Robinson and others, it seemed only a matter of time until learning content, activities, and experiences would be personalized to some degree for each of our learners.

Learning Personalization makes total sense. We should “optimize” the time (and wage expense) of learning content. We should shape the content around what employees need to know, avoid what they know already, and adapt to their requirements, backgrounds, and ideal learning formats. The aggregate impact on motivation, engagement, efficiency, and cost could be amazing for both learners and the organization!

Learning Personalization is a great idea; yet, it has been amazingly difficult to implement. There are enemies and obstacles to personalization in the workplace:

• Compliance: The rules, expectations, and style of compliance and regulatory action demands a common learning delivery for all. They want to know for certain that all employees have been taught the same stipulated content.
• Traditions & Rituals: One example is that every day, millions of passengers are taught how to use a seat belt on an airplane. They already know that skill from their automobile experiences, but tradition (and regulations) drive the airlines to keep teaching this known skill.
• Learning Systems Can’t Get Personal: Most of our learning management systems are not able to personalize content for each learner. They are good at “counting and tracking” content that is delivered but not at adapting it to each participant’s reality.
• Design for Many: Our design models are based on finding a common denominator or efficient mixture that will address most learners’ needs.

Ironically, Learning Personalization happens naturally in one-to-one, on-the-job training. The mentor or teacher naturally looks at, recognizes, and adapts to what the learner already knows and their work context, and they can focus on new or difficult elements in the work process.

Scaling Learning Personalization is way more difficult and therefore not in the current reality of our learning designs, systems, or ecosystems. Sigh and oops! So, what might change soon and make personalization a reality in the workplace?

• Learners Outside of Work Are Personalizing: Watch how you (and others) learn about a topic when you are away from the workplace. You search for information, skip content that is off-topic, and gravitate to the “just right” content you want “now”. Employees will want the same power to personalize learning at work.
• AI and Smart Technology are Already Personalizing: Online shopping and social engines are already using data about “me” to personalize their marketing, information sharing, and preference selection. In the years ahead, AI will meet and enhance LMS and Talent Systems.
• Learning Analytics Will Drive Personalization: The conversations about data analytics and learning will expand to include the ability to leverage data about each employee that could shape their learning content. We can also aggregate data from the enterprise to assess the impact of different aspects of personalization.
• Real-Time Visual and Behavioral Responses: A learner is taking one of your courses. Could facial recognition, learner gestures, speed of response, and even mouse movements be captured and used to adapt, in real time, the next segment of their course?
• Learner Controls to Increase: A good share of personalization will come from learners themselves, as they are given the ability to select formats, content sequence, and even level of feedback they need to master new topics.

I think we need to ask two provocative questions to ourselves in the learning field:
• “Are WE ready for the age of Learning Personalization?”
• “What shifts in design, systems, data analytics, and compliance are needed to make Learning Personalization a reality?”

Also, we need to have a deep conversation with our providers of LMS, Talent, and Content systems about their ability to enable Learning Personalization; or, we should look for new ventures that will add that capacity to our ecosystems.

We need to build out our learning analytics talent and skills to leverage the data collections and real-time “data exhaust” that enable Learning Personalization.

Let’s also look at how some K-12 schools are experimenting with “Curriculums of One”, which provide each learner with a detailed and personalized course of study every week or even every day, based on data and success patterns.

And, let’s get personal in design tests with our learners. They will eventually push us from the learning publishing model to a hyper personalization reality. They want to be curious and efficient learners vs. passive students with hardened curriculums that ignore their knowledge or needs.

Learning Personalization is right at our fingertips. Let’s take it personally, now!

Try a Learn-A-Thon: Crowdsourced UserExperience

Published in CLO Magazine, July - August 2018

While there is widespread interest, dialogue, and experimentation in new forms of learning technologies (e.g. Chatbots, Smart Speakers, Wearables, Immersive Reality) and new formats of learning content (e.g. Curated Segments, Agile Module Lengths, Shoulder-to-Shoulder OJT), where are the innovations in new models of Learning Design?

We can’t create a radically new learning ecosystem if we are simply going to rely on a dusted-off version of ADDIE, a more video-rich webinar construction, or a more compressed use of a Subject Matter Expert distilled by an Instructional Designer!

Let’s instead apply a “deep disruption sauce” to the learning design recipe!

I advocate that our colleagues experiment with a Learn-A-Thon, a crowdsourced way to create a different approach to teaching, training, and supporting skill, competency, or compliance in a workforce setting.

The Learn-A-Thon combines two forces that are highly impactful in the world of invention, innovation, and product development:

• UserExperience: Radically aligning a new design to how the learner actually experiences the activity – and how rapidly or deeply they get to a state of readiness. UserExperience is NOT about testing if the module “works”; rather, it forces us as designers to intensively map each action to a behavior that a learner will want to do/can do successfully and leads to a measurable, positive learning moment.
• Hack-A-Thon: Imagine a room filled with workers from the business who have mastered a desired skill and are fully experienced with the context of the targeted learning goal. Lock them up together for a day, or even a few days, and have them build – from scratch, with no barriers, assumptions, or rituals – SEVERAL totally different ways in which a worker could learn this skill. The Hack-A-Thon is a safe and brave place where ideas can soar, stretch, break, or be transformed.

Our Learn-A-Thon model requires some courage, pizza for a crew of 5 to 20 colleagues, and a willingness to take a totally fresh look at learning design and format rituals that are not easy to break.

You might start with a large challenge (e.g. New Hire Orientation) or a more focused task (e.g. Procurement Process for Purchasing Materials). A facilitator who truly is open to the idea of “hacking” or even failing our way to success would ask the Learn-A-Thon participants to explore with encouragement like this:

• Our goal is to come up with 2, 4, or even 10 new ways in which one of our employees could go about learning the target skill, competency, or information set.
• You are going to blow up our traditional model as you explore new approaches. You can change the style, length, intensity, media structure, branding, and/or testing elements.
• You don’t need to be a learning designer to succeed. Think about yourself or a new learner: what do you/they actually want, need, or desire? It might not be the 24-slide PowerPoint deck. So, create an alternative!
• The Hack-A-Thon model helped create innovations like Yelp, Uber, Airbnb, and more. It has been used by medical corporations to imagine and create totally new approaches to solving health challenges. And, the White House even hosted a “Game Jam Hack-A-Thon” several years ago to develop brand new learning games for high school students. Learn-A-Thons play off the successful Hack-A-Thon model!
• Build multiple and different possible solutions – without grading or evaluating their probable success. Later, we will have fun with a UserExperience LAB process to see if elements of each solution will work with actual learners.

The Learn-A-Thon model will fail if you let your instructional design protectiveness sabotage the process. Remember, each and every design model starts with assessing and aligning the needs of the organization and learner. But, we often jump into highly traditional models as we flow into the design and rarely test against a diverse set of learner expectations.

Before you reject this model, go talk to a few of your work colleagues and ask them “How did you actually learn to do this task?” Be prepared that few, if any, will refer to the great classroom offering, or the well-developed eLearning module, or the pretty Job Aid that is on the wall. Listen to their UserExperience and you will discover that they did their own Learn-A-Thon, optimizing formal, external, social, and non-traditional approaches to get to their own readiness on the topic.

Design is art and science. The Learn-A-Thon will creatively optimize our workers’ pathways to Learning in the Age of Now!

Justify the Learning Ritual, Please!

Published in CLO Magazine, September 2018

Chief Learning Officers Be Prepared! You and your team may have to justify some of your most familiar rituals with evidence and business data.

Business leaders and even Boards of Directors are looking for RADICAL shifts in approaches and processes – and learning and training are ripe targets to be examined.

Here are some learning ritual challenges that I have heard in my conversations with senior executives in the past year:

Does Leadership Training Actually Create and Keep Better Leaders – with Better Business Results?

• Be prepared to examine the concrete skills, competencies, and readiness levels that your leadership programs yield.
• Examine the 6-month, 1-year, and 3-year patterns of graduates of your leadership academies.
• Imagine running a 3-level experiment with the next set of leadership candidates: 1/3 go through your current program, 1/3 are given a grant to buy their own leadership programs externally, and 1/3 are not given any program. What are the differences in their performance?
• Consider the TIMING of when a leader is trained (e.g. on promotion, early in their career as a “hi po”, or perhaps 1 year into a leadership role) around their biggest challenges and gaps.
• Ask if you should separate the “induction” dimensions of welcoming people into the leadership ranks from hard core skill development aimed at observable shifts in competencies and readiness.

