L&D QuestionTime – Kate Graham

In your opinion what is the biggest anxiety within the world of learning and development at the moment?

I feel there are probably two main areas of anxiety. The first is around making the best use of the plethora of learning technologies that are available now. It is all very good talking about creating podcasts or online social communities, but pulling these all together into a coherent offering isn’t necessarily straightforward. I think a lot of folk in L&D are embracing what we can do with technology but putting it in the context of the overall strategy remains something of a challenge. Hence the volume of debate around 70:20:10 for example. People get hung up on the numbers in trying to get the balance right. Secondly, there is some anxiety surrounding the need for L&D to stay relevant and put themselves at the heart of the business. We talk about the need to align L&D strategy with business goals, but with initiatives now like LinkedIn buying Lynda.com and providing content directly to learners, I have seen a lot of discussion on how L&D can optimally stay involved in people’s ongoing, on-the-job learning.

Who or what is informing your thinking around L&D?

My PLN (Personal Learning Network) is always my biggest influence. Given that what I do involves taking a broad view of the industry, I get to see certain trends emerging or what the hot topics are. And these determine who really has a platform at any one particular moment. So for example, Aaron Silvers is one of the go to guys on TinCan API (or xAPI as we must now call it). Or Doug Belshaw on Open Badges. Searching key terms or hashtags is a really great way of winkling out leading voices on a particular topic. More generally, I discovered Paul Matthews’ books last year on Informal Learning and Capability At Work. His focus on *performance* and people’s outputs rather than the learning inputs has real resonance for me. He regularly blogs and speaks at events too but the books are well worth checking out.

The other thing I think is really important is to look outside our sometimes niche world of L&D. I read up on marketing, business and general tech trends for example. A publication like Forbes or Harvard Business Review always highlights new thinking and innovation and looking outside, broadening my horizons, definitely helps inform my thinking regarding my ‘home turf’.

What is the most exciting innovation on the horizon for learning?

We love to get carried away by the shiny and new things don’t we! There are lots of exciting things out there for learning to explore but I don’t think any of them are a panacea for some of the ongoing challenges faced by L&D. I like what Martin Couzins, Sam Burrough and Ben Betts are showcasing with a corporate approach to MOOCs. They’re demonstrating that the MOOC model can be applied in an organisational context and that is something that I believe has so much potential. But there are still a lot of ‘basics’ that often aren’t done well. Clive Shepherd’s latest book is ‘More Than Blended’ – now blended learning is not new, but the fact he has written a whole book on what is a long standing concept, to me shows that some of the fundamentals aren’t right in many organisations. So whilst it’s great to keep tabs on what’s new and what’s innovative, I don’t think we should get too distracted by whizzy new bits of tech just for the sake of it.

What “game changers” would you like to see and why?

It’s less of a specific ‘thing’ or product I’d like to see and more a mindset. Andrew Jacobs has done some inspiring work which I’m sure many of your members will be familiar with. What I love about his approach is that he is bold. He is not afraid to rewrite the rule book and try new initiatives. I would love to see more organisations follow suit and initiate projects or approaches that they feel will work for them. Whether that’s more informal learning or introducing new technologies – it doesn’t really matter as long as it helps optimise what L&D are trying to achieve in that particular context.

What do you think the world of L&D will look like by 2020?

I don’t think it will look radically different to be honest. Hopefully we’ll have moved forwards with some of the challenges we face today but I don’t think corporate learning will all be done via wearable devices or anything futuristic like that!

What advice would you give your 21 year old self?

Ooof there’s a question! Stay curious would probably be the main piece of advice. It’s something Nigel Paine said to me when I interviewed him recently and I couldn’t agree more. Keeping your eyes and ears open, investigating further when things pique your interest and getting involved whenever there is an opportunity – these are all things that have stood me in good stead and I’d advise anyone to do the same. I would also reiterate what I said earlier about being bold. If an idea doesn’t pan out then it isn’t the end of the world, but you will never know unless you try!

Follow Kate on twitter @kategraham23

About Kate:

After several years in the learning industry, Kate set up Ascot Communications to put into practice what so many organisations do not do. Kate takes a strategic approach to marketing working across the mix including PR, online, advertising and events activities with a focus on social media and new marketing methodologies, which have presented exciting new ways of working. This also contributed to her involvement as a co-founder of mylearningworx, the UK’s first crowd sourced learning content centre.

The combination of Kate’s experience and knowledge of L&D has enabled her to win several awards for clients including two Gold awards. Kate is passionate about harnessing technology to create learning solutions that help clients to realise the value of what they do for their learners.

 

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