The foundations of innovation in L&D

Posted 14 May 2018 by Ryan Tracey
Categories: innovation, strategy

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There are two sides of the innovation coin in corporate learning & development: technology and pedagogy.

The former is rather obvious and is often conflated with the term innovation. Futuristic hardware and magical software that educates everyone at the press of a button are tempting “solutions”. Some folks call this mindset Shiny New Toy Syndrome, and by golly, it’s a pandemic.

The latter is less obvious because it involves thinking, and I’m not being facetious when I say that thinking is hard. Traditional ways of learning in the workplace are, by definition, ingrained in the psyche of the vast majority of the workforce. Changing the concept of how we learn and redefining how we can help people do it better involve shifting the organisation’s culture, and that is a challenge greater than any IT implementation.

So it was with much surprise that, upon starting my new role in a global bank, charged with innovating its learning & development offering, I encountered the reverse! I had envisaged an arduous intellectual slog trying to convince my colleagues in the L&D team – let alone in the broader business – of the value of evolving our pedagogy to become more effective in the digital age; and of leveraging technology as an enabler of the outcome, rather than it being the outcome per se.

Instead, I found everyone already on board with contemporary ideas. Terms such as “flipped classes” and “microlearning” emerged unprompted in my conversations with them. My colleagues are evidently well read, open minded, progressive thinkers. Yet I saw little evidence of anyone having actioned these ideas. They appeared stuck on the content treadmill cranking out yet another course, be it a face-to-face workshop or online module.

Which – I finally realised – was why I was recruited. Not to introduce innovative ideas, but to make them happen.

While reasons for the disconnect between idea and action in corporate L&D abound, one of the most insidious I think is a variant of Shiny New Toy Syndrome called Bright New Idea Syndrome. When we aspire to do everything we think of at the same time, frequently flitting from one idea to another, we generally end up doing none of them – or at least none of them well.

Just as we must learn to walk before we can run, so too must an organisation lay the foundations of innovation before it can reach for the stars. Though not as sexy as their more tweeted-about alternatives, these foundations are the building blocks of long-term efficiency, flexibility and creativity.

So what are the foundations of innovation in L&D?

I will hereby attempt to answer this question by looking through the lens of the 70:20:10 model. Whereas previously I have advocated this approach when designing a solution for a specific learning objective, this time I’m elevating the approach to the strategic level, with a view to designing a future-proofed solution for all the organisation’s learning objectives.

The Foundations of Innovation in L&D: content library, knowledge base, enterprise social network, and performance-oriented training

The 70

From the get-go, a false idol that must fall is the belief that the role of the L&D department is to create all the training to meet the organisation’s learning needs. These needs are so diverse within and across all the different job roles that the task is an almost comical impossibility.

Moreover, a large proportion of these needs is generic; despite what many organisations think, they’re not that special. Analytics is analytics. Decision making is decision making. Difficult conversations are difficult conversations. The nature of such content is universal.

So my first building block is a third-party content library. There are many players in this space, and sure it makes sense to pick one that matches your organisation’s profile, but their pedagogical purpose is the same: to provide your people with immediate access to an extensive suite of learning assets, covering a broad range of topics, on demand. Such a resource empowers self-directed learning which, in the language of 70:20:10, can be done on the job, just in time.

Another false idol to fall is the myth that all the information we need is at our fingertips. Clearly, not all our needs are generic. The organisation is special in the sense that has its own products, processes, systems, policies, etc, which a third party will never cover.

So my second building block is an in-house knowledge base. Whether the underlying technology is an intranet, CMS or wiki, again the pedagogical purpose is the same: to provide your people with on-demand access to bespoke content that improves performance.

The 20

Despite the best intentions of a content library and a knowledge base, they will never meet every conceivable learning need. An enterprise social network covers the “in-betweens”, principally by empowering everyone to ask their own questions to the crowd, and to keep abreast of emergent knowledge in the moment.

The 10

The building blocks in the 70 and the 20 spearhead an informal first approach to learning and development which lifts a mountain of weight off the shoulders of the L&D team. Freed from the burden of training everything, we can now focus our attention on what should be trained.

Furthermore, these building blocks enable change in the nature of the training. With the bulk of the content hosted elsewhere, it doesn’t need to be shovelled into the course. The class can be flipped, the narrative pared back to its key messages, and a scenario-based design adopted to train not the content, but its application.

