Not so long ago, in a galaxy not that far away, an epic saga began to unfold, with unlikely heroes, unexpected transformation, rebellion and hope! This is the saga of learning in a networked society that’s rapidly changing. When we consider this Training Force, what does it mean for the way we create capability today in the workforce of tomorrow?

With great power comes great responsibility, and with great responsibility … comes total uncertainty! What are the keys to unleashing the Training Force in a world of flux? We operate in a fast-changing galaxy that Ericsson calls the Networked Society.

  • It is powered by urbanization, the constant population shift from rural to urban areas, a singularity that is changing the earth every minute.
  • It is accelerated by three technology enablers: mobility (connectivity everywhere), broadband (blazing fast connectivity) and cloud (connectivity to capabilities beyond your own device).
  • It is amplified by sensors: tiny, low-powered, embedded electronics constantly reading and sharing data, including yours.

The confluence of these technologies makes each of us, literally, an extension of the network. Forecasts predict that by 2022, there will be 29 billion global connected devices. This future will have an endless sea of data, big and small. IBM has notably described big data as a new natural resource, not unlike how wood, coal, petroleum and metal dominated earlier economic history. In a world of this many connections, how do we make our connections meaningful?

Yoda reminds us that training is one of the most powerful connections there can ever be. Yet the training industry’s ability to leverage the small data – the data of personalization – is a still largely untapped resource.

What comprises the data of personalization? Consider this: We often find that tutors are the most effective kind of teachers, because they are able to go beyond academic interactions to address the emotional needs of learners (to soothe anxiety, bolster confidence, pique curiosity and, thereby, increase receptiveness). Those needs are precisely what data personalization must capture in training:

  • Attention: Are they bored or distracted?
  • Biometrics: Are they anxious, unsure or excited?
  • Presence: Are they where they should be to learn the next step?
  • Social connections: Who and what reinforce their learning?
  • Comprehension: Are they “getting it” yet?

The highest impact of training is far beyond knowledge acquisition; it is applied decision-making based on comprehension, preparedness, experience and insight. It’s not so much what a Jedi learns but what a Jedi does that counts. The training industry faces a Networked Society paradox, paraphrased in Eddie Obeng’s TED talk: “The pace of change is overtaking the pace of learning.” Employees and employers grapple with this conundrum: There’s a lot of pressure and a lot to learn but hardly any time to learn it.

Luke Skywalker, with Yoda on his back, faced down similar circumstances in “The Empire Strikes Back.” This picture is worth more than a thousand words; it’s worth billions of connections (29 billion, to be exact). Bill Gates used this image of Luke and Yoda famously in 2013 to symbolize his views on the future of education. It symbolizes the shift from a traditional classroom to connected learning. Luke is the classroom, and Master Yoda is the ultimate wearable. He’s the “guide at your side” instead of the “sage on the stage.” Yoda is the big data coming at you in a small package, accessible and therefore more effective. His instructional design is experiential design, personalized to Luke’s changing temperament.

Within our own galaxy, the future classroom is you. Effective training here requires that content, instructors and learners are brought together, based on data that’s dynamic, contextual and deeply personalized. The relationship between learners and learning used to be about learners owning content. Now, it is much more about learners being able to access content at their point of need.

The next step in that evolution is that the know-how accesses the learner when he or she needs it. This is the advent of artificial intelligence, and the training industry is uniquely positioned to ensure that it becomes an amplifier, rather than a substitute, for natural intelligence. What a Jedi does counts even more when know-how is amplified by assistance that’s rapid, real-time and resourceful.

Every education provider is actually an experience provider. The key shift for training companies is to expand from traditional instructional design to speed-driven experiential design by deliberately infusing personalized design thinking into content development processes. Think like a production studio, and not just like a school. We must increasingly embrace the power of interactive media (i.e., VR, AR and wearables) while harnessing the timeless power of “Star Wars”-caliber storytelling to create high-tech, low-cost, affordable, scalable experiential training.

Through the lens of a galaxy from a long time ago and far, far away, we must be ready here and now for what the future holds. Tomorrow’s technology demands that we rapidly evolve far beyond yesterday’s learning techniques. This is what it means to use the Force for powerful, more personalized training in the galaxy of our Networked Society.

May the Force be with us.