A thought-provoking question posed by opening keynote speaker Chris Pirie (The Learning Futures Group) yesterday at the ISA 2019 Annual Business Retreat in Phoenix. Chris’ anchor was technological disruption, citing 4 phases of the Industrial Revolution… starting with the shift to steam as a key energy source in the 1700s right up to the introduction today of the ‘smart car’ and the way Uber has changed the way we view transportation. Nothing out of the ordinary until you look at the timing… What may have taken centuries to shift in the early 1700’s now is being transformed within decades and even sooner. For example, mainframes were introduced in the late 60’s and today we have cars that drive themselves based on advanced computer technology.
So, what does this mean to today’s L&D professional? We rely heavily on technology to provide experiences instead of events in order to sustain and maintain this rate of change. E-learning platforms, virtual training, social networking, AI, etc. are currently in vogue, all in the hope that we reinvent environments where learning becomes part of the culture, and not a check the box experience. Add to that (and not surprising), that a recent Bersin study reports that 1% of a typical work week is all that an employee has to focus on training and development. Give it to them quick and make it stick! Couple this data point with the fact that talent, skills and capabilities are top of mind for most forward-thinking organizations, and as a result, these same organizations are hungering for the skills they cannot get fast enough.
So what’s the answer?? Technology of course. And technology in the form of robots, computer programmed machines capable of carrying out complex tasks automatically. Seems to be the answer, right? Not so fast. If we truly buy into successful learning through experiences and not solely transactions, this robot technology may take us part of the way, but not far enough. In order to build a true learning culture, Pirie maintains that we need to move from a ‘know it all culture’ to a ‘learn it all culture’. In fact he underscores this by quoting a ‘learning focused’ leader who states ‘I sign up for more courses than I can finish, and I buy more books than I can read’ (eerily familiar to some of us!) This is where he upholds the importance of developing a design thinking mentality, the process by which we learn by understanding the situation, challenging assumptions and redefining the problem. In order to successfully cultivate a design thinking environment, one needs to develop a deep understanding of the people we’re designing the products and services for. ‘Only when we walk in the shoes of our clients do we get their needs’ says Pirie.
So, before we give technology ALL the credit, let’s think about what goes into true problem solving, and analyze the differentiators between those robots and the human element….
- People can tell stories – a basic element of influence
- People demonstrate a sense of empathy for people and their experiences – the ability to walk a mile in our client’s shoes
- People are willing to collaborate – brainstorming is a critical element in design thinking
- People imagine a better future – when was the last time you saw a robot do that?
While recognizing the importance of technology and the need to get ahead of its curve, let’s be cautious not to overlook the value of letting people be more Human!