Technology & Training: Russell Duhon on Making Fast

At this year’s Learning Solutions Conference & Expo we will be exploring the many ways that technology has and continues to change the world of training. The Technology & Training blog series invites members of The eLearning Guild community to share thoughts about the growing relationships between technology and training. 

CaptureToday we welcome Russell Duhon, CTO of Saltbox, as he adds his thoughts to this conversation.

In organizations today, there’s something more valuable than Cheapest, and more important than Best: Fast. Don’t worry, this isn’t the return of Scientific Management, of measuring every piece of work and every motion of every worker in a misguided paean to efficiency. Fast isn’t about the current work being done, but about organizational resilience. Fast organizations adapt to changing conditions, adopt new practices and technologies that improve their ability to accomplish, and realign resources to focus on current needs over relying on past practice.

Disney realized the importance of Fast during work on Big Hero 6 ( To make animated moviemaking Fast, they:

  • gave stakeholders direct access to the levers for change instead of being gatekeepers.
  • made sure to support already-working practices.
  • created feedback loops to continuously readdress the inevitable imperfect processes that would arise.
  • agreed absolutely anything could go on the chopping block.
  • created prototypes and minimal offerings before complicating.
  • put new things in the hands of people ready to use them as soon as possible.
  • worked first on features that drive use.

All these approaches work in Learning and Development. Some of them are at least partially adopted many places, and others are novel. But it isn’t possible for L&D to fully adapt, adopt, and realign Fast without adopting a much more flexible panoply of technologies. A Fast L&D department will likely have several of these technology practices in their toolbox:

  • dedicated development resources to create and rapidly adapt small, targeted custom experiences.
  • internal or external cloud access, so deploying custom and off the shelf software is easy.
  • community building on popular social media.
  • Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI,, which allows lightweight launching of web learning activities of any type on separate systems.
  • making resources available directly in applications used in the flow of work.
  • mobile experiences.
  • an Experience API Learning Record Store, so data from many disparate experiences can be brought together in one place.
  • reports showing what resources are seeing use and what factors are driving that use, that feed back into the ongoing adapt, adopt, realign cycle.

These are the approaches and practices to look to for finding Fast in L&D. Even if this is all a good idea, if the realization is a long way off, it might be better to aim for an intermediary state, something less ambitious compared to Fast. But if the process is under way and moving rapidly, the principles above should immediately inform decision making.

Is Fast germinating in L&D? Yes.

I would argue that the activity around mobile, the Experience API, social media, performance support, and more are already strong indicators, but I found a presentation while working on this article that compiled some broader statistics ( L&D teams are bringing on more people. They’re using massively more technology than just a few years ago. Micro content and cloud content are surging. But the statistics also show a long way to go. Data-driven practice is rare. Curation appears sporadically. Targeted apps aren’t widely employed. Sharing-enabled content is the exception, not the rule.

I’m not arguing that the technology practices above need to see immediate adoption. Ultimately, implementation needs to rely on deliberation and expertise. For example, many good practices are shoehorned into place in elearning as it is already delivered, such as in packages on an LMS, and not applied where those practices will maximize benefit to the organization and its members. In many cases that has about as much impact as rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

But deliberation and expertise without a strong framework can under deliver. I hope that the sketch I’ve provided here of one possible future model for L&D provides some of that framework. If L&D becomes Fast, it will be a major contributor helping organizations tomorrow deal with challenges not even anticipated today.

Bio: Russell Duhon is CTO of Saltbox, makers of Wax LRS. His eclectic background includes research and programming experience in information visualization, social network analysis, machine learning, and scientometrics. He is a major contributor to the Experience API community process and a frequent blogger about bringing modern analysis techniques to learning.

Interested in sharing your thoughts about the relationships between technology & training? Please reach out to David Kelly for details.

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