LearnTec Conference as part of Jane Hart’s Modern Workplace Learning track

I was very grateful to be asked to speak at this year’s LearnTec Conference as part of Jane Hart’s Modern Workplace Learning track.

Here are some of the ideas, assertions and question that I included in my presentation:

1. There remains an amazing, untapped opportunity to help people to work better together in a time of unprecedented change in the world of work.

2. In the 2018 Harvard Business Review study of 1,300 executives only 7% ranked developing a continuous learning culture as their number one strategic priority. This is a systematic leadership failure and a call to action.

3. ‘L&D’ is mostly stuck in management mode at a time when organisations and managers need leadership, inspiration and new ideas.

4. ‘L&D’ only seems to talk about the same three things:
a) Controlling ‘content’ and ‘delivery’ (tools and tactics)
b) Creating ‘programs’ (for ‘speed to compliance’)
c) Their useful identity…

5. ‘L&D’ was born as a tool for The Management. ‘L&D”s sole purpose was to ensure people did what The Management needed them to do. People were viewed as interchangeable parts of an industrial system based on scarcity. Standardisation was valuable so efficiency and repeatability were always the focus.

6. The old industrial system of value creation put Strategy making at the top of the hierarchy, supported by organisational design, human resources and ‘L&D’ (in descending order of influence). These three functions ensured control and consistency and were therefore dominated by management (not leadership) thinking.

7. The old compliance model of work reflected stable process and slow rates of market change. The culture of work reinforced a low tolerance for mistakes, uncertainty and asking difficult questions.

8. Today’s disrupted business models can no longer rely on complete control so knowledge transfer can no longer be the whole answer. Efficiency has to make a place for engagement and adaptability.

9. There are more resources, more access and more opportunities for connection than ever before in the history of work, And yet, people have never been more disengaged.

10. Your learning program is always a lagging measure.

11. The familiar cycle of ‘capability model > topics > learning objectives > solutions > repeat’ is a finance led bureaucratic cycle. It’s a relic from when we were pursuing fixed targets in a stable landscape.

12. ‘Competence’ is no longer the scarce commodity in work teams.

13. What if ‘L&D’ led a redefinition of “productivity”? From ‘more output with less input’ to ‘scaling up learning’.

14. ‘Human’ work will be in four areas:
a) Identifying unseen problems and opportunities
b) Developing new solutions to solve problems and address opportunities
c) Working together to implement new solutions
d) Iterating, reflecting and learning.

15. Learning means change. Change is leadership work

16. In many organisations the conditions and expectations for learning aren’t prioritised or nurtured. This is not a ‘content’, ‘tools’ or ‘learning technologies’ challenge.

17. “So many ‘digital transformation programs’ companies are pursuing today are really just using digital technology to do what they have always done faster, cheaper and more conveniently”.
(Esko Kilpi)

18. ‘Digital’ enables and accelerates the shift away from top down control needed to succeed in work today. Work is now about the quality of your interactions and connections. A ‘digital mindset’ underpins continuous learning.

19. Five principles for digital era work:
a) Change is inescapable – so it’s curiosity and adaptability that create value in teams
b) Informed free choice, enabled by psychological safety and diversity is the basis for decisions
c) Active participation is the basis of growth and development
d) Focus shifts from individual tasks to connections and relationships
e) Productivity means increasing the quality ans speed of learning

20. So, what is ‘L&D’ for today?

Defining and developing organisational readiness
(for now and for the future)

Increasing the organisations’ capacity and capability to solve problems
(beyond compliance)

Coaching and supporting managers to lead and role model continuous learning
(with L&D as enablers and accelerators).

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