Learning Technologies – the dawn of the new learning age?

Well, I think I may have just caught my breath after an incredible week – a gold at the learning awards with our partnership venture, Rock and A Hard Place Learning capped quite the few days! Learning Technologies was as ever busy and vibrant, but this year there was a tangible change in the air – the conversations had moved on from the next tool or new trend but to a deeper dive into how design, technology, business drivers and environment deliver performance change.  Tech is of course still a big part of this picture because it is an intrinsic part of our lives One could argue the technologies bit in learning technologies is surplus to requirements, given it is a part of our living reality, just like blended is a redundant term as effective paths to learning are blended by default. However, its encouraging to engage in conversations with potential customers that are lead by a desire to engage with their people at a meaningful level, going deep than just getting their attention but getting their involvement, feedback and tapping into the desire to maximise their skills and talents.  This places a really exciting in which to explore future tech, led by creating a rich performance environment. So when I had a moment to grab a cup of tea and take a wander, I recorded this vlog from the show and tried to gather my thoughts… https://youtu.be/i31NWE1PxMA

Performance is more than support – Communities count

Community Often the subjects that are most critical to business performance are either complex, very specialised or specific to an organisation or profession. This can be referred to as domain knowledge and it is essentially what makes that organisation what it is. It’s this intrinsic link with the context and culture of the organisation that make a formal learning approach to skills acquisition in these environments so challenging: it’s difficult to make this knowledge explicit and capture it in a way that doesn’t lose that all important context. This is one of the main reasons why learning and development functions who do not operate at a partnership/internal consultant level are today bypassed as irrelevant.  Accessing information and a wealth of resources is not the issue; understanding how to readily and effectively apply or adapt it to my context and understand if it has positively impacted performance for the business is the key.  This is where communities step to the fore. Quickly returning to my quest for tennis mastery (well, tennis basic proficiency), a plethora of YouTube videos, apps, books and articles exist to help develop my knowledge of technique.  So to help frame the issue, formal assets are very helpful – there are some elements of the sport that can be captured as explicit knowledge.  However, I am a 40-year-old, fairly active but novice tennis player with pretty good co-ordination, a bit of a dodgy shoulder and a tendency to overthink.  This is not a search term that yields many results, but augmenting my research with a chat with Nigel, qualified coach support and this core knowledge starts to make more sense and gather more immediacy.  From this experience, friends who wish to return to the sport ask for advice, with many of us sharing some common traits.  So the input flow can be applied, adapted and shared with others to continue this process. Communities impact performance at so many levels and yet their value is often overlooked.  They deliver more than creating effective environments for learning, fostering good working relationships and sharing knowledge.  If learning professionals take an active interest in the facilitation and evaluation of community activity, they can shape strategy through providing deep insight into process efficiency, competitor performance, customer perceptions, opportunities for innovation.  But to fulfil this arguably limitless potential, they need to be supported. Communities, where there is real engagement and intensity of dialogue, deliver value to its participants even if the organisation doesn’t actually take much interest.  Where learning teams do take an interest and augment them with better technology to improve access to people and knowledge, measure their value to secure future investment and bring in new participants to provoke new direction and ideas, yield significant business results.

Quick case study: At France Telecom, global product managers were invited to participate in community skills development programmes to encourage these global leaders to adopt a more facilitative rather than commend and control approach to product management.

In just one case, the voicemail community reported that thanks to the adoption of this approach, over €10m of additional revenue was generated simply by that manager acting as the facilitator between sharing of practice in implementation of voicemail menu services between two European countries. 

These communities were supported with collaboration technology and a representative from the global learning and knowledge team who provided mentoring services to community facilitators and would measure community value against defined qualitative and quantitative measures.

All communities thrive on a clear purpose so in our next instalment, we’ll be focussing on the importance of goal setting.

LT 2016 Review

The next 10 years in learning and gold at the Learning Awards 2016 

Well, what a week its been here at WillowDNA – huge thanks to everyone who visited us at Learning Technologies 2016 and there was a lot of you!  It was an absolute pleasure, especially to have a packed house for our seminar.  Many people have asked if the presentation is available and you can view the slides right now on slideshare.

