Countdown to #DevLearn: How to Overcome the Challenges Facing Today’s Senior Learning Leaders

Each Thursday between now and DevLearn, I will be sharing a small peek behind the scenes of this year’s conference. 

When I sit back and look at how technology is changing the world and our place in it, it’s both amazing and terrifying.

Photo by from Pexels

Consider the smartphone you likely have with you right now, and how embedded it is in your daily life. As I write this shortly after 9am, I can think of at least 15 different tasks I completed with my iPhone already today – and none of them involved making a phone call. Our smartphones have completely redefined what it means to interact with content and each other in a digital world.

This fundamental change in human behavior also caused major disruptions to organizational learning strategies. Senior leaders faced a challenge of adapting strategies to this shift in device use, while at the same time struggling to keep up with the moving target that is the ever-advancing smartphone landscape.

One of the biggest challenges senior learning leaders face today is keeping their organization’s learning strategy ahead of the advancing technology curve. And the reality is, it’s only going to get harder.

While the last decade has been largely focused on the emergence of the smartphone, the next decade will see multiple technologies disrupting the world around us, and the work that we do in learning and development. Data & analytics, artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, personalization, internet of things, and more technologies are rapidly emerging in our lives and in our workplaces. Senior leaders need to be ready to incorporate these technologies into their learning strategies.

So how do today’s senior learning leaders prepare for this new world we are about to enter? Here are three critical things every learning leader should be doing:

Actively Connect with other Senior Learning Leaders

One of the best ways to learn and solve problems is to explore those problems with a peer. Being able to dig into an idea or issue with someone who understands the context and has walked a similar path can be extremely valuable.

Today’s senior learning leaders face unique challenges; challenges that only other senior learning leaders are likely to understand. These challenges are intensifying as the technology landscape becomes more complex. It’s more important than ever for senior learning leaders to connect and share with each other.

Become Conversant in Emerging Technologies

The world of learning and technology is expanding rapidly. It’s almost impossible to be deeply knowledgeable about the full array of technologies and methodologies that are available today, and yet senior learning leaders are responsible for driving strategies that take advantage of this expanding selection of options. It can be overwhelming to know where to start.

I’ve always focused on what I call conversational competence. Try to learn enough about a subject that will enable me to participate in conversations about it. Take artificial intelligence as an example. You may not be an expert on the topic, but if you become knowledgeable enough about it – what it is, what it does, and what examples look like – you can participate in a conversation on the topic. Conversational competence doesn’t require deep and complex knowledge; it requires a general understanding, which serves as the foundation for the third recommendation.

Engage in Discussions that Put Technology into Context

Conversational competence enables senior learning learners to perform what I consider to be the most important task they can do – engage in discussions the put today’s emerging technologies in the context of their organizational learning strategy. It’s conversations that dig into these emerging technologies that enable senior learning leaders to shift knowledge from “what can these technologies do?” to “what can these technologies do for me and my organization?” It’s these conversations that enable knowledge to be actionable, powering the decisions senior leaders need to make about their learning and performance strategies.

Those conversations may be with other senior learning leaders, with a more knowledgeable expert on a specific topic, with an internal business leader, or anyone else. While all those groups are important, I personally find conversations with senior learning leaders from other orgainzations are the most important and beneficial. It’s in those conversations that you learn what others are doing, which can bring to light opportunities and blind spots you may not have been able to see otherwise.

Join the Executive Conversation

It’s with these core needs in mind that we built the eLearning Guild’s Executive Forum, which is co-located with the DevLearn Conference and Expo this October. The Forum is exclusively for today’s senior learning leaders and was designed with their unique needs in mind.

We’re bringing in experts who will put today’s technologies and strategies into context, and are also creating space where senior leaders can connect and share with each other. The forum includes exclusive access to the Executive Forum Lounge throughout DevLearn as a space where senior leaders can continue to connect, learn, and share with one another.

For full details on what you can expect to see at the forum, be sure to check out the agenda. And if you have a story you think other senior leaders can learn from, be sure to submit a proposal to speak (proposals are due by August 31).

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