Quinnsights: Musing on the L&D Ecosystem

I’ve been touting the idea of the L&D ecosystem; I think it’s both important and under-considered. The idea is a major step forward in developing an environment for performance and development, and I want to make sure we’re not missing the opportunity.

The core of the L&D ecosystem concept is having the necessary tools to both perform in the moment and develop over time. A second dimension is to both execute on what’s known and deal with the unknown. The latter naturally brings in the situation of working with others, performing and learning together. Finally, we want resources wherever and whenever we need them, decoupling technology from the desktop. Ultimately, we have a fairly rich space we would like to support.

The notion here is meeting a range of needs. Having job aids when we’re performing specific tasks can remove many or most of the mistakes inherent in our cognitive architecture. Checklists, lookup tables, how-to videos, decision trees, and the like are more efficient and effective than training, particularly when things are arbitrary, extensive, complex, unique, or changing quickly. And those situations are increasing!

Providing learning beforehand hasn’t gone away, of course, but we now recognize that the picture is complex. For instance: We need different approaches to prepare people for things that occur both frequently and infrequently. We can take advantage of performance opportunities and turn them into learning experiences with the timely delivery of content.

For the unanticipated situations—such as the need to innovate, problem-solve, or troubleshoot—we may need to collaborate with others. We may need tools for representation and reflection. We know that the outcome is likely to be better when we bring in complementary skills and diverse approaches, so we want to make that easy. Support for working out loud (aka showing your work) is valuable here, too.

Beyond just making these capabilities available ubiquitously through mobile, we have another possibility. The ability to track location, time, and other contextual details means we can start delivering or customizing things proactively, not just generically. Delivering the right thing to the right person, at the right time, in the right way, is on tap.

Digital technology, which is eLearning in the broad sense, makes this possible. When we’re smart about what’s possible and how we work best, we can pull together a full suite of capabilities and make them available not only on demand, but opportunistically. We can align portals to individuals and push contextually relevant support. We can also instrument these solutions to give us back valuable data.

The effort to do this requires a holistic mindset. We need to worry about performance, not just learning. We need to care about meeting informal as well as formal learning needs. We need to think about facilitating, not just delivering.

Doing all this is more than just a different perspective. It’s a different role in the organization, but a valuable one. And while the cost to do more may seem overwhelming, it’s also about working smarter; that is, moving past courses to resources, thinking curation over creation, and working on the least assistance principle (people don’t want everything—just enough to succeed and move on).

I suggest that this is both doable and desirable. You’re moving from course delivery to solution provider, and pivoting from being a cost center to being a value generator. It involves a bigger perspective on measurement.

Ecosystems are balanced ecologies. Here, we’re talking about a balance of support for all the ways of working. Start thinking full suite. Your organization needs it, and you are best poised to deliver. Are you ready?

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