Learning event design starts with a blank page

Written by Barry Johnson on 22 October 2018

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus, said, “You could not step twice into the same rivers; for other waters are ever flowing on to you.”

With rapidly advancing technology, changing processes and skills, culture transition, companies are in a nearly constant state of organisational transformation – whether it’s a revolution, modernisation, restructuring of departments or geographic business shifts. The changes are arriving faster at shorter intervals.

The next learning event will be different from the last learning event as spaced learning is introduced. The changes listed above are only part of the challenge. The target population will be different. The learning needs analysis more rigorous, the personal needs of the participants are changing and, their expectations of the learning facilitation will have shifted.

They are recognising they own their learning and are not just communication recipients but fully engaged participants.

L&D professionals are now more than subject matter experts with some sophisticated presentation skills. The subject matter is changing and at the same time broadening to include the environment in which the subject matter skills and knowledge are practiced.

Either people will intellectually grow, or become slaves of change, or made redundant.

With that comes the sophistication of the learners as they recognise change and they own their learning, and the facilitation skills of the L&D professional have advanced. The fourth industrial revolution is the reason for the rapid change and the controlling elements of artificial intelligence.

Either people will intellectually grow, or become slaves of change, or made redundant. Key to the former will be learning and the latter could be the failure of L&D and managers to guide the learners into the new operational generation.

The design of every learning event will start with a blank sheet, on it will be that which has not changed, then that which is being influenced by the changes affecting the operations of productive units.

Then comes the changes that will shortly impact the operations with the change in customer needs and demands, the transforms to meet those changes and demands and the competitor threats, and suppliers changing inputs. 

Let’s look at a short case study: In the 70s one of the writers worked for an airline as a technical trainer. The aircraft technology shifted fast. The flight engineers were redundant and so were the navigators. The pilots had to undergo training.

Maintenance staff from mechanics and electricians through to the Licenced Aircraft Engineers had to be trained as did other engineering and technical staff. Technology and servicing patterns shifted. The changing management structures had to be understood and then there was the integration of airlines, and while this was happening feed-back classrooms were introduced.

What’s the recipe for success? A zero-based design is where the answer can lie. This is a blank-sheet approach and it needs starting with a clean whiteboard to move effectively from incremental to transformational impact.

Erase from your mind the current situation and ask the question: how would the perfect learning event look if we build from scratch? You, the L&D professionals, see the new now and know what change will be here soon. 


About the author

Barry Johnson BA, CMCIPD, MCMI, is a non-executive director at Learning Partners Ltd

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