Does Tracking Learning Help Learner Engagement and Do We Use the Data to Improve Business Results?

• Our learning management systems collect a massive amount of data about what every learner selects from our formal learning offerings.
• BUT, we are not tracking most of the content, context, collaboration, and resources that workers access from other sources.
• AND, most organizations are not using the data from the LMS to radically improve learning options, personalize learning for a specific employee, or compare the impact of one program vs. another. We track consumption but rarely use learning systems to monitor impact.
• PLUS, does tracking the micro learning choices that an employee makes help or hinder their natural curiosity? What if an employee was aware that their bosses were looking at the web searches they did throughout each day? I would imagine that more searches would be made from personal telephones or that workers would download apps to automatically add searches on their desktops that would show engagement or learning focus.
• Be prepared to defend or reframe the role that your learning management systems have in driving business results!
Do Live Webinars Accomplish Higher Engagement and Bigger Business Results?

• Most organizations have a default duration for live webinars, regardless of content or complexity. Most webinars are one hour and have only a few activities that take advantage of the actual live presence of employees.
• What if we substituted asynchronous segments for live webinars? Durations could be stacked for overviews, basics, or deeper content, allowing the learner to select their optimal timing and depth of material.
• If everyone had to answer a few predictive, quick questions to show understanding, how many hundreds of thousands of wage hours would a large enterprise save?
• Once again, imagine a split test project with 3 different versions of content: live webinar, asynchronous only, and a blended model. Compare the participation, retention, and actual business applications/results that each version yields.

Let’s add some more questions that CLOs will be asked to respond to in the near future:

• To what extent are our learning programs used by workers who are not meeting work expectations? Or, are many of our programs attended by motivated and already-engaged workers? What are the demographics of those that participate vs. those that don’t?
• How do we test for potential hires’ willingness to learn?
• What are our metrics for tracking the success (or failure) of line managers in supporting transfer of new skills to actual business practice?
• Who in the learning organization has the analytical data skills to drive shifts in assessment and follow-up strategy?
• How do we actually leverage the knowledge of retiring employees to impact business results?
• What are some non-learning activities that the learning group could facilitate that would drive increased business results in the workplace?

Let’s be ready and open to these questions. They are coming!!!

Chief Learning Officers Ask Amazing Questions?

Published in CLO Magazine, November 2018

Chief Learning Officers often have favorite statements, expressions, and points of view. These can be key as they help shape the learning culture and knowledge ecosystem of the enterprise.

But, the most powerful words from a CLO can be in the form of QUESTIONS! Asking a provocative question – at the appropriate moment, of key people or groups – can be the ultimate power tool for the CLO. Statements may or may not be heard, understood, responded to, or remembered. Targeted questions can be multiplied and amplified.

Here are three general examples, before I share my own CLO Question List:

• To a Departing Employee: What did you learn while you were in our organization, and how did you learn it?
• To a Business Leader: What skills do employees in your group need to build and maintain in terms of changing roles, technologies, and/or marketplace shifts?
• To a CEO: What are buzz words or terminologies that you hear but don’t fully understand (e.g. Blockchain Layered Servers)?

My ideal CLO is like the Rabbi that I had in my synagogue as a teenager. Rabbi Chaven said that his role was to ask a provocative question and then step aside to let the community members have rich dialogue and disagreement on the topic. He said the good question never has an easy or “right” answer. Instead, it provokes the listener to engage and learn!

So, here is the start of my own CLO Question List:

• To Learners at the End of a Program: What content did we cover that you already knew at the start of the program?
• To Learning Designers: As designers, what are your default habits or rituals? What do you think would happen if you purposely did not perform those habits and rituals when designing your next program?
• To a Business Group Requesting a New Course: If we could not give you a class on this topic, how would your workers learn or cope?
• To a Chief Financial Officer: What percentage of an employee’s compensation should the shareholders invest each year to maximize return on employment (ROE?)
• To an External Vendor: How many and which features of the system that you are selling are rarely or never used by other customers?
• To a New Employee: What information do you really want in the first two days on the job?
• To a Compliance Regulator: How can we demonstrate that we are compliant in ways other than providing classes? Would you accept other predictive indicators?
• To a Global Division Business Leader: How would you teach a skill to your employees – mapping it to your marketplace, culture, and educational traditions?
• To a Bored-Looking Colleague in the Lunch Room: What is something you would love to learn – on any topic – if you could?
• To Another CLO: How many months/years do you think you have left in your current organization? Could you double that or leave sooner?
• To Your Family Members: What mood(s) does my work cause me to have? What projects impact my happiness or joy the most?
• To Your Customers: If you could send our organization to “Doing Better University”, what courses should we take?
• To Your Online Instructors: How “present” do you appear on camera? What is your default facial expression?
• To a Subject Matter Expert: How can you explain a topic in 5 sentences rather than 5 pages? What do people misunderstand the most about your area of expertise?
• To a PowerPoint Slide Stack: If you had to be just one slide, what would you be?
• To a Book Author: What opinion or perspective do you want your readers to consider or change? What would you remove from the book – months/years after you wrote it?
• To a Home-Based Worker: What time of the day do you feel the most alert or smart? Could we schedule our calls at that time?
• To a Participants in a Staff Meeting: What two words would you use to describe this quarter in the business?
• To Yourself: Do I have people around me that are challenging and teaching me as a CLO?

This is just the start of my list. I would love someone to create a card deck of CLO questions (and I will help fund it). Perhaps in the future, CLOs will ask Alexa or Siri to track how many questions they asked each day.

Questions Rock Learning! Have the courage to ask questions. Become the CLO with amazing and endless questions. They are your greatest multiplier of impact!

Beyond a Learning System – The Learning BlockChain Emerges

Published in CLO Magazine, January - February 2019

Over the past 20 years, the learning field has evolved a range of Learning Systems – from Learning Management Systems to Learning Content Management Systems to Learning Experience/Record Systems to Curation Collection Systems and more. The hope was to build an enterprise system that would contain much of the content, record keeping, and transactions around learning. And, it “sort of” works!

But, a conversation echoes in my brain from a meeting many years ago. I was on a board with Eric Schmidt, the head of Google, and he asked why learning departments were trying to “stuff everything into a single system” (like an LMS). He was perplexed about why we just didn’t find a way to track the content or data that we needed – from a wide spectrum of systems – and call it up in real time when necessary. Hmmmmm!

We started to imagine if we had a simpler LMS or a dimension of a Talent system that could do some of the core tracking and access elements of corporate learning. But, we recognized that the data and resources we wanted to use lived in a wide and open set of other systems. For example:

• Content in Third Party Licensed Collections
• Content in Open Source Areas (e.g. TED Talks)
• Certifications and Assessments from External Organizations
• Context from Internal or Public Social Networks
• Experiences from an Employee’s Previous Employers
• Performance Reviews from Talent Systems
• Localization of Procedures Based on Global Rules and Guidelines
• Real-Time Performance Data and Examples
• And more…

What if the learning department had the ability to securely and appropriately access a wide range of data and content – from almost any source – as long as access was authorized? Imagine if the Learning System wasn’t a system or even an API integration, but was instead the ability to safely access, use, track, analyze, and reformat learning resources and development activities across an open chain?

Yes, we are talking about the potential use of the emerging technology of BlockChains, focused on learning.

I was in Africa in September to keynote an African Learning Conference, and my thinking and dreams for the application of instantly accessing resources across a global network became sharper and more exciting.

My colleagues from Rwanda asked if there was a taxonomy or numerical tagging system where every learning object, every assessment, and every learning resource could be uniquely identified and accessed with appropriate licenses or authority. They were far ahead of me and my North American colleagues in terms of dreaming about a Learning BlockChain.

The grocery industry has recently organized its own Food BlockChain, which enables a box of lettuce to be tracked from its farm to the retail counter at a specific Walmart – in under 3 seconds. It requires a common and open tagging or numbering system that is then accessed by a range of commercial cloud computer processors.

