You’ve probably heard or read a lot about being careful of spending time and money on using “shiny new objects” when trying to think through how to bring learning to the flow of work. While technologies and tools make it possible to deliver faster, bigger, brighter learning programs, it’s important not to get lost in the excitement of new technologies and the rush to produce and deliver. Remember the science of learning, and empower your instructional designers, now often known as learning experience designers, to upskill in business strategy, basic data science, consulting and design thinking. They are the skills needed for the realization of “learning in the flow of work.”

Just like automation and AI will replace many front-end business process and system-oriented jobs, making soft skills more important than ever, so too will they impact learning consulting, design and development. The core skill sets that must stay true are instructional design and the business-oriented skills listed above, so that learning professionals can truly become trusted advisors to the business.

With expectations for more desirable experiences directing the identification of business outcomes, there is more talk about learning production and the need for experienced learning professionals to become learning producers. However, we must be careful: Engineering and production should not be the core focus of the next-generation learning professional. You can’t develop impactful training if you don’t first use empathy and smart research to understand who you want to produce learning content for. The agile learning development team is emerging instead, with a staff of hard-core cloud web developers, architects, engineers, graphic and media artists who can take a well-articulated learning experience concept or journey from a learning professional and then build, iterate and release it rapidly to the learning audience.

The experience-driven learning organization looks more like a front-end learning services business model staffed with professionals who do have backgrounds in instructional design but who are building new skills in strategy and creative design, and who are deeply embedded in an organization’s business areas, product teams or service lines. The learning services business team can focus on solving business problems and then leverage the “hard” skills of cognitive, cloud, digital experience and media arts resources with an agile and DevOps production mindset.

So, to all the instructional designers out there who are wondering what the future holds for you in the cognitive and digital economy, see yourself as a trusted learning advisor operating in a learning services business model. Work to position yourself more deeply in the context of the business you serve, and build subject matter expertise and create learning that will have real business impact. If all learning professionals can hone these business-oriented skills in an organization, a real culture of learning will emerge in more desirable, simple and effective ways than we previously thought was possible.