Will Virtual Reality enable a truly global economy?

Listening to the latest episode of the From Scratch podcast, my friends Nigel Paine and Martin Couzins were discussing the new report from Maisie VRLearn report, focussing on current uses of Virtual Reality (VR) in learning. What struck me whilst listening to the examples Martin and Nigel shared were the opportunities of social mobility and opening of a global market for skills and capability in a VR enabled world.

Given the current political landscape, with many countries taking an isolationist stance in international relations, its an interesting juxtaposition. If larger companies can use a VR enabled recruitment process to attract the best talent from an international pool of resource, it opens access and opportunity for individuals to access a global employment market.

Currently, widespread use of Virtual Reality for recruitment, virtual team working and education may be limited to the larger organisations and providers. But in comparison to the operational costs to provide these services or support global working on a global scale, the savings make the development investment worthwhile. Connectivity and accessibility to appropriate hardware have a way to go to truly make this a global playing field, but it could indicate a direction of travel. There is certainly still huge disparity in access to good quality data networks.

However, organisations such as Learn Appeal are rolling out devices to bring connectivity to once remote communities and mobile data networks continue to drive an increase in global internet use (sources such as the 2015 Internet Usage report from the World Bank and the International Telecommunications Union report make interesting reading). It could be that we see technologies such as VR and better support for virtual working actually driving further investment into connectivity as companies fight for the best global talent.

As the report is grounded in current uses of the technology, it also helps to bring Virtual Reality into the general narrative rather than a new or emergent approach. So it helps Learning and Development, Organisational Design and Business Process Improvement and many other business units have sensible and grounded conversations on enabling technology and its impact on the business. There are economies of scale that are pulling many technologies that may have felt out of reach onto the solutions menu.

It highlights yet again the importance of learning professionals embarking on true business engagement, analysis of key business processes, associated costs and current performance measures. VR will not answer all performance issues but an informed, agnostic approach which enables true business analysis supports the future of the professional and ultimately the success of the organisations we support.

Human curation – the story continues…

Following the seismic political events of 2016, I posted a piece called ‘Human Curation – Important Now More Than Ever’.  I focused on the importance of curation to ensure we don’t become myopic and why we need curators to ensure we have as much input as possible to make full rounded and aware decisions:

“open-mindedness, curiosity, a willingness to bring the unsaid stuff out onto the table and being able to listen are critical”.

Since publishing this, I came across a fascinating article from the Harvard Business Review written by researchers at Microsoft Research, which broadens the discussion still further.  I suggested that the role of curator could be of real significance and importance to organisational adaptability and survival, so we should nurture, support and value it.  Of course, much of the work of research, data analysis and synthesis is why there is such huge investment in AI (Artificial Intelligence).  So is curation necessary if IBM Watson and the many engines that drive services from Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple, Microsoft and make more can take care of that for us? The reality is that sat behind the algorithms are many contract staff making decisions on content and filtering, censoring, removing or adapting content.  The ‘judgment call’ is so contextual to contemporary circumstances, trends, social norms and events that it relies on a combination of technology and human action.  So rather than replace the curator, its shaping and forming a new role and skill set.  One worrying aspect of this in its current guise is the importance and support given to those who are providing these services.  The article describes a fairly negative picture of the conditions, remuneration, standards and support for those who are conducting what is a fairly sophisticated editorial role. Its worth reflecting on this in our organisations – curating the information, research, data, stories, insights and content needed for our context as well as exposing the organisation to insights of which it may be unaware takes time, business insight, rigour, curiosity and skill.  If done well, the value it will deliver to the organisation will be self evident.  So as investments go, in time saved, ideas generated, new options made available, efficiencies, improved market awareness etc its worth giving the role proper consideration, development, support and reward. I’d love to hear from anyone who works in an organisation where they can share insights into the practice on the ground.

