Here we look at some of the many e-learning trends that are having an impact on L&D today, and that are likely to have an increasing effect on training in the future.

Performance is more than support – Performance Catalysts

So our final instalment of our series, we look at performance in the context of innovation and how performance catalysts (people who help build new connections, bring together different factors and create supporting environments) are key.  Inspired by my conversations and reading the work of Tom Spiglanin, the role of performance catalysts could be a useful way to support learning and development ensure they align with the heart of business performance.

Performance catalysts

Performance catalysts making connections, curating great content and insights, facilitating communities and more…

Example: new product development, breaking a new market


This is where the organisation as a whole needs to align behind a performance culture that encourages experimentation and analysis, investment in appropriate technology, understanding of how to engage through communications and content.  But perhaps more important than this, that each individual in an organisation can positively contribute to the performance of others when given the tools and appropriate support (which is where the learning team come in!).  Innovation and breakthroughs don’t just arise from an organised brainstorming sessions and generating ideas at the veracious rate of James Dyson and Jonny Ives is not an everyday occurrence.  But may small improvements can amount to significant business value and of course encourage conditions where those breakthroughs are more likely to happen.  This takes a level engagement much deeper than an ‘idea of the month’ competition – Amy Brann in her book ‘Engaged’ is a great starter in developing the conditions for performance in organisations, informed by research into neuroscience as it relates to work.  It’s a significant topic on its own, but Brann’s books are a great place to start.

Goal setting

This is where assertive and focussed learning team that can talk the language of the business comes into its own.  There may not be a stated performance gap but exploring current practices and current performance levels, learning teams working as performance consultants can help identify opportunities for improvement or where talents and knowledge are being under utilised.  Tangible goal setting with targets then become a two way street, not just delivered from the board but also suggested by the business themselves.


Leading on from goal setting, communities are fertile ground for identifying performance improvements, challenging the status quo, sharing ideas from outside the business and sharing ways in which they have found efficiencies, better tools, great suppliers etc.  The challenge here is to give these communities clear purpose.  Its clear how much benefit can be derived through improving knowledge sharing and collaboration so it’s a common frustration when communities just don’t stick.  Most often that’s because they are imposed upon an organisation as a ‘new initiative’ – low participation rates and a quick decline into obscurity follow.  Communities thrive when they are addressing real points of pain experienced right now and have appropriate facilitation and technology support to make it easy to contribute and access.  Once established and trust built between community participants, innovation communities can then be established.  Organisations need to be realistic – multi million dollar ideas are not going to generated on a weekly basis but the opportunity to take part in this type of activity can be highly motivating and rewarding.  Those organisations will to accommodate some risk taking are more likely to find that USP and have happier employees! 

Tools and Tech

Collaboration platforms that enable the quick sharing of content, links and research as well as upload of user created content sits at the heart of online communities.  Many organisations will already have platforms such as Salesforce Chatter, Honey, Yammer and Ning – each have their own strengths and weaknesses and adoption is often patchy.  This is a great example of tech as the enabler, not the solution.  If you have well supported communities orientated around a clear purpose for its participants, this should drive what it needs. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find communities organically emerging and using tools with which they are comfortable.  Making good choices in providing opportunities for collaboration come down to making it quick to search, quick to create and upload and content fresh.  This is where you’ll see more organisations taking the portal approach that many of our customers adopt – aggregating tools into a single portal that pulls in relevant content, enables intelligent sharing, content feeds and upload.  With improved and easier integration, it is becoming easier to create the right solution for your particular organisation and swap out elements as needed. There are other ways to support a learning culture through supporting learner generated content – tools like for creating your own portfolio, Adobe Voice for quick animated stories, Microsoft Snip for walkthroughs, iMovies and Adobe Premiere Clip for quick video editing – all free tools and all support development of quick, disposable content.


