L&D Matters is written to help L&D professionals and trainers become even more effective. It discusses all things L&D related, with a particular emphasis on practical advice for those new to L&D or who wish to develop their practice further. It is written by Rachel Burnham.
Rachel Burnham writes: I had the opportunity to participate in last week’s
Learning Live event, held in London and organised by the Learning and
Peformance Institute (LPI).
day conference brought together Heads of Learning from very many different
organisations, predominantly in the UK, but with individuals from other
countries participating too. The
programme included a wide range of sessions, an opening Question Time session
with a panel and a keynote speech from Jeanne Meister, co-author of ‘The Future Workplace Experience’. A feature of this
event are the many breaks, which provide great opportunities to extend the
conversations begun in sessions and I really enjoyed the conversations I had
with participants and exhibitors.
It is always
challenging to pick out themes from conferences of this sort – everyone will
have their own take on the event, will have participated in a different mix of
sessions, had different conversations and have applied their own filters to the
event – but here is my take on this year’s Learning Live.
When I stand back
from the event and review my Sketchnotes and memories, what stands out for me
were all the ‘And’ pairings throughout the event. What I mean by that was the emphasis on
pairings such as ‘Learning and Peformance’, ‘Creation and Curation’, and ‘Formal
I like ‘And’
thinking. I like the possibilities in it. The opportunity to value different approaches. To appreciate what works when and why and in
what situation. I quite like the stretch
in it, of holding sometimes seeming opposing views. I much prefer it to ‘Or’
thinking – where often one right way is promoted and the other critiqued or even
rubbished. I find ‘And’ thinking more
realistic, more challenging, more fruitful as a broad approach. (Though I do realise that in writing this, I
am setting up ‘And’ thinking in contrast to ‘Or’ thinking, which means I am
indulging in some ‘Or’ thinking myself!)
The ‘And’ thinking
began early on in the event, when digital transformation was discussed in the
Question Time session and one of the panel members talked about how digital
learning can now bring both ‘rich’ experiences and also ‘reach’ a wide number
discussed ‘content creation & curation’ – in her keynote, Jeanne Meister
shared the example of GE’s digital curated platform ‘BrilliantYOU’ – a learning
marketplace including all sorts of different kinds of learning support –
micro-learning, courses, and also user generated materials ie created materials. It was interesting to hear that GE offer help
to employees on how to contribute your knowledge and create resources to share
that knowledge eg how to write for other people. Kelly Palmer, also discussed
curating content in her session ‘Learning Disrupted’. She identified three different approaches to
curating content: a) to jobs/roles/projects; b) using AI to aid curation and
enable personalisation; and c) by letting Subject Matter Experts curate content.
In the session, ‘The
Social Aspects of Learning’ Lucy Standing, from The Association of Business
Psychology, began by warning us that she had nothing new to say, as social
learning is the oldest kind of learning, though she gave us plenty to think
about. She explored some of the key ways
that social learning occurs through observing others and through talking
together. She closed her session by
sharing a range of research findings exploring the value of social learning as
part of formal learning experiences – social learning – time to question,
discuss and explore can add depth of learning.
It was interesting to see her referring to Julian Stodd’s Scaffolded
Social Learning Model which brings out the value of combining formal learning
with social learning opportunities. Definitely ‘And’ thinking.
In ‘Finding the Right
Blend’ from Paul Cooper and Rebecca White, the emphasis was definitely on ‘And’
thinking. The session explored how
Rebecca’s organisation had begun to make use of blended learning, from a
position of L&D being very face to face.
This has involved far more than simply introducing elearning. They found
that digital enhances face to face, rather than replacing it, but also that
there is no one right blend, what works will depend on staff, customers and the
In Julian Stodd’s own
session exploring ‘Social Communities in the Workplace’, he spoke about how
communities can filter and help to make sense of the huge amount of information
individuals are experiencing, but the value of this will depend upon the
diversity of that community. He talked
about the ‘dynamic tension’ that occurs between formal structures and social
structures, each bringing value, scaling differently, but both being needed. ‘And’ thinking.
But the biggest area
of ‘And’ thinking for me was around the area of ‘learning and
performance’. Not surprisingly, it being
the LPI’s event there was quite an emphasis on the importance of ‘performance’. Charles Jennings in the opening ‘Question
Time’ session said ‘Be passionate about performance’ and went on to share ‘The
only metrics that count are business metrics’.
But no one was arguing that this means learning is unimportant, simply
that both learning and performance need to be integrated into everything in the
organisation. For Joseph Richardson,
from Lego Group, one element of doing this is to move from topic thinking to
identifying what behaviours we want to trigger at different points in the
process and designing learning to enable this.
Both Jeanne Meister and Kelly Palmer focused on integrating learning
into the everyday. Jeanne Meister
quoted Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft about encouraging ‘Learn-it-alls rather
than know-it-alls’ and Palmer spoke about how learning every day is needed and
about creating a learning culture in our organisations, where for example it is
OK for someone to be watching YouTube at work for learning. Charles Jennings spoke of the relationship
between learning and performance, when he shared a colleague’s take on this
‘Learning is the intelligent by-product of continous improvement in an
organisation with a learning culture’.
This turns on its head our usual thought that learning leads to improved
performance and recognises that sometimes it is reflecting on improved
performance that helps us to see what we have learned.
I have come away from
the event, with much to think about and much to action. Which is just as it should be.
If you were part of
Learning Live, I would love to hear about your takeways from the event and what
you do as a result. Do share – we need these practical stories and experiences
to develop our learning further.
Burnham L & D Consultancy helps L&D professionals update
and refresh their skills. I am particularly interested in blended
learning, the use of digital skills for learning, evaluation and anything that
improves the impact of learning on performance.