Learning BlockChains are being conceptualized and organized by a wide range of learning leaders, system companies, talent officers, and global learning networks. The MASIE Center is honored to be calling together this coalition to organize a fully open and secure model for a Learning BlockChain. Here are just a few images of what it could enable:

• A leadership development program accesses the experiences of each learner, shapes content around their departments’ real-time challenges, leverages content from many open source collections, and tracks the impact of the program over 10 years – as the leaders evolve their careers. And, it could compare and contrast the impact against similar programs in 2,000 other organizations.
• As an employee leaves a company, the Learning BlockChain can give their next employer a detailed perspective on that person’s content, readiness, and experience – with their explicit permission and authorization.
• Content from external resources (e.g. financial reporting) could be appended in real time to a learning program in development.

Our LMS, LCMS, Talent, xAPI, Curation and other systems can be deeply enhanced as Learning BlockChains evolve. And, our employees can also have verified access to their own learning records to help shape a true Lifetime of Learning.

Cyber-Security: Learning’s Breaking News Imperative

Published in CLO Magazine, March 2019

Your employees will need highly targeted and continuous learning and performance resources focused on Cyber-Security in the next 24 months.

This will be a significant and disruptive shift in the drivers and sponsorship of workplace learning. Currently, most learning is triggered by compliance/regulatory needs, development of leadership candidates, new skills for new employees, and systems changes.

But, the deep and dangerous world of cyber threats will require learning and development departments to adjust and expand their focus, content, resources, and expertise – to be the front line of readiness to keep the employees and the enterprise safe and secure.

We can’t teach “be safe” skills in an environment where the sources of threats change constantly and instantly. Here are a few operating examples:

• Every week, employees will receive very well-structured scam emails posing as alerts from banks or shipping organizations. They will look, feel, and appear 100% legitimate. How do we prepare or alert our workforce for these threats?
• Mobile devices will be used more and more with our enterprise systems, opening up new cyber risks and threats. Do we allow our workers to attend a webinar from a laptop at an airport?
• A customer is reluctant to give their personal information to the sales agent from your organization because they have had 3 instances where complete data bases were hacked, exposing their social security number, credit card info, and more.
• How can a manager of a group or an individual worker receive information about the level of cyber security risk or readiness on a weekly basis? Is there a display in the office or information delivered via text message that provides real-time scanning on risky behaviors?
• How can we build a great level of safety and security within the digital side of our businesses and create a sense of safety and comfort for our employees?
• What are the new skills, certifications, and assessments needed for IT, Risk Management, and now Learning Professionals in Cyber-Security Readiness?

This is a topic without a single or easy-to-identify subject matter expert. Cyber threats are changing so rapidly that we will need to source multiple resources, including Tech Companies (e.g. Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Cisco), government security agencies (e.g. NSA, CIA, and FBI), human resource and talent groups, as well as consulting assets.

Adding to this complexity is the need to develop a global approach to Cyber-Security. Recent changes in the Data Rules for the EEC highlight the global aspect of this learning and support requirement:

• Data Security Requirements change based on the location of the data, the country of the employee, and the nature of the cross-country transaction.

Language Issues: Cyber threats are harder to sometimes detect or rule out when the language of an email or system is not the native language of the learner. I recently got an email from the French embassy in Spain and could not easily see if it was legitimate. Our Cyber-Security threat information and learning resources will need to be provided in a wide range of languages.

BlockChain Technology: Increasingly our data will be on multiple servers, often in a blockchain layout, which should have higher degrees of security. But this is an emerging and threat-filled model as well.

Personal and Enterprise Data Sources Overlap: An employee may be listed on LinkedIn, indicating that they work for your organization. If a nasty person or group wants to penetrate your enterprise security, they could find this employee on LinkedIn, start a social conversation over time, and subtly gain trust and perhaps access to corporate information.

Learning Professionals will need to harness a new set of partners and design approaches for this urgent topic. Let’s leverage User Experience to test design models that work best to teach or support learners in their “moments of need”. We must increase our IT and Cyber language comfort and coach our colleagues in the tech departments on better forms of embedded learning and support resources.

And, we must watch the overall level of employee awareness and the level of trust in the digital side of our enterprise. The MASIE Learning CONSORTIUM will be bringing together CLOs and experts in tech and business to work together on the learning challenges of Cyber-Security. Stay tuned!

Homework for Workplace Learners?

Published in CLO Magazine, July 2019

Students in schools and colleges have come to expect and accept homework as an element of their learning process. But, what about homework for learners in the workplace.

If we imagine homework as a reading or lesson, our learners will not respond well. A great example of this includes the Pre-Training Readings that many organizations send out to participants in leadership development. If I am one of those participants, I will probably skim the articles on the plane ride to the leadership retreat. And, I will not be alone in my reaction.

Your colleagues are busy, distracted, and often have low confidence that the assigned readings are essential to their learnings. And, many classroom facilitators have come to accept this and laugh when they ask how many people have actually read the assigned articles.

But, homework for workplace learners can be effective if we design it in a creative, engaging, and “UserExperience-validated” format.

Here are the reasons to design great homework for our learners:

• Builds Motivation
• Creates Context for the Content
• Personalizes the Learning Experience
• Triggers Learner Curiosity
• Facilitates Learner Interaction
• Supports Transfer of New Skills/Information to the Workflow
Let’s explore some alternative homework models for workplace learners:

Short SMS or Social System Question: Rather than requiring an in-depth learner survey as part of homework before a structured learning experience, consider sending each participant a short question to consider or answer:

“What behavior most annoys you as a listener in a meeting?”

“Which feature do you hope is easier to use in the new Sales System?”

“What are three words you would use to describe our new product?”

Purpose: These short question suggestions give workers a targeted and easy way to reflect on the content focus of the learning program. Sometimes a single question will instantly raise the learner’s curiosity and engagement.

Observe a Process in the Workflow: Ask your learners to observe a process in the workflow over the next day or week. Ask them to be anthropologists of how a procedure or action takes place – and have them bring it into their class, webinar, or learning module:

• For a Time Management Course: Observe what times of day you are most awake, send the most emails, and are most distracted.
• For a Safety-in-the-Plant Program: Watch how your colleagues navigate the shop floor when a new rig is installed.
• For a Leadership Program: What notes do you take during a meeting and how do you refer to or read them afterwards?
• For a Data Analytics Self-Study Program: Note how many times managers use the word “data” and see how it is contextualized.
• For a Public Speaking Program: Watch a random TED Talk and note how the speaker is similar to or different from you.

Purpose: Watching and observing is a powerful way to trigger the curiosity and interest of workers. Don’t give them a form or input page; instead, ask them to observe and comment. You will be amazed at how engaged they become when making such observations in face-to-face or online moments.

Suggested Conversations: Give each learner a single card (print or digital) with a conversation you hope they have with 1, 2, or more people. Make it a targeted and engaging conversation that is easy to start with a colleague in the workplace or elsewhere:

• Talk about how you learn differently today then when you were in grade school.
• Ask colleagues about their most difficult customers to please.
• Dialogue with co-workers about their fears or hopes for AI in the future.
• Chat with colleagues from overseas about their views of the new brand.
• Converse with a family member about how we use our mobile phones.
Purpose: Conversations yield “cognitive rehearsal” to support learners exploring the context or story side of a new skill or information set.

We can expand homework for workplace learners using other non-traditional suggestions, assignments, or even competitions. These can include:

• Take 3 pictures of XXXX in the headquarters building. Post them on our Teams Page.
• Watch a 15-minute clip from this famous movie and consider its message as it relates to our new topic.
• Try to explain this new policy to one person in your workgroup and let’s talk about it when you come back to the learning center next week.

My guidelines with these homework assignments are to make them short, targeted, and personal – and not to grade or evaluate the answers/responses. Entice your learners to extend their learning!

“Alexa, How Did I Do Today on Sales Calls?”

Published in CLO Magazine, May 2018

Our workplaces will soon have a range of smart speakers, responsive mobile devices, and chatbots – all geared to provide the employee with a rapid answer to a question or performance support element. Employees will be able to vocally ask or type a query or curiosity and get an immediate response.

This “pull” level of response from speakers, cell phones, computer devices, and even corporate phone systems will mirror the rising nature of smart speakers in our homes.

But, are workers and employers truly ready for the next chapter of responsive technology? They must consider that these speakers and systems can:

• Listen and watch a full day’s interactions of an employee, analyzing language and interactions for coaching feedback.
• Provide historical analysis of how the sales calls that land contracts differ from unsuccessful calls.
• Monitor performance data from corporate systems and provide real-time prompting and feedback as work results change.
• Insert short teaching or coaching moments into a day, focused on a behavior or outcome pattern.