In this way, the training becomes performance oriented.

A man working on a house frame

By no means do these building blocks exhaust the 70:20:10 model, nor do they represent the extent of innovation in L&D. Rather, they form the bedrock of further innovation.

For example:

  • User-generated content has a home, not only where it can be housed, but also where it can be governed.

  • Blended learning goes beyond pre-work online modules by integrating social activity and ongoing performance support.

  • Corporate MOOCs have a delivery vehicle.

  • Micro-learning and micro-assessments have a rich source of reference content to which remedial feedback can link.

  • If the content library, knowledge base and ESN are mobile accessible, they support mobile learning.

  • Any reduction in training volume creates more space to explore emerging technologies such as AI, VR and AR.

  • An orderly, structured L&D service offering provides the basis for a proper consideration of the value that a next-generation learning management system may add (or not).

So while I remain an advocate of ad hoc innovation, I see it as a necessity in the absence of a plan. My preference is a much more strategic approach, bedding down what matters most to meet the immediate needs of the business, prior to building additional innovative initiatives that stand firmly on that foundation.

In this way, not only do we innovate now, but we have a platform for innovating into the future.

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My decade of provocation

Posted 27 April 2018 by Ryan Tracey
Categories: blogging

Tags: ,

On this day 10 years ago, I pressed the “Publish” button on my first ever blog post.

It was a welcome message pitching my corner of the World Wide Web as “a forum to share my thoughts and ideas about everything e‑learning, to explore new tools and technologies, and to highlight trends and changing behaviours in the online world.”

A cupcake with 10 candles.

I initially titled my blog Ryan 2.0 – hence the URL – because “on a personal level, it represents my next big step in our evolving participatory culture. Just as the shift from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 represents a change from one-way transmission to two-way participation on the Internet, the shift from Ryan 1.0 to Ryan 2.0 represents a similar change in myself.”

Early posts such as Text ain’t half bad and Don’t convert… transform! were about getting ideas off my chest and seeing how they fared among my peers. Later posts such as Collateral damage and The 70:20:10 lens have been more about reflection and sense making, accompanied by the joining of dots to generate fresh insights.

I soon re-titled my blog E-Learning Provocateur, not only for unique branding, but also to better convey my intent to provoke deeper thinking in the digital learning space and across L&D more broadly.

Some of my posts have been contrarian, others counter-contrarian. Some such as Taxonomy of Learning Theories and Online courses must die! have proved surprisingly popular, while my annual list of E-Learning conferences in Australia has become somewhat of a tradition.

But it hasn’t all been beer and skittles. As a result of my blogging, I’ve been insulted, trolled, condescended to, and talked at. On the flip side, however, I’ve also been validated, supported, engaged with, and commended. I’m pleased to report the latter interactions have far exceeded the former. By a country mile.

Over the years I’ve encountered peers with a growth mindset, and peers with a fixed mindset. Some of their comments have been constructive, others less so. I’ve agreed with many, disagreed with many others. Plenty of folks have convinced me to change my mind, or at least tweak my original thought. And so I’ve grown intellectually.

Through my various interactions I’ve acquired an allergy to absolutism. I now have the wisdom to recognise declarations such as “X is dead” or “Y doesn’t work” to be nonsensical. What is “right” for you may not be right for me, and vice versa. It’s all circumstantial.

I’ve also significantly raised my profile – both locally & internationally. When a stranger approaches me at a conference to praise my blog, it still blows. my. mind.

Yet at the end of the day, I don’t think I’m that clever. I just strive to be open and honest, sharing my ideas and experiences while respecting those of others.

I also like to think I add a dose of courage. Otherwise I never would have pressed that “Publish” button in the first place.

25 more real-world examples of Virtual Reality

Posted 5 March 2018 by Ryan Tracey
Categories: virtual reality

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A couple of years ago I started up Virtual Reality Working Out Loud Week to promote real-world applications of virtual reality.

The inaugural #VRwolweek unearthed 20 real-world examples of the emerging technology, and the enduring popularity of that blog post tells me that we are hungry for more.

Loath to disappoint, I hereby present 25 more real-world examples of virtual reality, drawn from this year’s and last year’s events. I thank everyone who contributed to the following list.

A virtual hand grabbing a virtual drumstick.

  • Kicking off with the Colonel, it would be remiss of me to omit KFC’s virtual escape room The Hard Way. Widely criticised for its evil genius paradigm, I urge us to appreciate the game’s otherwise authenticity. If used as a primer for training in real life, then it’s an engaging example of setting up an employee for success.