And if that wasn’t enough, we are delighted to have help our partnership venture, Rock and A Hard Place Learning secure gold at the Learning Awards 2016 – this collaboration between WillowDNA and experts from the Advertising and Media world have created a brand new academy for marketing and communications.

If you are looking for a new e-learning supplier, WillowDNA will ensure your programmes are the most engaging, impactful and cost effective solutions to learning needs.  

The future is looking very bright for learning!


LT Report 2016
Our vlog from Learning Technologies 2016 – the trends, insights and future

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Webinar from WillowDNA – Performance Catalysts

This month’s Willow Webinar will explore the role of L&D in the new world of work and introduces the concept of Performance Catalyst. From what you need to know about technology, how to identify the right type of learning solution aligned to business activities through to tips for evaluation, this webinar will explore what the new learning professional will look like.

Performance is more than support – Creating the conditions

So leading on from last week’s post, lets start exploring the first step in creating a performance culture – creating the optimal conditions Future performance infographic Conditions This is where culture, skills, career planning, reward and management skills come together to cultivate a performance mind-set, at both a micro level (individuals and teams) and macro level (organisations and society).  The issue here is that often these types of considerations are regarded as softer measures rather than at the hard and fast business results end of the scale. In a well cited paper from 2013 titled ‘ The future of employment: how susceptible are jobs to computerisation?’, Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne from the University of Oxford, concluded that 47% of job categories are open to automation within the next twenty years.  Now this may be a rather worrying figure, however the paper also recognises that some jobs—especially those currently associated with high levels of education and high wages—will survive.  Although what’s more interesting is to reflect on the skills that will become the most valuable. It is research such as that conducted by the New World Of Work board (the results you can see in the box to the right) that has led to models such as Harold Jarche’s Network Era Competences for Learning and Working, where ‘personal knowledge mastery’ is a way to describe the ways in which we find the right information, people and knowledge to develop skills and drive performance.  In this environment, the most valuable skills become those that make us deft at navigating and disseminating information rapidly, contributing effectively and efficiently and skilled at bringing information and people together to deliver objectives. Through the commitment of learning professionals and business leaders, these competencies are nurtured by creating the most conducive learning environment, leaving people free to add their talents and imaginations to finding new solutions, efficiencies, products and services.  In the rise of automation (described by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, professors at MIT, as “The Second Machine Age”) its these skills that will become increasingly more valuable. A quick search on skills for the 21st century will yield page after page of articles, publications, research projects and comment, but most share common themes that support Jarche’s network era competencies.  They also often highlight why this is so important as we move through the information age into the imagination age, typifies by this quote from Michael Jung, a senior consultant at McKinsey and Company.

“Our old idea is that work is defined by employers and that employees have to do whatever the employer wants . . . but actually, you would like him to come up with an interpretation that you like — he’s adding something personal — a creative element.”

There’s also another great reason for investing in creating the right conditions – in his most recent book, More Than Blended Learning, Clive Shepherd emphasises that in today’s working world ‘an analysis is not for ever’.  His advice here is worth taking to heart:

‘Be prepared to revisit your analysis because situations are always changing and new information comes available all the time.  Design is – and should be – an iterative process as you strive to ever more closely meet the needs’.

Taking Clive’s point on board, this makes the conditions all the more important; anchoring your organisation to one particular approach is simply not tenable or relevant.    Once we accept this it really can be rather liberating!  No longer are we continually chasing the next big thing and committed to making that one big investment a success.  We are better informed and able to take opportunities as they arise because they are aligned to our particular performance needs. Once we’ve established the appropriate conditions for performance, it’s time to build a network or community to nurture and foster performance.  That’s what we’ll be focussing on in our next instalment.

