L&D QuestionTime – Nicola Jones

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

I think there is a lot of anxiety about how to make the most of learning technology without “throwing the baby out with the bath water”.  There are several reasons for this, including;

• Learning technology is a bit scary for some established L&D professionals who did not grow up with digital platforms.  It can be hard to let go of tried and tested methods.

• “Techie” people and “non-techie” people do not necessarily speak the same language, and that makes life hard all round.

• It can be difficult to know where to start and genuinely difficult to work out where to invest.  Using “software as a service” products can be a good way to dip your toe in the water.  We got going with our blended learning offering at Athena Professional by using Curatr as an online learning platform, for example.

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

Twitter is a key source of information, leads, contacts etc.  I love taking part in interactive webinars like the ones @LPI provides.  Jo Cook hosts a mean webinar for the Training Journal, which led me to strike up a connection with Perry Timms lately on the topic of the future of work.

I happen to be writing this on the day Don Taylor’s book on Learning Technology is coming out, so I’m keen to see that.  Following Don and Nigel Paine online is what brought me to the LPI.  Tomorrow I’m going to take part in an LPI workshop on Social Leadership with Julian Stodd, who is someone I have been following for a few years and whose ideas I find exciting.

I was delighted to discover Sam DeBrule and Machine Learnings on Twitter recently; I think he might speak a language I can understand about important things.

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

Being present when someone learns something which makes a difference to them is always exciting, because it’s a moment of positive human connection and growth.  I think we need to keep the person in mind as we innovate.  I have been delivering learning in a variety of ways for 20 years and I am absolutely convinced that practising skills is essential if people are to gain confidence and capability, so I’m a big fan of experiential learning to improve performance.  I also coach people, and in terms of challenging attitudes and opening minds to the possibilities of learning for performance it is easily the most powerful tool I’ve come across.

I’m keen to see how new learning technologies like Curatr’s Red Panda work out.  The idea of identifying their learning needs for themselves should, I think, be a norm.  So many established professional people still expect learning to be something which is done to them, not by them.  Anything which helps people navigate their way to improving their skills and performance is a good thing, not just for the individual, but because if you can open more eyes to what’s possible, chances are you can encourage commitment at all levels; communities of learning grow and, whosh! a learning culture emerges.

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

The biggest game changer I would like to see is for L&D to grow and gain credibility as a profession.  Sometimes that’s about ensuring L&D folk are equipped with the know-how, sometimes its about their colleagues recognising what learning has to offer.  In a digital age it is essential that we hold on to what distinguishes us intellectually and in terms of professional skills; the future of learning is not about dumbing down, it is about access.

What do you think the world of L&D will look like by 2030?

I think L&D will become highly bespoke as digital resources make it possible for work types to become more specific to particular niche markets.  L&D professionals will have to be able to offer valuable personalised services to people with access to a huge range of information and virtual learning opportunities.  As a result I think there will be specialisation within L&D also including new roles in metrics, design and content development.  I met a “Technology Integration” specialist the other day.  Her job was to liaise between learning designers and IT.  I expect she has magic powers.

New areas of activity are going to bobble up.  For example, it occurs to me that, as artificial intelligence takes up more of the work trainees and novices would historically have done, pressure to get actual work experience is likely to generate the need for simulated work-places and other “practice for work” forums.  By 2030 we will be working in new and different ways, but holding on to some core principles, I hope, like always making learning work for people and never being content-led!

What advice would you give your 21 year old self?

Being “creative” does not mean you need to be good at visual art, nor does it mean you have to be able to write a Booker Prize winner (although there is still time for that).  Just enjoy having ideas.

About Nicola Jones:

Nicola is an experienced L&D professional and a Fellow of the Learning & Performance Institute. A former barrister, I specialise in L&D strategy, all aspects of blended learning and executive coaching. I love to explore new ideas and work with others on topics including self-awareness, awareness of impact on others, communication, team-building, coaching and mentoring.

Co-founder and owner of Athena Professional, a trained and experienced advocate, Nicola is a highly credible speaker & facilitator; able to bring the willing and the reluctant to the table. Nicola is interested in making a contribution to strategic goals and I can help senior teams work out what they might be, if necessary.

Connect with Nicola on LinkedIn

Follow on Twitter @NooJones


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