  • Anchor Construction uses virtual reality to train its construction workers, while UPS uses it to train its truck drivers.

  • South Wales Fire and Rescue uses interactive 360° video to train its new recruits on extricating a casualty from a road traffic incident.

  • The Dutch Fire Department uses 360° video to teach the public how to react in case of an emergency, while on the other side of the flames in Australia FLAIM Trainer combines VR with haptics and heat-generating clothing to immerse firefighters in realistic situations.

  • In Africa, Meet the Soldier aims to increase empathy among warring cattle farmers, while Cisco and Dimension Data are helping save the rhino.

  • This charming Kiwi uses 360° video to record pov tutorials for mobile productivity apps. “See the apps and devices in action, in the context of where we work, live and play.”

  • A group of middle school students has used 360° photos to create a virtual tour of Fort Vancouver, while the Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust uses 360° video to take you on a tour of their Age of Sail galleries.

  • This Australian agency creates virtual tours and visualisations for the mining, architecture and tourism industries.

  • Have you ever wondered how a self-driving car senses the world around it? Wonder no more with the Waymo 360° experience.

  • Emmy Award winner for Outstanding Innovation in Interactive Storytelling, Pearl is a beautiful 360° animation that heralds the future of narrative.

  • Virtual reality isn’t new to gamers, but now it’s social. Check out Evasion and Poker VR.

  • I’m continually amazed at what can be achieved with CoSpaces Edu, such as the Virtual Reality Learning Lab’s uber cool reboot of Frogger. And while we’re going retro, have a laugh at Mario in real life.

  • Topshop allows their customers to ride a virtual waterslide over the black cabs and double-deckers of central London.

  • SeaWorld hybridises the real world with the virtual. Patrons of The Kraken Unleashed ride a rollercoaster while wearing VR headsets that plunge them into the abyss.

    It reminds me of Batman Adventure at Australia’s Movie World back in 1992, when we all sat on moveable seats in front of a big screen simulating the batplane screaming through Gotham City.

    A rollercoaster ramps the immersion up a few notches, to say the least, and I can see why it’s the perfect vehicle for a pre-recorded experience because the timing is precise.

  • In Norway, Audi lets you test-drive their new Q5 in a giant virtual sandbox. It took me a while to work out the prospective customer would dig the racetrack in a real sandbox, which was then scanned and transformed into virtual reality. It’s a modern-day twist on Daytona USA presumably intended to attract the Amazon generation in-store to be worked over by the sales reps.

    Incidentally, I see the clever Scandi’s have now moved on to Augmented Reality with the Quattro Coaster app, which lets you build a road and drive a mini car on it in your living room.

  • VR needn’t have an Audi-sized budget to be effective for marketing. A product manager in the medical industry created a WebVR experience to promote the hi-tech material in her range of surgical gowns. Given her name you may deduce I know this person, so I can tell you this impressive project was done on a shoestring.

  • Finally, these other examples of virtual reality in healthcare – for autism, disability and pain management – must surely turn the most ardent of sceptics.

Hugo Gernsback wearing his teleyeglasses.

Oh how far we’ve come since Hugo Gernsback strapped on his teleyeglasses back in 1968. Long may this wonderful technology continue to evolve!

Battle scars

Posted 5 February 2018 by Ryan Tracey
Categories: gender equality

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

There’s an ugly trend on Australian television that’s been going on for quite a while. I hoped it would fade away but it only seems to be getting worse.

I’m referring to the ever-increasing number of commercials that depict males as incompetent fools who are put straight by their female companions.

Maybe it’s been happening in your country too.

Like the proverbial boiling frog, most of us have probably been oblivious to it. But, just as when you want to buy a particular make of car you suddenly spot them everywhere, when you are aware of this trend you can’t un-see it.

Man making loser sign on his own head.

I’ve never understood the battle of the sexes. Bias against women affects men’s partners, mothers, sisters and daughters. Bias against men affects women’s partners, fathers, brothers and sons. Everyone loses.

So I caution against promoting one demographic at the expense of another. Propping someone up by pulling someone else down is a zero-sum game.

In other words, we can’t fight an “ism” – be it sexism, racism, or something else – with yet more ism. Instead of resolving the problem, it perpetuates it.