Performance is more than support – the future of learning

male tennis player in action This month we are introducing a guide for the future of learning: a 5-point framework for learning professionals to construct a holistic learning strategy that supports learning in their organisations.  Over the coming posts, it will build into a complete guide, which will later be published as an e-book.  So let’s start with understanding the environment. ‘As the ubiquity of technology fundamentally shifted the way we conduct all aspects of communication, work and learning, it created a less structured, predictable route to the end goal.  That’s a great thing – it provides choice, accessibility, widening of discourse, rapid dissemination, connection, personalisation and more…’ This is taken from our review of 2015 and what the changes to work and business mean for organisational learning.  Reflecting further on this, applying a performance lens in this ever changing social and economic environment that now typifies the status quo may be a more effective way in engaging everyone in learning; from the board to new entrants into the world of work.  Although there is significant work yet to be done to improve access to learning across the globe, advances in communication networks and supporting technology has driven a more learner driven experience to acquiring the knowledge and skills we need to achieve our learning goals. Some have drawn the conclusion that this means the end of formal learning in organisations, however it leaves out one important factor.  In an increasingly complex world, its an organisation’s unique blend of knowledge, delivery capability, product/service innovation and adaptability that make it successful.  This means context is king – you could argue every organisation needs effective leaders but clearly there is no one size fits all programme for it.  Furthermore, ‘effective leadership’ means something different because its strategic goals will need to drive what effective leadership performance looks like. …You can have the best people, best technology, best product or best lunch served in your fantastically well appointed staff restaurant (after all, we all need fuel!) but the key is in the alignment and orchestration of each of these.’ So when we look at this from a performance perspective, it helps organisations make the right choices in commissioning unique content from providers like ourselves, what it can curate from others and what it already knows that works and share it with others (as well as enable them to contribute to what will work around here). So to help bring this to life, I’ve drawn on the analogy of sport – a performance mind-set could be a given but environmental factors, skillset, technology and community all play their part.   It is a useful one in framing the position for organisational learning at a micro (individual) and macro (strategy) level. Matthew Syed, a former Olympic athlete and now organisational performance commentator and author in his recent book, Black Box Thinking explores the barriers to performance improvements.  One of the key arguments is that professional people have trouble admitting their fallibility, perceiving it as a threat to ego, to reputation. ‘It obliterates progress’.  If I reflect on my own experience of sport, I can freely admit that there is a great deal of truth in this when I reflect on my anxiety to participate in competitive sport (but with age comes less regard for dignity, so that helps enormously!).  The scrutiny, the comparisons, the frustrations have limited an openness to change and this can play out in the organisation. So how can this change?  It requires clarity of the goal and a performance focus.   Performance can help us look more holistically at the task at hand, so for the organisation, how to achieve its key strategic goal.   Taking a tennis analogy, a focus on how terrible my serve is counter-intuitive, it narrows opportunity to build on other supporting skills through a concentration on one aspect of overall performance. When we consider learning in organisations, learning needs analysis can be guilt of limiting our view, through a concentration on the goal being finding the right learning solution (which can translate into a course, piece of content or tool).  Taking an alternative approach by looking at the needs of the organisation through the variety of inputs that support better performance, we open our view.  We provide greater opportunity to capitalise on what we already have, make better informed decisions on the aspects of workflow that need to be enhanced to deliver a better outcome and understand whether it has worked. So rather than concentrate on either a particular strength (which can lead to over-reliance and stagnation) or weakness (which can frustrate and limit potential in other areas), a more rounded inclusive view gives a greater opportunity for performance improvement. Building a more holistic approach should include the following aspects:

  • Conditioning –training to develop strength and stamina needed to then execute coaching instruction: in the organisation, this means confidence in key skills, instilled from your induction through to each stage of career planning.
  • Goal setting – breaking down the areas for improvement into a more logical step wise process where improvements build upon each other. This also requires focus – disseminating the information (tried and proven technique) that is important, without overload.
  • Community support – conversations with others and understanding how their experience could be applied to my context (some of the best tennis advice came from my friend, Nigel Paine who shared with me the secret of preventing overthink). Gathering in context insights from others that have been there before you (think YouTube)
  • Tools and technology – the world of wearables, materials technology and coaching software has transformed the world of sports performance. OK, ability cannot be substituted for tech but the difference in materials and equipment spec is significant. By embracing enabling technology, it has helped my game enormously – those organisations that do the same with access to learning content and creation provide the most supportive environment for that type of performance change.
  • People – the core of performance, supported by each of the other elements. Performance does not reside in an individual role, it’s the collective efforts of all people to deliver performance, innovation and improvement.  So what becomes critical here is the orchestration and providing the right supporting roles to facilitate performance.  This includes:

Coaching – refining and moving beyond baseline levels of performance). Using both strengths and weaknesses to develop approaches suited to me (contextual performance)

Mentoring – coaches continues to learn through adapting approach and applying to different contexts and ability levels.