While these may seem “only in the future”, my recent visit to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas highlighted how Amazon, Google, Microsoft, IBM, and others will take the same speaker from the home and adapt it for “Alexa” or “Google Assistant” at work.

And, the natural evolution is to integrate these functions, capabilities, and extensions into workplace responsive technologies:

• Voice and Facial Recognition (utilizing the camera elements in the smart speaker) that can identify the worker and their potential change in emotion, confusion, or hesitation. A request that has a panicked quality will be different than a gentle query about a topic of interest.
• Continual Observation and Recording, which will raise many questions about privacy and intrusion. Imagine if a new manager were able to get an analysis of their language throughout the day, including conversations and messages with constant feedback about how they are engaging, delegating, negating, or supporting collaboration.
• Curation in Real Time – integrating recommendation and content curation segments to optimize the worker’s access to knowledge - including mixing and balancing perspectives - shaped by their previous reactions to advice.
• Coaching and Continual Assessment – ramping up the performance support elements to deliver personalized levels of coaching, feedback, supervisory engagement, social network support, and instant and immediate assessment scoreboards.
• Big Learning Data models that would allow for experimentation in the optimized mix of content, context, advice, support, and feedback by person, by role, by location, or even by worker preference and profiles.
• Code of Conduct Feedback – providing instant feedback when an employee “crosses a line” in either business interactions or expressing bias in their dealings with colleagues or customers (e.g. a beep prompting a need to correct or stop a behavior).

Some of the readers of my column are going to be quite rattled and upset by these potential futures. Others can’t wait to have this level of support and feedback. HR, IT, and Legal Departments will have a range of reactions to adding these systems and devices to our regulated workplaces.

But, it is coming! I use my Siri function on the iPhone, Alexa on my desk, and Google Assistant in my office to provide a continual set of input, knowledge, and data. With a simple command, I can request that the video lights and camera functions in my office turn on for a video conference. So, how long until that command is linked directly into my Outlook calendar?

And, the smart speaker and chatbot technologies that are coming to the market in 2018 are adding an increasing level of “personality” and “emotional programming.” My Jibo device has the cutest eyes and rotating face with a screen that has me thanking it for its responses and laughing at many of its outputs (that just come across as factoids from more traditional speaker devices).

Are enterprises, managers, and employees ready to have a continual presence of responsive technologies in the workplace? Will they have an “off” switch for interactions that they don’t want captured or analyzed? Will employees start to “game” the system by intentionally underperforming a behavior and then radically improving it right before performance review and bonus time? And, what are the roles for Learning and Development in this space? Get ready!

“Layers” of Content and Tech Innovation

Published in CLO Magazine, March 2018

Imagine adding “layers” of new learning content, context, and/or interaction to your Learning Management System – without a major upgrade or expensive integration.

Imagine being able to offer the Machine Learning expertise of IBM’s Watson or Amazon’s Alexa to your learners by adding a “layer” of technology that would seamlessly weave through the existing workplace technology.

Imagine if your employees who graduated from business programs at institutions like Wharton, Harvard, or UCLA could add a personalized “layer” of content, curation, and collaboration to their technology workspaces that would enhance their learning experiences.

Imagine if a business unit could offer a “gamification layer” that would provide enterprise-wide content for a cluster of employees, adding a powerful engagement strategy for a targeted cluster of the workforce.

And, imagine if you could inject a “layer” of content in the native language of some of your employees. That layer could live alongside or even replace English content for specific learners who want a deeper, native-language exploration of a topic.

Layers are coming!

Sure, we have always had the ability to ask the IT Department or an external vendor to design, test, and implement an integration of a second program or application into a learning or talent system. But, that would often become a deeply complicated process, with uncertain expenses and “hard-coded” solutions that might require re-integration after an update to the LMS.

The layer looks and feels more like an app on our phones. Layers will leverage the equivalent of an “Open API – Application Program Interface” to allow a business unit or learning department to add/inject/weave/enhance a worker’s learning space with new capabilities, in a safe and secure fashion.

Let’s explore this more by imagining a layer that would provide Apple’s Siri at the workplace:

• Let’s say that Apple would offer the power of Siri, a voice- or text-based search and assistance tool, to businesses.
• The entire enterprise, a specific line of business, or even a group of employees would choose to add the “Siri Business Layer” into their computing world.
• Siri would have been approved as a safe, secure, and appropriate layer by a software association or “layer registry”.
• The enterprise, business, or learners themselves would select the layer and how it would be seen and used.
• Siri would then become active and could work on top, alongside, or with content from learning systems.
• Siri could be replaced with a different layer or even offer the employee multi-layers of search and “TalkTech” tools.
What makes the layer model so attractive is the ability for an organization to take an approach that is centered on innovation and user experiences. As technology evolves in the marketplace, layers would enable an organization to experiment with and compare diverse tools.

Personalization by business units or specialized roles could be enhanced through a robust set of layers that were available and easily added.

Remember, you may have a dozen or more mobile apps on your phone that you have tried but haven’t used in months – or even years. The app model has allowed you to be more agile and experimental in how to leverage your phone or tablet.

Layers would also provide a new incentive to the venture and development world as it could more easily provide demonstration or beta versions of innovations to a global marketplace.

What is needed to make layers a reality?

• Learning Management Systems and Talent Systems that create a dynamic integration tool for layers: a new API to allow for enterprise security, safety, and data sharing that protects the corporate data warehouse while adding new functionality for the worker.
• A business model for how layers will be priced and marketed: some may be free, some will be directly charged, and others may have a sponsored or premium layer pricing model.
• Layer Marketplaces, which may live off the supplier sites of the LMS and Talent Systems, where layers could be viewed, reviewed, and selected.
• A Mentality Shift: excitement about our ability to be agile, experimental, and dynamic in adding new technology to our core systems without hassles or major expenses.

Yes, layers are coming. Get ready!

Tech-Wise Learning Leaders in 2018?

Published in CLO Magazine, January - February 2018

Our Chief Learning Officers and Learning Leaders must rapidly increase their “Tech-Wisdom” to handle the significant shifts in technology innovations and deployments in our workplaces.

Most CLOs can navigate the current conversations about Talent/Learning Databases and Mobile Devices, and can decode many conversations as they delve into the inner workings of APIs, Technology Stacks, and Clouds. And, as good leaders should, they rely on their team members to support their tech-readiness along the way.

But, it is time for many of our Learning Leaders to build a deliberate learning program to make them more “Tech-Wise” and “Tech-Conversation-Ready”.

In recent months, I have seen the eyes of Learning Leaders glaze over when strategic conversations dove into these topics:

• BlockChain Techologies
• Audio Search & Knowledge Tech
• Machine Learning
• Augmented Reality Context
• Automation Process Cycles
• Big Data for Talent Analytics

It is not the role of a Learning Leader to be an expert in any of these technologies, but we need to have a core conceptual understanding and an active vocabulary to dialogue and to test the realities of predictions, claims, and product assertions.

Let’s build a learning pathway for our Learning Leaders to get more “Tech-Wise” for 2018:

• It’s Vocabulary Time! We need to build a vocabulary of 5 to 15 phrases for each technology that will build our ability to have conversations as Learning Leaders. Ask a member of your team or a resource in your IT department to build a vocabulary list with a one-paragraph definition for each term.
• It’s Example Time! Learning Leaders need concrete workplace examples of each technology. For example, you might hear the term “BlockChain” and think it is about geeks playing with BitCoins. In truth, BlockChain is a much wider, global exchange for financial transactions. Learn 2 to 3 examples, outside of your corporate setting.
• It’s Timeline Time! Each of these technologies lives on a predictive timeline from idea into actual productive implementation in your workplace – or not! Suppliers of technologies often exaggerate how ripe and ready their tech truly is or predict that they will change the world of learning in just three years. Remember, the predictions of SecondLife as the replacement of all classrooms was way wrong! Gain some advice to build a timeline and plot where these technologies might fit into your workplace future.
• It’s Personal Tech Time! Some of the most provocative technologies are now starting in the home and personal market. Look at the role of Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri. They are growing in the personal marketplace years before they are fully adapted into the corporate setting. And, they are often used by the employee on their own device rather than on an enterprise platform. A “Tech-Wise” Learning Leader has their own at-home lab to use and engage with emerging technologies – and perhaps observe their family members as “test users”.
• It’s Replacement Time! Watch for the technologies, systems, or platforms that are fading from use or even being eliminated at the workplace. Are new features in Talent Systems radically reducing the use of some Learning Systems technologies? Ask for and understand the vector of which technologies are shrinking in the workplace!
• It’s Evidence & Data Time! Learn what evidence and data are essential to track as new technologies are deployed in the marketplace. How will an organization know if these technologies are having an impact on the workplace and the workforce? Push to get a sense of these technologies.
• It’s User Experience (UX) Time! There is a growing field of User Experience that is researching how emerging technologies are being accepted or embraced by users. The UX field is an ideal one for a Learning Leader to follow as it is focused on the key question of how a technology will be experienced by real people in a real work setting.