We need to call out prejudice against women and men. Otherwise I fear a downward spiral for the latter, which will inevitably scar us all.

E-Learning conferences in Australia in 2018

Posted 2 January 2018 by Ryan Tracey
Categories: conference

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Well 2018 is shaping up to be a strong year of professional development opportunities for e-learning professionals down under.

A good spread of conferences is already scheduled along the Eastern Seaboard, while more will inevitably pop up (perhaps further west?) as the year progresses.

The following list is organic, so keep an eye on it!

Baywalk Bollards representing lifesavers in Geelong, Australia.

International Conference on E-Learning and Distance Learning
Sydney, 29-30 January 2018

International Conference on Distance Education and Virtual Learning
Melbourne, 1-2 February 2018

The Art of Knowledge Management, Learning & Communication
Melbourne, 22 February 2018

International Conference on Virtual and Augmented Reality Simulations
Brisbane, 24-26 February 2018

Chief Digital Officer Summit
Sydney, 26 February – 3 March 2018

iDESIGNX
Sydney, 27 February 2018

Learning Analytics and Knowledge Conference
Sydney, 5-9 March 2018

National FutureSchools Expo and Conferences
Melbourne, 21-22 March 2018

Digital Disruption
Sydney, 26-27 March 2018

L&D Leadership Innovation Summit
Sydney, 26-29 March 2018

Strategy & Innovation World Forum
Sydney, 9-10 May 2018

Online & e-Learning Summit
Melbourne, 15-16 May 2018

CeBIT Australia
Sydney, 15-17 May 2018

Totara User Conference – Asia Pacific
Sydney, 5-6 June 2018

AITD National Conference
Sydney, 7-8 June 2018

The Future of Learning Conference
Brisbane, 21-22 June 2018

Learning While Working
Virtual, 17-18 July 2018

Leading a Digital School Conference
Sunshine Coast, 16-18 August 2018

Blackboard Teaching & Learning Conference ANZ
Brisbane, 28-31 August 2018

K-12 Digital Classroom Practice Conference
Melbourne, 31 August 2018

FlipCon Australia
Melbourne, 14-15 September 2018

MoodleMoot Australia
Brisbane, 24–26 September 2018

Enterprise Learning Confluence
Sydney, 26 September 2018

Eportfolio Forum
Brisbane, 3-4 October 2018

Australian Council for Computers in Education Conference
Sydney, 2-5 October 2018

LearnX
Melbourne, 30 October 2018

ASCILITE
Geelong, 25-28 November 2018

Lanyard

If you are aware of another e-learning related conference down under this year, please let me know and I’ll add it to the list.

Deep diving into strange worlds

Posted 11 December 2017 by Ryan Tracey
Categories: blogging, e-learning

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

2017 was a whirlwind for me. I started a new job in a new sector, made loads of new friends there, learned heaps, and finished said job 10 months later before starting another one back in financial services.

I haven’t had much of a chance to scratch myself!

As a consequence, I haven’t blogged as frequently this year as I have done in previous years. However, while my posts may have been fewer, I dove deeper into a couple of topics of interest.

Pulp magazine cover entitled Enormous Stories

Data science was one such topic that captured my attention, not only because it’s white hot, but also because I believe it will inform our practice like never before.

I also focused my mind on capability frameworks. Not the most exciting topic, I know, but in my opinion a driver of business performance.

Somehow I also stole enough time to share my thoughts on virtual reality, journals, games, conferences, and the employee lifecycle.

Data science

Capability frameworks

Miscellany

I invite you to review my posts and leave a comment on any that elicit a response. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

In the meantime, here’s to a great 2018!

Louder than words

Posted 13 November 2017 by Ryan Tracey
Categories: capability framework

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My last couple of blog posts have argued in favour of extracting value out of organisational capabilities. Due to the nature of my role I have posited these arguments in terms of employee development.

However, I further advocate the use of organisational capabilities across all parts of the employee lifecycle.

Using the 4+4 Part Employee Lifecycle as my guide, I will share my thoughts on some of the ways in which your capability framework can add value to your organisation’s activities in terms of recruitment, onboarding, performance, and offboarding.

The 4+4 Part Employee Lifecycle: (1) Recruitment; (2) Onboarding; (3) Performance; and (4) Offboarding; plus (1) Performance Management; (2) Development; (3) Health & Wellbeing; and (4) Retention.

