When it comes to technology, the pace of change is only accelerating. Consider this internet meme. The telephone took 75 years to reach 50 million people, while it only took 35 days for the Angry Birds Space game to reach that many, thanks to the power of digital downloads. The new normal is compelling: New technologies continue to reach more and more people in less and less time.
Our technologies are evolving and becoming inherently faster, just like our rate of adoption. That leaves our businesses struggling to change to keep up with the faster pace as we collectively choose to adopt newer technologies. What do these dynamics mean for the acceleration of learning and training and the frequency of re-learning?
In a consumer environment, Amazon, Google, Apple and others create dynamic solutions that add new functions every day. Interaction, discovery and real-time guidance for consumers is built into the product with technologies like artificial intelligence (AI). Not long ago, Amazon Alexa couldn’t distinguish my wife and me as separate people with different preferences. When that changed, there was no formal training to tell us. We weren’t notified about the new function; we discovered it. The voice recognition and AI made a simple task of enabling and using the powerful new function. If we needed more detail, a simple search could get us more background from a constantly updated website. However, the product itself was the primary trainer, and the training itself consisted of just improving.
To my grandparents, this kind of technology would have seemed like sorcery, all the more because they were not technologically savvy enough to adapt with it. Part of the latest technology paradigm demands a fairly high floor of human understanding for users to be able to make use of, and keep up with, rapid evolutions. So, beyond accelerated learning and training, there is also a more demanding requirement for a learner’s starting velocity. How can today’s learner keep up with tomorrow’s demands?
Technology is not just making things faster and more efficient; it is transforming the expectations for how we create, administrate, deliver and experience value.
It is transforming the way the way we approach our businesses and, consequently, the way we need to start thinking about what the missions of the trainer and learner will be moving forward.
Even more traditional, regulated, business-to-business and manufacturing companies are speeding up and leveraging new ways of thinking about their value. You might not associate these companies with being internet-speed companies, but make no mistake – they are: Capital One CEO Richard Fairbank says, “We’re going to need to think more like technology companies and maybe a little less like banks.” Ericsson has evolved to provide digital services and internet of things solutions as well as telecommunications, and Toyota Connected uses small teams to create the next generation of software-controlled autonomous vehicles. Companies are working to be smarter and faster to meet accelerating market expectations driven by technologies that are evolving in real time. They continue to innovate new ways to shorten their path to market.
The idea of inventing a new technology and creating separate formal training does not fit with newer approaches and is not fast enough to keep up with the increasing speed of business. The problem is, much of our thinking about training was born in an old system that measured creation and deployment in years and held lower expectations for the base technical competence of people to absorb new ideas. The days of businesses that depend on armies of people conditioned to the paradigm of “just tell me what to do and I’ll do a great job for you” are coming to an end. It is too slow and far too rigid. Automation sophistication continues to replace repetitive task-driven jobs, allowing people to shift more into the roles of quickly assimilating technology and directly driving solutions.
As businesses speed up to develop and deploy in timeframes measured in days or even hours, the practice of an creating a class for simultaneous release is not economically feasible. There is never a stable base to anchor the class content. The class itself is outdated as soon as it is released!
Companies are already using different organizational approaches to support a flow of value to the market instead of end target deliveries. They are more closely aligning business, architecture, development, testing and other roles in small cross-functional teams that are aligned with the mission of releasing value to market.
So, what does it mean to be a training professional at internet speed?
It means gaining an understanding of learning psychology, automation, user experience design and AI and integrating far more closely with the teams creating the value. Learning professionals will not be teaching compliant workforces how to operate products and solutions. They will instead be directly shaping the nature of the delivered value so that technologically savvy administrators, operators, users and others can assimilate and make use of the new value at a pace that keeps up with their actual delivery speed. They will be directly embedded with short production path teams, contributing to the user experience design, building help systems, defining AI interactions and helping people to focus on engaged adaptation. “Trainers” will build the intelligence into the product or solution to satisfy the “training” intent as part of the primary team focused on value creation – not as a separate or asynchronous function.
There will always be separate needs for traditional and formal training, but if our businesses are dependent on internet speed, then our training philosophy and our training mix must undergo revolution – not evolution.
Engaged Adaptation: Training organizations must focus on supporting and integrating with development organizations that depend on small teams of engaged self-learning problem-solvers for their speed-to-market needs.
For a company to survive in an environment where product, service and solution evolution is measured in days instead of years, learning professionals need to be more than trainers. They must bring a variety of skills, from coach to consultant to innovator, as primary team members in support of the fast-moving value stream flow. The transformation is not easy, but it could not be more worthwhile, because it is the very means by which technology can unleash human potential.