Finally, the biggest one: It’s Smart Innovation Time! The Learning Leader should avoid being either the front advocate or leading cynic on technologies. Your role is not to push any specific technology, which may be quickly replaced by something faster and cheaper. Instead, you want to be the leading facilitator of discussions about how to mix and match existing technologies, emerging technologies, and changing work processes. Benchmark fiercely in your field – and beyond!

A Learning Leader in 2018 should be Tech-Curious, Tech-Open, Tech-Experimenting, Tech-Supported, Tech-Learning, Tech-Verbal, and Tech-Wise!

Transfer Happens When I Teach What I Just Learned!

Published in CLO Magazine, July-August 2017

Your learners have successfully finished a course or learning activity. They have demonstrated their mastery of the content, skills or even behaviors in the educational environment (digital or face to face). Now comes the important element – TRANSFER to the workplace.

The literature is filled with important processes that will help transfer, including managerial attention/engagement, practice opportunities and even remedial assets that will reinforce the learning objectives.
Let me add “Now, Teach it Someone Else” to the list of transfer tools.

There is significant research, including 40 years of work by doctors David and Roger Johnson from the University of Minnesota, which highlights the importance of a learner taking their newly acquired knowledge and teaching it to someone else.

The learner may be confident or uncertain about their new content, but once they are asked to teach, an internal process of “cognitive rehearsal” and self-listening occurs. The learner as teacher goes through these steps:

• Restating the Knowledge in Their Words: Transfer requires the learner to make the new information their own. When they have to explain a complicated theory to someone else, they will reduce, reframe and reword it to something that makes sense to themselves.
• Listening to My Words Reinforces Understanding: The learner hears their own words as they explain things to others. This listening is clarifying and will help them understand what they know clearly versus what gets “stuck” on the way out.
• New Questions Surface as They Re-Teach: The learner understands or surfaces questions as they explain the content to another person. Their own questions pop up as they explain it and they hear good questions from other people.
• Steps are Reinforced: Learners often slice the complexity of the content into a simpler format. But, in that process, key steps can be forgotten or ignored. Re-teaching seems to increase a learner’s awareness of the complex aspects of the new information.
• Emotional Framing: They may have learned a new process for safety procedures in a manufacturing environment. This process has both intellectual and emotional dimensions. As the learner becomes the teacher, they may get in touch with a more personal dimension of the new behavior.
• Sketching Counts: Often, a learner will draw or sketch a diagram as they re-teach. These illustrations are quite powerful for helping the new learner integrate and transfer new content elements or processes.
• Levels of Confidence Rise: The process of re-teaching can move a learner from “Unconsciously Competent” to “Consciously Competent”.

In elementary school classrooms, the concept of asking the students to learn and then re-teach is used very effectively. The learners approach their learning differently when they know they will be asked to explain it to others.

This process is so important for TRANSFER as it creates an important post-learning experience that actually cements the new content into the learner as teacher in a key fashion.
The other aspect of re-teaching the content is that it can be leveraged into a new phase of course evaluation. Asking a learner about the class is quite different once they have had to teach the content to another worker. They can be asked questions such as the following:

• Now that you have learned the content and taught it to someone else, what changes to the course structure would you suggest?
• How do you rank the elements of the content according to your confidence in utilizing them and re-teaching them to others?
• What language, vocabulary or concepts continue to be confusing or too complex for you?
• What illustrations or job aids would have helped you implement the content or teach it to others in the workplace?
• What Frequently Asked Questions would you suggest we add to the content, based on your questions and questions from others?

I truly and deeply believe in this process. I design it into almost every LAB or Class that I facilitate. Try it and see how it works! And, the learner can be asked to teach it to someone who already has the competency, as part of their process for gaining final readiness on the new content. Learners as Teachers. I like that!

Your Learners Got Attitude!

Published in CLO Magazine, March 2017

Your learners got more and more attitude!

Your learners’ choices are changing. Their attitudes as learners in the middle of learning experiences are shifting. And, their assumptions about the yield of learning time invested are evolving.

Your learners are not being rude or arrogant, but they do have a new attitude, which may be surprising, disappointing, or confusing to us Learning and Development veterans. Some of your learners, who are normally grateful recipients of all that you can give them for development, may be showing new behaviors that look a bit more like “online dating”. Your learners look at a learning offer and…

• Quickly give it a swipe left or a swipe right – “keep it” or “let it go”.
• Ask “Is this good? Will my time on this be worth it?”
• Want to know “Did other employees like this or is it just not worth my time?”
• Ask “Is there a quicker or better way to learn?”
• Say “Hey, give me the good stuff and skip the fluff!”

Your learners are better guardians of your wage time than you! Set up a 75 minute webinar for every regional manager and their attitude kicks in:

• “Is there really 75 minutes of new and valuable stuff?”
• “Do I really need to participate live? Will my absence be noticed?”
• “Could I watch the archived version and skip to the few minutes of important info?”
• “Ah, let me order my lunch, check my emails, and have a side telephone call during this very long webinar.”

Your learners have attitude and it will grow as the panorama of learning options expand. They will make personal swaps:

• Skip the leadership videos that your Learning and Development group purchased and watch a few 18 minute Ted Talks that seem more engaging!
• Ask to take the assessment quiz before the class – in order to skip the teaching and jump to the certification!
• Resist the sense of “newness” for each announced corporate strategy and find the old slides that look almost exactly the same (with a few text changes).
• They might even partner with other colleagues to gain efficiency in their learning assignments. One person goes to the important meeting and sends real-time internal tweets with updates. Or, Joe does module 1 and Karen does module 2, and they collaborate to save time and energy. Both pass.

Your learners have attitude because the times are changing and the choices are getting more complex:

• Memorization is becoming less important. The learner knows they can get content online, so why pretend to memorize it? Navigational readiness may be all they need or want.
• The employment lifespan of a new employee is much lower. Some new hires want to jump in and start performing quicker since they may not be sticking around for long.
• They may be way more interested in the CONTEXT rather than the CONTENT. They can’t look up the real backstory online, so context is their hunger in a classroom, much more than the PowerPoint slides.

Your learners have fewer boundaries or barriers to keep them from getting the best learning experiences. Beware!

• Given an IT problem, they may call their friend who works in the IT department of another company for help! Why? They trust them and will get a more targeted answer.
• They will likely validate or confirm knowledge from a trainer via a real-time search. I mentioned a statistic in a leadership program last year and five minutes later one of the participants kindly corrected me based on real-time research on my stated fact.
• They are more drawn to a short video and FAQ instead of a well-formatted instructional layout.
• And they want us, as teachers and facilitators, to more deeply honor what they know already and sort by what they really need to know now!

Your learners have attitude, and it is time for learning departments and professionals to adjust our own attitudes:

• Encourage your learners to be “in charge” and own their learning process.
• Toughen up and tighten our assessments to be of more value and guidance to learners.
• Expand the curation skills, tools, and strategies of our organizations to harvest and target more personalized content for our learners.
• Take the “school” branding out of our learning resources, treating learners more as colleagues, employees, and candidates - rather than students.
• Allow our own attitudes to shift. My lectures can go on video. My ice breaker activities may be way too familiar. And, my learners want to connect with my knowledge more than my curriculum.

Learning deserves some new attitudes!