Role modelling – Reverse mentoring, senior team being visible in their contribution to performance strategy and content add to the richness and context of the performance environment. It gives that feedback loop into strategy by observing and understanding what’s really happening.  For my experience with Tennis, my daughter can observe my failures and will clearly become an infinitely better player than me!

Consultants – deep understanding, analysis and evaluation of current process and practices, their efficacy and identifying areas for improvement (and their associated solutions).

If we take these elements and apply them to organisational learning, it helps strategists and learning professionals better understand the type of environment and conditions you need to create, foster and evolve to survive through the information age into the emerging imagination age.  Rather than regard this as just a learning issue, reframing it as performance helps to cultivate a more strategically aligned mind-set, where learning is part of the workflow, rather than a supporting function. It also helps to inform decisions when procuring supporting technologies or investing in learning content: there may be absolute justification to become early adopters of Oculus Rift if your organisation works in complex, high risk environments, where virtual reality could become a key tool in accelerating performance.  However, equipping individuals who have specific domain knowledge with basic video capture tools and providing training on basic editing skills may yield significant results where knowledge simply needs to be make more accessible. So in an infographic, we have captured the building blocks of a performance environment and articulated indicators for a performance focussed culture.  These can be used as the basis of a diagnostic to see how performance ready your organisation is currently and what short and long term steps you need to take to get there. Future performance infographic Copyright WillowDNA 2015 In this series, we will take a look at each of these factors in more depth to build a complete picture of performance in organisations.  Its much more about just-in-time performance support, its about a performance mind-set.

January Newsletter 2016

THE STRAND – the latest on learning from WillowDNA
January 2016 Edition

January Round Up

Each month we take a look at some of the most interesting research and articles on online learning, social learning and technology.  But in a slight break from the norm, we wanted to share our big news – WillowDNA is 10 years old! 

Learning Technologies 2016
Wednesday 3rd and Thursday 4th February 2016 

Bigger than ever, Learning Technologies returns to London Olympia at on Stand 12, you’ll find WillowDNA celebrating their 10th Anniversary.

As well as hosting our anniversary celebrations at 3pm on the 3rd (where you can join us for a glass of bubbly and some cake), we’ll also be unveiling the latest release of Pathway Cloud LMS, including Pathway Mobile and Pathway Collaboration suite.

On Thursday at 12.30pm in Theatre 6, we’ll be exploring the next ten years of learning technology, one not to be missed.

The future of learning is performance

On the WillowDNA blog this month, we are introducing the first instalment in our series on the future of learning, entitled ‘Performance is more than support – the future of learning.’ Using this infographic as a guide, we’ll be exploring the key elements of creating a future forward learning environment:

“Performance can help us look more holistically at the task at hand, so for the organisation, how to achieve its key strategic goal.”   

Book Review

At WillowDNA this year, we are launching our new collaboration suite on Pathway Cloud LMS which puts community at the heart of the learning programme.  The driver here is to provide a more pragmatic and effective flow between formal and informal learning.

It is this relationship that is explored in this month’s reviewed book ‘Ten Strategies for Building Community with Technology: A Handbook for Instructional Designers and Program Developers’.

It explores the impact of community on learning efficacy through practical guidance on building and nurturing communities.  It is a contemporary view of learning communities in the context of current technology and a useful how to guide.


WillowDNA launching new collaboration suite and mobile app at Learning Technologies 2016

As well as cracking open the bubbly, WillowDNA are delighted to introduce the latest release of Pathway Cloud LMS in our 10th anniversary year.

Our next release includes the Pathway Collaboration suite, drawing on the best of formal and informal learning in one environment.  The overall design balances formal content and user generated content to provide a richer, more effective learning experience, reflecting the way people really learn today.

Our new mobile app is much more than Pathway on mobile – of course, learners can access learning on the move, whether they are online or offline (with progress sychronisation included when back online). However each Pathway client customer receive their own app, branded for their organisation.  Learning is all about context and our mobile app is designed to support organisations in creating their own learning and performance environment.