Recruitment

Everyone knows that change management is hard. Culture eats strategy for breakfast; an organisation’s culture doesn’t change over night; something about herding cats; the change curve; etc. etc.

We’ve heard it all before, and yes it’s probably true.

But there’s a big elephant in the room: the power of recruitment to accelerate cultural change. That is to say, bring in from the outside the people whose capabilities you desperately need on the inside.

Which begs the question… what capabilities? Well, organisations that focus like an eagle know precisely the capabilities to assess each candidate against, because they are the ones that align to their strategic imperatives.

If your organisation needs to become more collaborative, recruit collaborative people. If it needs to become more innovative, recruit innovative people. And if it needs to become more digitally literate, recruit digitally literate people.

This approach may seem too obvious to mention, yet I dare you to examine your organisation’s current recruitment practices.

Onboarding

Onboarding is one of those pies that everyone wants to stick their fingers into, but nobody wants to own. Yet it is crucial for setting up the new recruit for success.

From an organisational capability perspective, a gold-plated opportunity arises during this phase in the employee’s lifecycle to draw their attention to the capability framework and the riches therein. The new recruit is motivated, keen to prove themselves, and hungry to learn.

Highlight the resources that are available to them to develop their capabilities now. This is important because the first few weeks of their experience in the organisation colours their remaining tenure.

Ensure they start their journey the way you’d like them to continue it: productively.

Performance

Capability powers performance, so the capability framework is a tool you can use to improve all four subparts of Performance in the 4+4 Part Employee Lifecycle.

Performance Management

Effective performance management complements development planning to provide the employee with guidance on improving said performance.

When seen through the lens of the capability framework, an employee’s performance appraisal can identify meaningful development opportunities. Performance weak spots may be (at least partly) attributable to gaps in specific capabilities; while a strengths-based approach might also be adopted, whereby an already strong capability is enhanced to drive higher performance.

To inform these decisions with data, I’d be keen to correlate capability assessments against individual performances and observe the relationship between the variables over time.

Development

It’s all very well to have a poetic capability framework, but if learning opportunities aren’t mapped to it, then its value is inherently limited.

If the framework’s capabilities align to leadership stages, I suggest the following question be put to the user: Do you want to excel in your current role or prepare for your next role?

Not only does this question focus the user’s development goal, it also identifies the relevant leadership stage so the capabilities can be presented in the right context.

A follow-up question may then be posed: Would you like to browse all the capabilities – useful for those who want to explore, or already know which capability to develop – focus on our strategic imperatives – useful for those who are time poor – or assess your capabilities – useful for those who seek a personal diagnosis.

The answers to these questions lead to a selection of capabilities which, beyond the provision of clear descriptions, outline the opportunities for development.

Resist the urge to dump masses of resources into their respective buckets. Instead, curate them. I suggest the following approaches:

KASAB is an esoteric extension of the KSA heuristic in teaching circles, and I like it because it includes “B” for “Behaviour”.

For example, help your colleagues move beyond the consumption of teamwork videos, design thinking workshops, and moocs on digital business; by encouraging them to contribute to communities of practice, submit ideas to the enterprise idea management system, and participate in the company’s social media campaign.

Health & Wellbeing

I see organisational capabilities applying to health & wellbeing in two ways.

The first way concerns the impact of employee development on mental health. Given the satisfaction and pride of building mastery drives engagement, the capability framework presents opportunities to improve mental health across the enterprise.

The second way concerns the composition of the capability framework. Given a healthy employee is a productive employee, why isn’t Wellness itself an organisational capability?

Retention

I’ve seen with my own eyes the impact of employee development (or lack thereof) on retention.

Given the sense of support and growth that the investment in people’s learning brings, the capability framework presents opportunities to retain talent across the enterprise.

Offboarding

Capabilities that align to leadership stages are useful for succession planning. Not only do they identify the capabilities that someone needs to succeed in their current role, but also the capabilities they need to succeed in their next role. Assessment of the latter informs the readiness of the employee for promotion.

Conversely, when the employee leaves the team (or exits the organisation) the capability framework can be used to assess the skills gap that remains.

Girl with home-made wings

In 7 tips for custodians of capability frameworks I declared a capability framework that remains unused is merely a bunch of words. But it’s worse than that. It is unrealised value across the employee lifecycle.

So use your capability framework to improve the organisation’s recruitment, onboarding, performance, and offboarding.

Actions speak louder than words.