Curation: A Multi-Cycle Support for Learning

Published in CLO Magazine, May 2017

“Curation” is one of the hot words in the talent field in 2017. As the quantity and diversity of content multiplies, learners and organizations are yearning for order, structure, efficiency, and targeting of knowledge and information options. Let’s explore the role of content and curation in a shifting landscape:

Content Explosion & Panorama: Start with a simple investigation about the growth of content at your organization. Ask 10 random employees what video clips, news reports, PDF’s, briefings, or other content they have viewed or read in the past 3 months in order to be better at their jobs. You will be amazed at the volume and diversity of sources that they will report. Here are a few predictions of what you will hear:

• TED Videos: For leadership, management, and organizational content, TED is often the prime source for our workforce. Even when the organization has spent $$$ on great content from a learning provider, TED Videos are more viral, short, and externally validated.
• User Content & Knowledge: Workers want to watch or read what their peers have to say about almost every topic. They often would rather see/read that than use a well-designed learning packet from a validated Subject Matter Expert.
• “The Amount of Content is Overwhelming!”: Prepare to listen to learners, their managers, and even designers say that they are overwhelmed by the number and range of content choices. And, there is rarely help in sorting, ranking, or choosing which content piece is most effective for “me” at any given moment.
• Fake News: In the age of “Fake News” and “Alternative Content” conversations, learners are not fully confident in the truth of a white paper or article. I recently read a review of a new learning product and later found out that the author had received a fee to evaluate and promote the innovation. Yet, that wasn’t indicated for the reader.

Here is where Curation is playing and will continue to play a key role in the future of learning and development. And, let’s view Curation as a 360 Degree process that can play a powerful role before, during, and following a learning activity or experience:

• Curation of Learning Choices: When I choose a restaurant, I have 100% reliance on user ratings. I open an app to see how other buyers have rated the offering and I want to be able to drill down to look at greater details, such as menus or dress code. Learners want to evaluate the range of content choices (from both internal and external sources) with curation assistance and context.
• Recommendations from Curation: Soon, we will see the rise of a special form of Curation System that will provide Recommendations to the learner based on preferences and backgrounds, and maybe even assisted with a Machine Learning form of predictive analysis. Workers will want to have their choices optimized and sorted for them.
• Curation Coming Attractions: It works at the movie theater, so why can’t we scroll over an eLearning module’s link and get a 30 second preview of its content, focus, and activity formats? Curation helps the learner prepare for their learning moments ahead.
• Curation in the Learning Moment: My favorite textbook from college, over 40 years ago, was Economics 101 by Paul Samuelson. It was the only textbook that had the important sentences already highlighted in color. Curation can help the learner absorb, sort, and notate (or notate for them) the key takeaway elements.
• Curation of Extending Content/Context: As I read or view content, I often want more as a learner. Learners should have the ability to touch or click to get personalized extensions of the core material. And, give them a choice to see these now or at their moment of choice later.
• Curation “Jump Aheads”: Often, we already know 80% of the content in a new learning activity. Organize it with tabs, chapters, and even instant mini-assessments to help the learner “jump ahead” to their new and needed segments. And, use this Big Learning Data to better curate the content for the next set of learners.
• Curate by Summarizing and Repackaging Content Later: Take the content from a real-time class, webinar, or even conference and re-package it into a high energy “Readers Digest” roll-up of the content. Here is an example from our recent event, which was consumed by tens of thousands of colleagues.

Curate before, during and after an event, for learning is truly multi-cycle and lifelong.

Learning Leaders in Mid-Career: What’s Next?

Published in CLO Magazine, November 2017

Congrats! You hold a senior learning leader position in the middle of your career. Now, you are managing a major function in the learning department, driving learning strategy, or maybe have been promoted to a Chief Learning Officer role (with or without the official CLO title). Well done!

So, what does the next half of your career look like? And, what are the natural development steps for learning leaders in the middle of their careers?

Normally, we are the ones giving coaching and career advice to colleagues in the workplace. Let me turn the tables and give you a summary of the advice and career options that I share with your equivalent mid-career learning leaders in conversations throughout the year:

• Go Wider and Larger: The natural route for the second half of a learning career to is go wider and larger. Become the CLO or Chief Talent Officer of your company. The average duration at the top in learning is less than 4 years, so there will always be opportunities to go wider – switching to a different team.
• Take a Stretch Assignment Outside of Learning: As a C-Level officer in your company, take a “stretch assignment” lasting several months to a year – outside of Learning or HR! A rising learning leader from a large automobile company asked for and received a one- year role as Assistant Plant Manager in Brazil. She blossomed and expanded her skill set, moving on to other very senior manufacturing roles at headquarters.
• Add an Academic Credential: Being a CLO or VP for Learning is an amazing accomplishment “star” on your resumé. Now, consider adding an academic credential. Over 100 senior learning leaders have pursued Doctoral programs at UPenn, Columbia, and other institutions. Others have added non-learning degrees, like an MBA or Executive MBA. And, others have participated in an executive development program in Strategy or User Experience.
• Join a Board of Directors: Join a corporate or non-profit organization’s Board of Directors. They will deeply value your talent and learning experience and it will give you a unique role in shaping an organization without being a manager. The networking is immense and future resources for corporate roles or connections for your next career moves are plentiful.
• Map and Validate Your Skills: Build a visual map of your skills, defining the mixture of learning, management, industry, and interpersonal competencies. Go wide and share this with colleagues and friends inside and outside your organization. Ask them for feedback on your map, including gaps or even elements that you did not include.
• Global Opportunities Await: If your lifestyle and family situation allows, consider a global opportunity. The future of business lies in the global marketplace. Reach for a learning role that either locates you internationally or has you deeply engaged in other countries and regions. Add or improve a second or third language.
• Technology and Innovation Fluency: How deeply do you explore evolving technologies, methodologies, and innovations? The world of business and learning has already changed radically in the first part of your career. Strap on your seat belt for more change in the next few decades. Immerse yourself as a learner and experimenter. Learn some code, find a few tech mentors, coach a high school robotics team, study cognitive and brain science changes, and visit a tech startup venture.
• Learning DNA vs. Learning Career? Face it: you will always have a Learning DNA make-up. Every role that you hold in the future will draw upon your experiences and competencies as a learning leader. Now, you must decide if you want the balance of your career to be in the learning field or if you are ready for a career change that will taste quite different, but that will use your people development skills every day.

Finally, we are waiting for the first Fortune 500 CLO to be promoted to CEO. There are several people in our industry that I am betting on to make this career change. It is just one of many career choices.

Again, congrats on your success. But, as my friend Marshall Goldsmith says, “What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There!” It is time for you to design and live the next chapters of your career as a learning leader.

Learning “Stints” vs. Careers?

Published in CLO Magazine, September 2017

As I travel around the United States, I see a shift in the learning field that is easy to notice. There are significantly fewer full time Learning and Development employees in organizations delivering programs to their own staff.

In some organizations, the number of L&D professionals has dropped by as much as 80%. Yet, there is actually MORE learning happening than ever before. So, what is happening to our field and what lies ahead for Learning as an organizational function?

Here are several elements that have collectively led to a smaller number of full-time L&D employees:

• Reduction in Face-to-Face Classes: A large number of learning folks used to be called “Trainers” in our Training Departments. They were subject matter experts (SME’s) who had a passion for classroom delivery. We brought them into the learning function for either a few years or for long careers as teachers. The total number of internally-led classes has dropped, replaced by asynchronous eLearning or by webinars that are delivered virtually. In those cases, SME’s are still being used, but they are “borrowed” for that function while keeping their line jobs.
• Learning Roles in the Business Units vs. L&D Groups: In areas that have high levels of turnover - e.g. retail, sales, and front line roles - we are finding larger numbers of Learning colleagues with jobs that are located in a line of business or function, often with a modifier to describe their learning responsibility: “Sales Readiness Manager”, “Field Leader for Induction”, etc. They may have a “dotted line” to the L&D department but often see their careers aligning with another business function, so they are less likely to identify themselves primarily as learning professionals.
• External Sourcing of Learning Development: The number of internal instructional designers has also dropped significantly. A large percentage of asynchronous content is being designed and developed under contract by external providers. Or, the content is licensed from a content supplier or industry association. In some companies, the on-site instructional designers may be brought in for a specific project rather than added to the learning team.
• Learning That Does Not Sound Like Learning: One large manufacturing company has a team that creates short video clips focused on recent safety problems or challenges. The team is called “Maximize” and does not contain ANY learning professionals; yet, it is deeply involved in content and activity development. I met with one of this team’s leaders who said that they do not use words like “objective” or “outcome” since they are in the “Social Knowledge Space”. The future of learning will include more embedded content and context than traditional courses.
• Skill Gaps in Learning: A big challenge is the need for a new set of skills for learning professionals. We are tracking an enormous need for our colleagues to have expertise in:
• Data Analytics: The ability to work with large amounts of Big Learning Data and support an evidence-based approach to assessment and evaluation.
• Curation of Learning Content: The ability to create and organize curation of diverse internal, external, and open content to optimize employees’ awareness and use of targeted content.
• Performance and Workflow Support: The ability to create digital and non-digital resources that support learning at the time of need, change, or shifts.
• User Experience Design: The ability to leverage a User Experience model of content development, testing, and alignment with specific employee requirements.
• Glass Ceilings Career Challenges: Let me be quite blunt. There are significant “Glass Ceilings” that limit or constrain the long-term career opportunities for current and future learning professionals. Some of these are titles (e.g. “Instructional Designer”) that describe competencies but do not suggest the ability to perform other functions in the organization. I like to use the phrase “Learning Producer”, which has a wider set of future options. And, many of our learning colleagues are perceived as lacking hard business skills. This can be corrected with stretch assignments in business roles and shifting our college programs to include more content on business performance than ADDIE (a strategy rather than a career enabler).