To find out more, come and visit us on Stand L12.


When Learning At Work Becomes Overwhelming

It’s no surprise that many of our favourite articles of recent months are taken from the Harvard Business Review.

The challenges of risks acquisition, innovation and change are putting increased pressure of employees and organisations.  Time and volume is a key challenge as most jobs require a continuous professional development approach whether that is formalised or not.

This latest piece by David DeLong, research fellow at the MIT AgeLab describes this challenge but also offers his advice on creating the most effective learning environment.


Webinar: Performance Catalysts – the future of Learning and Development
27th January 2015 2pm GMT

This month’s Willow Webinar will explore the role of L&D in the new world of work and introduces the concept of Performance Catalyst.  

From what you need to know about technology, how to identify the right type of learning solution aligned to business activities through to tips for evaluation, this webinar will explore what the new learning professional will look like. 

Register today and join us for a webinar that will provide great inspiration for your learning strategy in 2016.

This month on Learning Now Radio

If you haven’t subscribed already, then pop over to iTunes or Soundcloud today to the latest episode, featuring Paul Morgan, Head of Learning at Telefonica O2.

WillowDNA are delighted to support LNRadio with our very own Lisa Minogue-White co-hosting alongside the wonderful Colin Steed.


Learning Technologies Video Guide 2016
This month’s video – Our quick guide to Learning Technologies 2016, Lisa Minogue-White talks about how to make the most of your conversations with suppliers and colleagues.



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2015 in review – the dawn of the new learning age

“It all boils down to learning, but not the sort of learning you experienced at school. No, this is learning as a life skill. You’re learning all the time, taking in new information and making sense of it. You learn from experience, from conversations with peers, and from the school of hard knocks. You’re in charge of it, not a teacher or institution.” This quote was published by the Internet Time Alliance and its an extract from the book Jay Cross was working on before his death on Friday 6th November.  Discussion and discourse on learning lost one of its most vocal and outspoken voices this year, but the debate he started lives on and in 2016, I think we’ll see it coming to fruition. In a LinkedIn post, I’ve explored this more fully but I thought I’d share a few quick headlines with you:

  • Don’t underestimate the impact of fear – a less structured, predictable route to the end goal provides flexibility, adaptability and choice, but its not always easy to quantify.  That can be daunting but as a profession, we need to push through that.
  • the shifts in learner behaviour and the difference in education experience of new entrants into the job market means the changes have been happening anyway, whether organisations have embraced it or not.
  • if you work in learning, your role has always been to ensure the organisation has the skills and capabilities it needs to deliver its goals.   This requires the right conditions and context as a foundation for performance.
  • Great things happens when you can set the conditions for every talent and skill room to play its part and thats something great learning professionals understand at their core.

So enjoy a restful and fun Christmas break and let’s head into 2016 ready to deliver real impact (and at the very least, if you keep yourself busy, it will help burn off the mince pies!)

December Newsletter 2015

THE STRAND – the latest on learning from WillowDNA

December 2015 Edition

December Round Up

Each month we take a look at some of the most interesting research and articles on online learning, social learning and technology.  

Organisations need to make learning hard

One of our favourite articles this month comes from the Harvard Business Review, where Dorothy Leonard, Professor of Business Administration Emerita at Harvard Business School  argues that if learning is easy, it’s probably not working.  This gives real food for thought for organisations with huge focusses on performance support.

Where environments are complex, the pace of change is rapid and factors such as increased competition, budget pressures and changing workforce, the application of skills in an ever changing landscape are critical.  

‘Both learners and teachers confuse performance during training (termed “retrieval strength”) with long-term retention and the ability to apply the lessons (“storage strength”)…real learning – that is, the kind which embeds knowledge and skills in long-term memory – is never simple”

To strengthen mental storage and retrieval at point of need, Leonard suggests that using a range of strategies, interleaving different modes of learning and content types to build as many connections as possible.

Performance Catalysts

On the WillowDNA blog this month, we discuss the new learning professional and their role as Performance Catalysts.