Human curation – important now more than ever

p1060681Two weeks ago, TheGuardian new paper featured an article on ‘why human curation matters in an algorithm world’.  We may have just witnessed what could amount to one of the most important events is contemporary world history. Whatever your political affiliation, what’s interesting to consider is what factors, from a system and curation perspective, may have led to the result.

Facebook and Twitter have come in for some significant criticism in the days following the election.  It’s lack of editorial scrutiny, by virtue of the medium, have led to some to believe that ‘fake news’ played a key role. This is an area for significant debate and what you are probably asking right now is, as I normally write on learning and knowledge strategy, what does this have to do with any of that?   Well, not to dismiss the issue of false reporting, what has interested me is the power of the algorithm.

Facebook is built for engagement and so will provide you with content it thinks will interest you (with curation provided by its algorithm).  Through understanding your preferences, it will continue to serve content it thinks you like.  The effect of this when its letting me know what the latest gadgets are maybe a bit of a negative impact on my wallet. When this comes to something as important as choosing the next leader of world’s economic superpower, only reading content that continues to agree and affirm your point of view raises serious questions with significant consequences.

We see the same happening in an individual’s personal network on a platform such as Twitter or Snapchat – it’s likely that you will gather people around you that have similar views to yourself.  It’s human nature to want to connect with and belong to a tribe that hold the same values as us, but for both ourselves personally, the health of organisations and society, this can be troublesome. It can leave us doomed to repeat the same mistakes or continue on the same path without looking at what’s truly happening around us.

So bringing it back to organisations and learning, no one wants to be the next Blockbuster video. Without accepting changes in trends and behaviours around you, understanding customer criticism of your product/service or listening to discontent in your workforce, we give ourselves a significant blindside that can come home to roost in quite challenging ways.

This is where the role of human curation comes in – open-mindedness, curiosity, a willingness to bring the unsaid stuff out onto the table and being able to listen are critical.

It’s likely we will hear things we don’t like.  For example, when I worked some years ago for Orange Global (now France Telecom), we used to purposefully read customer complaint sites and forums. There was no attempt to try and keep things quiet, it was vital to recognise where things were not right.  It’s not always easy to hear it but whether we take notice or not, these views are being expressed and need to be acknowledged. Only through understanding all sides can we take actions to improve things and make things better. Just as in wider society, our immediate experience limits our view; often we are too close, too invested in our own beliefs to recognise that the same situation is being perceived very differently.

So ensure you have people in place that are able to be as objective as possible, are able to gather good evidence, are good researchers and display empathy. They need to follow up on the learning, knowledge and information being put out there to understanding how it’s been received, ‘take the temperature’ of the organisations and its external environment and ensure resources are refreshed to reflective that. Its easier to listen to the voices that conform and quietly get on with it, but the future of health of your organisation (and wider society) relies on us not sweeping opposing views under the carpet. Often we will be upset, even deeply disturbed or frightened by what we hear, but pretending these things do not exist gives no room for growth or understanding.

There is no doubt that AI and algorithms can greatly improve the efficiency and curation of information, but let us ensure streamlining doesn’t mean blindsiding.

Apprenticeships and why technology enabled learning matters

We recently published a paper on the impact of the apprenticeship levy. It is possible that Brexit will delay the launch of the levy but organisations with a wage bill of more than £3m are certain to be asked to contribute to the investment in apprenticeship schemes in the near future. The aim is to create more than three million new ‘high quality’ apprenticeships. So what will be the hallmarks of a high quality programme? How will it engage and support young people in obtaining the requisite work experience and access to great quality training that they’ll need to thrive? The levy works two ways; to fund the schemes and to incentivise companies to make use of their investment by appointing Apprentices themselves as part of their recruitment strategy. Companies as diverse as PwC and Penguin[1] have announced their intention to scrap their graduate-only recruitment schemes.  Conversely, the apprenticeship schemes themselves are increasingly including this as a route to highly-regarded degrees without the debt burden.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said: “The Department for Education needs to chart and follow a course from having a lot of apprenticeships to having the right apprenticeships in order to help improve the UK’s productivity and achieve value for money, in return for the costs of the programme.”

