L&D Question Time – Barbara Thompson

This week we hear the views of Barbara Thompson.

Barbara is a Learning & Performance Consultant within BP’s Learning Innovation and Technology team. She specialises in the design and development of online performance support enabling employees to perform, learn and connect. Barbara creates resources encompassing video, web & responsive apps, animations and portals to cultivate social learning experiences. What underpins her design philosophy is curiosity, a solution agnostic mind-set and user centered design.

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

Skills required for digital transformation & relevance on the whole as a  function.  With theme of digital transformation – are we missing the fundamental piece around engagement and feeling of ‘value’ in a classroom setting.  Are we able to extract that and if so how?

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

• Retail industry largely, having spent 4 years in that.  The industry has and continues to be rocked by online, initially the bricks and mortar competition with online channel.  The successful retailers now integrate these very well to provide compelling user experience

• UX (User Experience Design) approach at heart of design/development and so that features very largely

• Consumer ad campaigns – how to come up with a product concept to engage, delight and ultimately consume is another theme that informs my thinking

• Going back to retail again, it’s the most sophisticated example in terms of understanding and responding to consumer behaviour through the wealth of data.  At one level they are able to decide from their demographic understanding where (on which street) to open shops!

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

Without a doubt, the subject of personalisation.  Think along the lines of this ad, being able to interact with artefacts and ‘things’ in your workplace/environment for contextualised learning experiences

Therefore, I think the collection of big data could potentially be deployed in learning so there is a much higher degree of personalisation which has never really been achieved in a  meaningful way. If we were collecting data sensibly we’d get a much better picture of what people needed to attain their goals – look at what they’re regularly browsing, understand how and why their projects work go wrong (e.g. by analysing the data we know that person X always blows the budget – what’s the problem here?)

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

Learning at the point of need – we’ve been saying this for ages – but haven’t really achieved it! Recognition that a lot of content we commission and create is only a google search away anyway. Again bringing down the walls between L&D, talent, comms – and even to some extent marketing

Three additional themes – none are ‘game changing in the sense that they are new but the results will be significant.:
“Frictionless” experiences,
More integration into everyday work,
Designing for collaboration across the value chain so for example in Retail – the learning is built for farmers, supply chain people and shop floor workers.

Why, you ask?  Well, why not.  By and large things are not working and I don’t know what more evidence we need!

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

I think it’s constructing teams to the output, not convinced that the conventional set up works.  More about multi discipline teams inc UX, Product Managers, Data Analysts, Designers, copy writers etc

More around consumer experiences, quick and agile prototyping.  It’s worked for product development for years, they have learned a lot from this approach, why wouldn’t we want to take advantage of something that works

It may seem pretty boring but I think we will just see a lot more of where things have been going, L&D are quite behind the curve on this one.
BUT … having said all that – I think the impact of cutting F2F is going to hit around 2020. Yes it is true that people forget a lot of what they learn formally – but importantly – not all. And let’s be honest about this matter, it’s not all always about learning i.e. – it’s about friendships, new insights and different ways of thinking. If you have an extraordinary F2F experience – you’re much more likely to remember it than an extraordinary digital experience (the latter we see every day …)

What advice would you give your 21 year old self?

Think of myself as a tradable product or service rather than focus exclusively on roles to suit a particular career.  Furthermore disruption and recession etc has hit so many industries/sectors that one should be adaptable and take lessons to continually reinvent (even if you want to stay within the same industry).

Connect with Barbara on Twitter @CaribThompson

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