‘A catalyst acts in a unique way to make a lower barrier to cause a reaction to happen. Putting the right people together in the right environment at the right time with right tools, that’s how we catalyse that learning’. – Tom Spiglanin.

Whilst much of the current discourse in L&D is about the Learning Revolution and questions about the very survival of the role in organisations, we offers an insight into the critical role learning professionals will take in achieving the strategic goals of orgainsations and why their role is more important than ever.

Book Review

With Christmas upon us and time for reading being squeezed by christmas parties, feeding the christmas cake and last minute present buying, this month’s book review is for the concise, 76 page publication from Donald H Taylor:

Webinar Master: Your Short Guide to Successful Webinars
Donald H Taylor

Donald H Taylor in his role as Chairman on the Learning and Skills Group has hosted more webinars than most of us have ever attended!  In his many years working with presenters from a range of backgrounds delivering online sessions, Taylor shares with us his reflections and advice on what constitutes the most engaging and successful webinars.

This short book is practical in focus and provides plenty of checklists that will aid in the planning and delivery of your next webinar.  But more than that, it’s Taylor’s opportunity to share his passion for the medium – it’s clear that in his view, webinars are in no way the face to face presentation’s poor relationship.

They provide an opportunity for collaboration across environments and timezones unrivalled by many other mediums.  This book can help you make the most of this cost effective, wide reaching presentation channel.


WillowDNA working with one of the UK’s leading retailers to transform safety training

WillowDNA are delighted to working on a major new safety programme using an innovative mix of video, scenarios, ebooks and facilitated social learning.  Keep an eye out for more on this in the coming months.

WillowDNA at Learning Technologies
It’s just 7 weeks to the 2016 Learning Technologies and Learning and Skills Conference and Exhibition at London Olympia.  WillowDNA will be there on 3rd and 4rd February at stand L12.

This month on Learning Now Radio

If you haven’t subscribed already, then pop over to iTunes or Soundcloud today to catch interviews with Mike Collins at DPG PLC, David Kelly from the e-Learning Guild, Jane Bozarth, Clark Quinn and John Delano of Saltbox.  WillowDNA are delighted to support LNRadio with our very own Lisa Minogue-White co-hosting alongside the wonderful Colin Steed.


Get your organisation ready to learn – a two part insight from Ruth Kustoff

Although there is a huge amount of choice and options open to anyone looking to address a learning need, the organisational culture and its readiness to turn learning and insight into performance change is the critical building block.  In a two part LinkedIn Pulse article, Ruth Kustoff at Knowledge Advisors explores what typifies a learning organisation and why its critical to business success.Greet 2016 with a smile

On a lighter note and get you motivated for the new year, this quick post from CMD provides ’18 ways to be more positive in the office’.  We particular endorse Health and Wellbeing (with many avid cyclists in the WillowDNA team!) and of course, collaboration!


Webinar: Performance Catalysts – the future of Learning and Development
20th January 2015 2pm GMT

This month’s Willow Webinar will explore the role of L&D in the new world of work and introduces the concept of Performance Catalyst.  

From what you need to know about technology, how to identify the right type of learning solution aligned to business activities through to tips for evaluation, this webinar will explore what the new learning professional will look like. 

Register today and join us for a webinar that will provide great inspiration for your learning strategy in 2016.

Learning Awards 2016
Thursday 4th February 2016 7.30pm

We are delighted that our partners Rock and A Hard Place Learning have been shortlisted for Learning Start Up Company of the year at the 2016 Learning Awards.

The winners will be announced at the gala dinner on 4th February 2016.


On Performance Catalysts
This month’s video – Following the ‘Secret Learning Life of Managers’ event, Lisa Minogue-White talks about the changing L&D mindset and its relationship to strategic success



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e-Learning Awards 2015 Gala evening

WillowDNA are delighted to have been shortlisted in 4 categories for the 2015 e-learning awards. Amongst those categories is ‘e-learning company of year’, so the entire team are feel rather proud at the moment!

The winners will be announced at the gala evening celebration, taking place at the Park Plaza Hotel, Westminster, London on 25th November. Keep at eye on the twitter feed for #elawards and our twitter page @willowDNA to watch the results come in.