Increasingly, quality is seen as the most significant feature and there is considerable emphasis on standards and the Trailblazers. But having created the standard, enabling companies to work seamlessly with educating bodies and awarding organisations with the apprentice at the heart is key to this. Having apprenticeships working in diverse locations with tailored programmes is not easy. The original quality of each apprenticeship is fundamental and so is the ability to structure the learning with the working environment. Equally, apprentices need to know how they fit, how they are doing, to be able to collaborate with other apprentices potentially in different locations and to be able to tap into help as and when needed. Features to look out for in enabling technology: A common interface for the apprentice, the training organisation and the line manager.

  • Clear steps for the apprentice to follow as their journey to qualification unfolds
  • An ability to seed the learning paths with assignments that reflect their learning in the workplace.
  • Assignment capability that allow the apprentice to upload evidence in any format for review, feedback and assessment
  • Capability for the End Point Assessment (EPA) body to evaluate the outcome
  • Opportunities for apprentices to collaborate with others

The reality for many FE Colleges and others is that the internal software used on campus  is fit for that purpose but does not necessarily translate well when used across different companies. Those that adopt software that bridges that gap will stand out. [1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-35343680

Learning Live preview – why lecture free is important

Last week I created a quick Adobe Spark view on why I love Learning Live, partly to thank the LPi for their support and the opportunity to take part, but also because as an event, I think it’s more important than ever.

As our relationships with the workplace, technology and our environment continue to shift and intertwine, it demands that we work together to shape the future of the profession to flex and adapt.  Learning professionals need to be polymaths because individuals and organisations are learning all the time, not at scheduled events or in defined e-learning.  Formal orchestrated learning has its place, just as communities and coaching do but when regarded as very separate, distinct entities, we limit our effectiveness and relevance.  We need to add value, insights, inspiration and performance impact in the flow of work It’s why the learning community with its variety of experience, approaches, favoured models, best tech, most effective engagement methods needs to work together to set out the new learning agenda.  That needs space – space to discuss, challenge, map out, draw, speak, plan, take action.  Learning Live is about working together, celebrating the diaspora of experience and giving these important conversations room to breathe, so this doesn’t stay in the realms of theory.  During my practical session tomorrow on using value chains to understand real business need, I my attendees leave with a tool they can use to create a complete view of performance.  But more than this, I hope it helps even in a small way to help shape the definition of the new learning professional. I’ll be blogging and sharing my experience from the event, so hope to see you back here for more on the future of performance.

Learning Live Preview – a conference where you can get stuff done

leanring liveSummer time and the livin’ is easy?  Well being specialists in the tougher L&D challenges, we aren’t ones for the easy life!  A good creative and intellectual challenge is what we prefer and the issues facing the changing face of learning and performance in organisations required some rigorous thinking. That’s why I would encourage you to get along to Learning Live on the 7th and 8th September, as its a departure from your standard conference.  The format is lecture free, which makes the event by its nature, highly collaborative.  For someone attending, its means you can come along with questions and expect to leave with practical answers. It can be difficult to find the time and the budget to get out to events but because the LPi have worked so hard to make these sessions to participatory, you can expect to leave with some of your strategic to do list ticked off. Some of my essential sessions include:

MICHELLE PARRY-SLATER: The value of free: creating fantastic learning assets

NICK SHACKLETON-JONES – Redesigning Learning

JOE TIDMAN: Delivering an agile Global Learning Strategy

ANDREW JACOBS: Developing the L&D professional to be relevant to the business

TOM SPIGLANIN: Personalised learning in unusual places

CATHY HOY: Embedding Learning – Maximising the role of the Manager

BRENT SCHLENKER: VR isn’t the future – it’s the past & present (and future)