It is time for the Learning field to have a deep and open conversation about how we re-engineer our craft, our skills, and our careers to support engagement in learning – whether these are roles for a few years or life-long professions. The workforce and our world need agile, innovative, and business-aligned learning colleagues to face the changing workplace of the future. Let’s step up to the challenge!

Nudge! Nudge Again!

Published in CLO Magazine, July 2019

Imagine gentle “Nudges” coming to your employees. A Nudge as a text message. A Nudge as a collaborative system note (perhaps on Jive, Slack, or Yammer). A Nudge as an audio whisper from Amazon Alexa or a ping from Siri on an Apple Watch. A Nudge as a projected phrase appearing on the dashboard of a vehicle. All gentle Nudges to your employees.

The Nudge is never coercive, angry, manipulative, or judgmental. The Nudge is a prod or reminder to pay attention or to do/complete a task.

Here is one definition of the word Nudge:

“The meaning of the English word “nudge” is a gentle push, not “pestering” [nidnud]. . . . A nudge is [something that] inclines people in a given direction without constraining their freedom of choice.”

Let’s welcome, design, deploy, honor, and even enjoy adding Nudges to our learning programs and activities.

The spellchecker in Microsoft Word is my most appreciated Nudge. As soon as I type a word differently, it Nudges (or prods) me by changing the color to red. The Nudge alerts me to a potential mistake: in misspelling, in the use of a non-traditional word, and even in grammar.

The Nudge usually prods me to reconsider what I’ve typed and try something different with the hope that the red underlining goes away. And, if the Nudges continue, I can always right click and get a Workflow Support suggestion of the correct spelling/grammar.

The Nudge does not change my “spelling grade”, nor does it send me or my relatives a “bad speller” warning note. And, in a more Machine Learning version of Word in the future, the Nudges would be less necessary, as the system would find and autocorrect my spelling screw-ups in real time.

Nudges belong in our Learning Design Toolbox. We should be deploying Nudges in every stage of learning, including Assessment, Content Delivery, Collaboration, Project Assignments, Transfer, and the Workflow. Nudges are digital friends or colleagues that can extend and stretch our memory and process recall – in a gentle fashion. Nudges provide private support without becoming the “annoying uncle” who interrupts you to finish your sentence, or an obsessive colleague who hunts and taunts you about mini-mistakes you made in the project report.

Nudges can take on many flavors, formats, and frequencies. Imagine if your enterprise used a system – that is not yet invented – called “Nudge for Success”. Here are some potential design choices and options for personalization:

• Who Orders the Nudges:
• The Learning Producer or Designer: Prompts based on difficulty of tasks
• The Manager of the Learner: Nudges based on individual or group failure patterns
• Help and Support Centers: Nudges based on reported issues or system problems
• The Learner: Nudges that are experienced as helpful and non-discouraging

• Nudges – What Do They Look or Feel Like?
• Messages in SMS, Messenger, Slack, Jive, or other social networks
• Pop-Up Windows on Screens or Devices
• Audio Whispers from Mobile Devices or Smart Speakers
• Nudges are Short and Quickly Actionable:
• “Confirm the Data Security Box”
• “Call the Customer Back for Re-Order Today”
• “Include the Late Fee in Calculations”
• “Don’t Hit Brake in Snow Skid”
• Mission of the Nudge:
• Prompt Recall
• Supply Hint for Complex Task
• Highlight Patterns of Missteps or Mistakes
• Accelerate Learner to Success without Discouragement
• Supplement a Learning Program (or Fill in the Gaps)

Nudges can take on a range of personalities, rhetoric, and even appearances – from the simple underlining of a word spelled incorrectly to a meme that pops up to give a Nudge, perhaps with humor. Nudges can have attitude, but let’s consider giving the learner a set of Nudge Control Dials to crank up or down the type, format, frequency, and even the vibe of the Nudges.
Finally, there is the data side of Nudges. Your Nudge system in the future will also be locked into a Data Mindset. Data from the learner’s behavior, background, or Talent file might be used to edit the Nudge. (For me, an occasional Nudge in either Yiddish or even Star Trek’s Vulcan language would be fun!) Nudges can also be driven by data from systems, business results, and customer feedback. Finally, Nudges will create an ecosystem of Nudge data – who, when, and how to Nudge which employees, suppliers, or customers – for gentle prodding.
Hope you appreciate this Nudge about Nudging!

My Pandemic Learning Lessons

Question: “Elliott, what lessons about learning are you discovering during the Coronavirus Pandemic?”
Answers:

• Digital Learning Explodes: I had 86 global early adopters for the start of eLearning at a meeting in the early 1990’s. The Pandemic has expanded that number to over 1.8 billion workers, students, and patients around the globe who had to suddenly become digital learners.

• Learning Tools Must be Simple: We watched Zoom meetings become the dominant connection, collaboration, and knowledge sharing video tool around the world. Zoom became dominant because it is a simpler-to-use tool. While there were few learning-focused features in Zoom, its simplicity made its use viral. Watch for redesign from WebEx, Microsoft Teams, Facebook, and Google’s Meet. They will “zoomify” their interfaces rapidly in the coming months.

• Learning Deserves Design: Connecting to learners is just the first step. The design process is essential but predictably ignored in the Pandemic crisis reaction. Teachers poorly ported their classroom lesson plans to online delivery, without creative design. College students forced to learn online were often bored. Home-based workers were flooded with webinars galore. Design becomes even more important with distributed and digitally connected learners and expertise.

• They Want to Be Supported Workers, Not Students: Your workers, at home or in changed workplaces, want to be supported. But they don’t want to be students. They want expertise, advice, and feedback in order to be more effective at tasks or new approaches; yet, they don’t want to be placed in the student role. Organizations have changed online courses to become more focused interactive briefings, lectures have been shifted to Q&A sessions, and webinars have been over scheduled.

• Empathy is a Key “E” in eLearning: Your workers are under stress, with uncertainty and unclear pathways to the future. They are often sharing home offices with spouses, partners, children, and pets. They are balancing changes in every aspect of their lives: work, home, community, and family. The key word that has emerged is EMPATHY! Our workers need empathy: connection, communication, and authenticity. Empathy is not counseling or coaching. Empathy is respect for the different realities of your workforce. Give them content, context, collaboration, and EMPATHY.

• Digital Learners Need Breaks: Learning from home requires more breaks. I watched people drop off at about 45 minutes into a multi-hour-long session. They want bio breaks, or just mental breaks: time to get up and walk around. Breaks also give learners opportunities to process newly delivered content and frame up questions.

• Online Learners Want Office Hours: Think about a teacher’s behavior in a face-to-face classroom session. Some of the best conversations with teachers happen when there is a coffee or lunch break. Learners come up and ask questions or share stories. Online learners need the same one-to-one, private conversations. Consider a time when learners can easily sign up for 10-minute slots in digital office hours with experts or teachers. Both learners and instructors will come away smarter from these interactions.