Catalysts: This is the culmination of the new learning professional’s role – it is a multi faceted role that is truly performance focussed.  If the learning team are fulfilling the role of performance consultant, they are well connected throughout the business and able to recognise and capitalise on opportunities for individuals and teams to work together to deliver something new. Leaders are also hugely influential here through their active support of time participating in communities, space of experimentation and a measured degree of risk taking.  Of course, organisations must keep focus on delivery but to truly breakthrough in your given sector, Einstein’s very well worn quote is worth repeat just one more time ‘ Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’ So we are almost at the end of this series – in our final instalment we’ll give you a quick take away summary to help inform your strategy.

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!)

Commentary on Clive Shepherd’s commentary! The Towards Maturity Benchmarking Report 2015

Next week sees the official publication of this year’s Towards Maturity Benchmarking Report.

It's going to take a deep dive into understanding the business

It’s going to take a deep dive into understanding the business

Having been fortunate enough to catch up with Laura Overton and Marnie Threapleton at DevLearn 2015 where Laura gave something of a sneak preview of what was to come. Our friend, Clive Shepherd was one of the VIPs invited to the preview last week (in advance of the public release which you can tune into on the 5th November).  His recent post on LinkedIn confirms what many suspected but perhaps hoped was not the case: “the call seems only to be heard by the already converted. What TM calls the ‘Top Deck’ (those organisations that are showing the best results from their L&D efforts) are shooting ahead, overcoming barriers and exploring all the possibilities for workplace learning in all its contexts, formal and informal. The rest have been stuck for years.” As Clive says, the future is already here and there’s never been a better time to truly facilitate learning if we can shake off the shackles of the past.  I’ve just interviewed Clark Quinn for Learning Now Radio on this very subject, as its certainly not a UK only problem or just an L&D problem.  A significant barrier that should not be underestimated is how they are perceived by the rest of the business.  There are regular calls for L&D to be on the top table, which for many feels impossible, but the visionary, tenacious few that have done it and seen great results (such as Silver Award winner at the 2015 Learning Awards, Rick Jackson at DHL). Its about starting the conversation in terms of performance challenges and understanding at a deep level the inputs and outputs that make up the value chain to deliver your organisations products or services.  It takes a true partnership approach, a systematic exploration of workflow, an open-minded view of learning and an understanding of how to maximise technology, informal learning opportunities and build effective learning scaffolds that will get you noticed.  Link your solutions to real business metrics and you’ll pack a punch few senior teams could ignore. I for one would love to see some more substantive research in the quantitate impact of just the types of things you mention, such as thriving CoPs, blended learning ecosystems etc. This may seem like a daunting task but with learning as part of the workflow, it should then be a key element and a feed into the business metrics of the organisation. We can shake off the ROI of a single intervention (which in itself is crazy, as life simply isn’t that binary) if we look at the inputs to and knowledge needed to achieve key business objectives. Perhaps it’s time I dusted off the PhD idea 😉

If you need support in creating a learning strategy fit for the new work of work and learning, want to upskill your learning team in some of the key techniques and technologies you need or are looking for a learning provider that delivers content truly fit for business, we’d love to help.

Rewind 2014 – Celebrate your top contributors

As a huge fan of John Oliver (the UK’s finest satire based export) and a subscriber to the Last youtube rewindWeek Tonight YouTube channel, I noticed that the show features in this year’s YouTube Rewind.  It’s been one of the most successful channels of the year, driving huge amounts of traffic, comments, shares and pulling audiences into the show. Showcasing this year’s biggest YouTube successes gave me an idea – why not do the same for your organisation?  Celebrate those that contribute valuable insights, give of their time to mentor others, run ask the expert sessions, create videos, case studies and content for you, facilitate communities.  It’s a perfect time of year to thank those who are creating the true learning organisation, so let everyone know and inspire others to take up the challenge in 2015. In the spirit of recognising those that have inspired us in 2014, here’s a little montage of some of our favourites…