Oh and of course my session 🙂

LISA MINOGUE-WHITE: Learning where it really matters – a practical guide to understanding the business through value chains


Learning Designer Diaries – The ‘how much and by when’ story

It’s never easy, having the conversation with the sales team, a potential client and asking the all important ‘how much and by when?’ question. Every designer’s aim is to delight their audience – it’s a marriage of art and science. Using creative treatments to engage people and deliver a tangible result takes curiosity, analysis, rigour and imagination. To make this happen means getting the right resources in place with the right time frame and a realistic budget to go with realistic expectations. When it’s a critical programme that if executed well could reap huge benefit, it’s worth thinking what you really want as an outcome, taking the time to plan it properly and invest in the idea. – It can be fun and informative. You don’t need sky high budgets, but agreeing on a realistic budget that is linked to the business results you want to see is an important dialogue. So next time you are looking to buy in for a project (having done the important job of really understanding the learning requirements and business drivers), this could be a useful visual to use as a discussion point to agree the budget you need. blog image-01 If it’s something that is going to be short lived and disposable, you adjust the time and budget to reflect it. If it’s a programme that is linked directly to transformative change and critical skills that your organisation needs to be successful then give it some thought – what is it worth? Think of it like this – for your next children’s birthday party, get out the disposable plates, but if you want to make the most of that really nice bottle of red you splashed out on, don’t pour it into a plastic tumbler.  

Lizzie Wakefield - Digital Designer

Lizzie Wakefield – Digital Designer

Introducing the Learning Designer Diaries

learning designer diaries icon v3I am delighted to introduce our new regular feature – the learning designer diaries.  Our talented learning and digital design team at WillowDNA will be sharing with you quick insights, case studies, reviews and research. From examples of our creative client work, through to top tips on learning design, the team have lots of share with you. Our first post will be from Lead instructional designer, Sue Rennoldson on how to combine internal communications and learning to engage the organisation.  Find out why a question on hip hop was the key to driving adoption of a major new tech solution. Your learning designer diaries team are:    

Learning Designer Diaries – Hip Hop, you don’t stop (learning!)

Breaker in Berlin by Lisa Minogue-White

Breakers in Berlin © Lisa Minogue-White

Which rapper has been searched for most often in the last ten years?

This lone question, delivered through a simple Storyline quiz, played its part in driving adoption of our client’s shiny new software and creating a buzz along the way.

How? Because the tool’s new users could only find out the answer from the tool itself. And correct answers were entered into a draw for some very tempting prizes. One question was released every day during launch week and the response was phenomenal. Standard SCORM reporting was all that was needed to operate the draw and prove its worth. With every correct answer, the chance of winning a prize increased.

Of course, alongside the fun and games was a suite of modules giving a step by step guide to the tool and case studies in its use. But that’s another story (and that story involves some beautiful animation, custom music to move the learning along and gorgeous graphics). 

And did you get the name of the rapper right? Well, it could only be Eminem.

Sue Rennoldson - Lead Instructional Designer

Sue Rennoldson – Lead Instructional Designer

Games, promotional content, communications, animation, video and music are just some of the ways we help our clients bring their learning needs to life – get in touch to find out more.

CIPD L&D Show Preview

Take a quick look at the conference programme for this year’s CIPD L&D show and the key theme becomes clear – transforming learning. future for learning In previous years, the major of the conference has been typified by presentations of specific L&D projects, from organisational wide transformation, through to specific interventions for key areas of the business (such as new approaches to sales academies, leadership programmes or innovative use of learning technology).  This year, heads of L&D and CLOs are going bigger – sessions such as ‘How L&D Can Lead Digital Transformation in 2016’ and ‘Removing Organisational Barriers to Empower your People’ to ‘Influencing Business Leaders to Embrace the Modern Learning Agenda’ typify the agenda. I’m looking forward to reporting back from the event, to see how this transformative theme is received and some of the highlights from the session.