L&D QuestionTime – Julian Stodd

This week we catch up with consultant, author and international speaker Julian Stodd.

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

I can tell you what it should be: to remain relevant in times of change. The ways we learn, collaborate and communicate are all evolving in the Social Age, indeed, our very relationship with knowledge is changing. So what we used to do, partitioning learning up and serving it out in chunks, is an outdated model for a workforce that needs to be agile, thriving in change, not fighting fires.

The solution to this is not a piece of technology or a new product (although technology may facilitate it). It’s rather a mindset and approach.

Many current organisations are constrained by their hierarchies, systems and processes. They are infrastructurally unable to adapt and respond. The future organisation will be scaffolded and reconfigurable, with each function set up to facilitate and adapt, not control and restrain.

The anxiety that L&D feels is anchored in notions of control. In the old world, the organisation wrote the story and it was the role of L&D to tell it. In the new world, in a Social Learning approach, the story is co-created and co-owned, and the role of L&D is to facilitate it, not to own or control it. The price is that we relinquish control (and the positional authority which that gave us), but the payoff is agility: communities of engaged individuals co-creating, invested in and owning the learning. Developing tacit, tribal knowledge within the organisation.

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

That’s a tough question: I am inspired by everything. The biggest influences are the people I interact with. Take last month: one day I was in Boston, hanging out with the Vegan Punks in a squat in a disused rum distillery, the next i was sat with a group from the US Army Joint Chiefs in Las Vegas. Both conversations were about aspects of the Social Age, about communication, about learning, about change. Both conversations had commonality, but wildly different contexts. Most of my life is like that! I travel probably twenty weeks a year, so i meet a lot of people in a lot of different places. My job, through my writing, is to find the commonality, to try to draw out the threads.

I’m heavily interested in neurology, psychology and linguistics, all of which formed part of my postgraduate work, but also by art, poetry and graffiti. Indeed, i maintain a graffiti blog as well as my learning one! I read extensively and widely: history, philosophy, design thinking, psychology, travel, and science. All of it informs my thinking.

When I started writing, I was worried that I would struggle for inspiration, but the truth is the opposite: I struggle to choose what to write out of the abundance of ideas that the world throws at me everyday.

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

The death of learning as an abstract activity: we are on a path towards learning being something constant, contextualised to our situation. Who we are near, what they are arguing about, what we are doing, where we are doing it, the mistakes we made before. Currently learning is separate from performance: in the future, to learn will be to perform.

Wearable technology will be part of this change: it will change every aspect of everything we do.

Google Glass: people mocked it, but failed to realise that it wasn’t built to succeed. It was built to take the first step. As far as i’m concerned, it was revolutionary and I can’t wait for the next step.

Technology: I hope to see a more fragmented, yes interconnected diverse ecosystem. Small systems that talk wisely to each other, not dinosaurs based on outdated notions of control.

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

I think the myth of career is becoming clearer to everyone: there’s no such thing and your destiny lives with you and your community. Once you’re liberated from that fiction, you can learn and work differently. The onus shifts to the organisation to attract and retain the best talent by being great to work for.

We will see big organisation fall because they fail to adapt, and some of them will look bemused as they tumble because they really don’t get it: the Social Age is about constant change, and only the agile can survive and thrive.

What i’d like to see: a battle for equality. At the current rate of change, it will be eighty five years before women get equal pay to men. Why aren’t we smashing windows and barricading the boardrooms? Because we are complacent: inequality is normalised. I’d like to see that change.

I believe that the Agile organisation will thrive through Social Leadership and learning approaches, and in my own work i try to embed concepts of equality, kindness and fairness into it.

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

More fragmented: smaller internal teams, more independents, greater collaboration, a fairer social contract. Oh, wait, that’s what i’d like to see…

What i think we will see? By 2020 the new ‘social’ LMS will have failed to deliver, much as the LMS failed to make life easy. Some big players will have fallen, but some new ones will have emerged. We will be feeling the impact of wearables: nobody will leave home without at least two connected devices, and nobody will be using them to make phone calls.

And I’ll be driving to meetings in my Apple car of course.

What advice would you give your 21 year old self?

Break more stuff faster. Be kinder. Be more curious. Paint more. Write more. Realise that money is incidental to happiness faster. Listen to more music. Persist with playing guitar. Stand up for yourself when organisations exert control without fairness. Stand up for others whatever the cost. Fight for equality because it’s the fight of our time.

About Julian Stodd

Julian helps organisations and individuals learn better. He splits his time between research and writing about learning, alongside consultancy and delivering projects out in the real world with his crew at SeaSalt Learning.

Much of his consultancy work is around core elements of the Social Age: the need for Social Leadership, the design of Scaffolded Social Learning, planning for Organisational Change and the impacts of Social Collaborative Technology.

Working with global organisations on strategy and execution, Julian help’s them translate their learning objectives into practically focussed projects that deliver quantifiable changes in knowledge, skills and behaviours.

You can hear Julian’s Learning Podcasts by simply clicking here

Follow Julian on Twitter @julianstodd


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