Disrupting Learning and Fighting Fake News: Interview with Totara


We love to talk disruption here at Anders Pink, and we had a chance recently to shoot the breeze with the team at Totara Learning as part of their Disruption Debate series of interviews. We covered all things disruption in L&D, fake news, and beyond. Here are some highlights from the conversation –  you can see the original here.

Tough Times for Training

We live in tumultuous times we can safely say that they’re nowhere near over. There’s a lot of political upheaval ahead, and we are having to adapt to more change than we can remember at any other time in my life. This is going to lead to a lot of disruption for the L&D industry to deal with, meaning we need to become smarter about the way we deal with this change.

It used to be about training people in a skill, then you’d be set for life. Now, the half life and relevance of skills is deteriorating rapidly. Automation means that a huge number of jobs won’t exist in a few years. Any work that can be put into a flowchart will disappear, and certain skills will evaporate and be replaced by machines. That’s why organisations and individuals need to learn how to stay agile.

Staying Agile: Learn How to Learn Again

How are organisations meant to stay agile when none of us know what the future is going to look like? Creating endless e-learning courses focused on specific skills isn’t the way to go. Designing formal learning experiences to train people in specific skills is no longer the best approach for L&D professionals to take – it’s part of the solution, but doing only this is almost backward looking. Instead, it’s our responsibility to help people develop the skills they need to find what’s relevant and stay smart. The idea of ‘learning how to learn’ has been around for a while, but now it really means something.

Learning professionals need to become better at finding relevant content that already exists out in the world and make it mean something to learners. If we’re not looking outside the organisation, absorbing the information available to us and acting on it quickly, we’ll all get left behind. Occasionally someone may tweet an interesting link or drop a news story into an email, but how many people really see content shared in this way, and how do people know what to focus on if information is coming at them from all directions?

We should be integrating learning into the workflow, personalising it with context and relevance to ensure it’s not just noise. L&D has the opportunity to be the heroes as content curators in this model – it’s a massive job, but if L&D doesn’t do it, who will?

Fighting Fake News With Filters

Welcome to the Fake News era. Fake News, from any side of the political or media spectrum can easily sway people’s views on important issues, highlighting the need for the critical thinking skills to discern what’s real and what isn’t.

Algorithms, such as those that drive Facebook and Twitter, can help us find and filter content, but they can’t do it on their own. But we still need humans to curate, add context and add value to this content – you can’t automate that.

The same applies to learning. We can create an algorithm to push relevant content to our learners, but this may not always be 100% successful – it’s important that our learners know how to tell which content is irrelevant to avoid getting distracted. With Anders Pink we’re trying to make that curation task easier with filters and automation.

L&D: Put On Your Own Oxygen Masks First

We often tell our learners to practise social learning, but L&D professionals need to attend to their own oxygen masks first. This means practising what we preach by being social learners ourselves, and by using our own community as a test case to find out what works in the way of social learning.

In the most recent Towards Maturity Benchmark Report, 53% of organisations reported that social and collaborative learning is the number one skill missing from their learning programmes. This change starts with L&D professionals.

Staying Sharp with Better Curation

The biggest risk to organisations is not staying sharp or failing to adapt to the new skillsets they  need. It’s L&D’s responsibility to help the organisation stay agile by helping choose the right tools and methods to help people stay smart in each situation. L&D needs to curate relevant content from the outside world into the organisation, and help learners understand how to make sense of this information. We should also be outward looking – don’t totally let go of formal learning, but do look outside and act as a filter for the content entering the organisation to ensure it’s accessed efficiently.

Learning must be portable and visible to anyone you work with, which is where open source software comes into play as validation for our previous learning progress can be carried with us from company to company. Open Source models are part of this. This lets us hit the ground running in any role, and helps managers ensure that all the content we consume is as relevant and useful as possible. This is only going to become more important as the speed of business change accelerates.

Follow @totaralearning to be the first to hear about the next instalment of the Disruption Debate series.