• Workflow Support and Job Aids for Digital Learners: Make sure there are job aids, infographics, and workflow support for your digital learners. They will need reminders, refreshers, and “moment of need” support as they transfer new knowledge into workplace action.

• Social Issues Matter: The Pandemic’s virus intersected with the Racial Injustice virus that has surged during these unprecedented times. I believe that the Pandemic “tenderized” society to watch/react to the murder in Minneapolis and large-scale demonstrations. Social issues will be part of the conversations that our learners and workers are having now.

• Let’s Get Data from Pandemic Learning: Much of our recent digital learning did not “hit” the LMS, but we need to gather data about those formal, informal, and collaborative learning activities. Let’s look at what we are collectively “learning about learning”, from almost 2 billion learners.

• Turning 70 in the Pandemic: I turned the fun age of 70 in May. In the Pandemic, this birthday was more virtual with hundreds of friends and colleagues celebrating online. And, turning 70 has triggered my need to be a more active learner and learning advocate. I look forward to the next decade of learning innovation, with you!

Elliott Masie is the CEO of The MASIE Center and Chair of the Learning CONSORTIUM. He has spent 3 ½ months working from his home in Saratoga Springs, NY and collaborating by video with tens of thousands of global learning colleagues.

Homework for Workplace Learners?

Students in schools and colleges have come to expect and accept homework as an element of their learning process. But, what about homework for learners in the workplace.

If we imagine homework as a reading or lesson, our learners will not respond well. A great example of this includes the Pre-Training Readings that many organizations send out to participants in leadership development. If I am one of those participants, I will probably skim the articles on the plane ride to the leadership retreat. And, I will not be alone in my reaction.

Your colleagues are busy, distracted, and often have low confidence that the assigned readings are essential to their learnings. And, many classroom facilitators have come to accept this and laugh when they ask how many people have actually read the assigned articles.

But, homework for workplace learners can be effective if we design it in a creative, engaging, and “UserExperience-validated” format.

Here are the reasons to design great homework for our learners:

• Builds Motivation
• Creates Context for the Content
• Personalizes the Learning Experience
• Triggers Learner Curiosity
• Facilitates Learner Interaction
• Supports Transfer of New Skills/Information to the Workflow

Let’s explore some alternative homework models for workplace learners:

• Short SMS or Social System Question: Rather than requiring an in-depth learner survey as part of homework before a structured learning experience, consider sending each participant a short question to consider or answer:

“What behavior most annoys you as a listener in a meeting?”

“Which feature do you hope is easier to use in the new Sales System?”

“What are three words you would use to describe our new product?”

• Purpose: These short question suggestions give workers a targeted and easy way to reflect on the content focus of the learning program. Sometimes a single question will instantly raise the learner’s curiosity and engagement.

• Observe a Process in the Workflow: Ask your learners to observe a process in the workflow over the next day or week. Ask them to be anthropologists of how a procedure or action takes place – and have them bring it into their class, webinar, or learning module:

• For a Time Management Course: Observe what times of day you are most awake, send the most emails, and are most distracted.
• For a Safety-in-the-Plant Program: Watch how your colleagues navigate the shop floor when a new rig is installed.
• For a Leadership Program: What notes do you take during a meeting and how do you refer to or read them afterwards?
• For a Data Analytics Self-Study Program: Note how many times managers use the word “data” and see how it is contextualized.
• For a Public Speaking Program: Watch a random TED Talk and note how the speaker is similar to or different from you.

• Purpose: Watching and observing is a powerful way to trigger the curiosity and interest of workers. Don’t give them a form or input page; instead, ask them to observe and comment. You will be amazed at how engaged they become when making such observations in face-to-face or online moments.

• Suggested Conversations: Give each learner a single card (print or digital) with a conversation you hope they have with 1, 2, or more people. Make it a targeted and engaging conversation that is easy to start with a colleague in the workplace or elsewhere:

• Talk about how you learn differently today then when you were in grade school.
• Ask colleagues about their most difficult customers to please.
• Dialogue with co-workers about their fears or hopes for AI in the future.
• Chat with colleagues from overseas about their views of the new brand.
• Converse with a family member about how we use our mobile phones.

• Purpose: Conversations yield “cognitive rehearsal” to support learners exploring the context or story side of a new skill or information set.

We can expand homework for workplace learners using other non-traditional suggestions, assignments, or even competitions. These can include:

• Take 3 pictures of XXXX in the headquarters building. Post them on our Teams Page.
• Watch a 15-minute clip from this famous movie and consider its message as it relates to our new topic.
• Try to explain this new policy to one person in your workgroup and let’s talk about it when you come back to the learning center next week.

My guidelines with these homework assignments are to make them short, targeted, and personal – and not to grade or evaluate the answers/responses. Entice your learners to extend their learning!

Published in CLO Magazine, July 2019

China Learning: Scalable, AI, and Shifts

Published in CLO Magazine, September 2019

I recently had the powerful opportunity to meet with 3,000 learning professionals in Suzhou, China. They were gathered for a conference on the role of “The Internet of Things” and Workplace Learning. After my keynote, I spent two days as a learner, journalist, and colleague – probing for the learning trends and innovations in the rapidly changing country of China. Here are a few of my notes and perspectives:

• It is All About Scale: One colleague was charged with growing the number of audiologists in China by 280,000 in the next few years. Scale of that nature requires a very different approach – beyond traditional campuses or curriculum. The ability to scale a learning program to tens of thousands or even millions of employees shapes the focus on the educational methods and technologies being developed in China.

• Everyday Learning: While we have all talked about Lifelong Learning, I heard buzz in China about Everyday Learning, where the learner is given a small task, assessment, challenge, or content cluster each and every day. One company is building Everyday Learning into their timeclock system, bundling the process of logging into work with a 5-minute learning activity.

• Artificial Intelligence is Data Rich Computing: AI and Machine Learning are primary objectives in Chinese government and industry. There are 30 new higher education institutions focused on AI and significant innovation and experimentation in how AI can be used to Optimize, Accelerate, and Scale Learning. New Learning Systems, Assessment Frameworks, and Coaching Models are being developed that are based on rich data analysis and prediction.

• Facial Recognition: Americans would be stunned and perhaps put off by the extent to which Facial Recognition is being leveraged in China. As I checked out of my hotel, there was a small tablet with a camera on the hotel counter. It scanned and recognized me at 6:40 am and the staff member then said, “Hello Mr. Masie. Your checkout is ready and the car to the airport for your 10 am flight is on the way.” Facial Recognition is being integrated into education and performance programs – beyond identification – for analyzing employee or customer stress, confusion, and engagement levels.

• Shifting Certifications in Learning and HR: The roles of Human Resources and Learning are also shifting in China. There are new certifications, development programs, and even “skill badges” in these focus zones for our colleagues in that changing country:

• Data Analysis: It is assumed that the new Learning Professional will be as skilled in the world of data handling and display (e.g. using Tableau as a dashboard) as Instructional Design.
• Mentoring: Scaling mentoring – the targeted shoulder-to-shoulder “On-The-Job-Training” process – by leveraging AI and Data could be a culture shift in the near future.
• Storytelling – Beyond PowerPoint: There is a desire to move from a traditional model of long PowerPoint lectures to a more active and engaging Storytelling Model. Not easy! Chinese schools have a “lecture and watch” tradition, but they want to engage and accelerate students, which requires a major shift in the role of the “teacher”.

• Study the World – But Implement a Chinese Learning Approach: The number of Chinese learning colleagues I met who studied overseas (in the United States, Europe, Australia, and elsewhere) was amazing. But, they don’t want to just “copy” our learning approaches and content. Instead, there is a deep desire to have a unique Chinese Learning Culture that reflects their culture, traditions, and AI innovations.

• Mobile Learning on Steroids: During my keynote speech, over a thousand colleagues added me to WeChat, a Chinese online app for social connections that also serves banking and other financial purposes. I received hundreds of questions and ongoing challenging conversations continue to flow to my phone. “Learning” and “Mobile” are welded together in China!

• Learning Drives Growth: Every corporate, higher education, and government official I met during my visit sees learning as a key to the growth and evolution of China’s changing society. Learning is seen as a key driver for the future of China.

The United States and China have much to learn about learning from each other, while honoring our different our cultures, governments, privacy expectations, and learning traditions. The MASIE Center will be continuing our conversations with learning leaders in China on these key issues.

Published in CLO Magazine, September 2019