People + Technology = Performance: The Rise of Humans

People + Technology = Performance: The Rise of Humans

2019 will be the year that the role of Humans will become more clearly defined in relation to the digital world we live in. It remains irrefutable that humans are still the most important asset to the vast majority of businesses. But what we do, how we are different, and what we can achieve with technology is still open to debate.

How do we fit in? Can we even keep up? The speed of technological advancement and adoption is unprecedented. Remember that we live in a world where the landline telephone and TV took 73 years and 13 years respectively to reach 50 million users, but Pokemon Go took just 36 hours to reach that amount.

In 2018 $9.52 billion dollars was spent on technology in learning, a 30% increase on 2017. But it is fair to say that much of that investment wasn’t successful. We are in a state of Permanent Beta, which is not necessarily a bad thing as we are always evolving. With learning technologies, it is the same; most companies are operating in permanent beta mode, switching LMS providers, implementing communications solutions like Yammer with limited success. Why?

Well let’s take a step back…

In March 2016, Musk, Hawking and Wozniak wrote a letter to the UN, warning of the speed of artificial intelligence, stating that it represented the biggest potential risk to humans in our history. Warning specifically that it could overtake the human brain very soon. In July 2017 they wrote to them again, saying that this had now happened.

Just two years ago, Charles Jennings was quoted as saying “accessibility has replaced retained knowledge as power in business” Things are changing, as although this is still vitally important, it is perhaps not the total solution.

Humans are fighting back, bringing a new sense of collaboration and morality to the use of AI. Utilising AI to our advantage will be incredible for learning, but not without some essential human skills. That is the big difference now.

Core to this will be ‘critical thinking’. So, although accessibility is important, what we do with this information, and how we truly know things, is now being seen differently. The WEF (World Economic Forum) Report put critical thinking top of the list of the most employable skills needed by 2020.

If it was true that facts are unimportant to know, in a post-truth democracy, and that you can just google anything, then people would have googled the science and know that knowledge encoded in long-term memory is the fundamental basis of critical thinking. In other words they would have just googled the fact they were wrong. True learning creates critical thinking.

The internet is not a substitute for your brain – it has no morals, no emotions..etc. A recent Forbes article argues that all skills exist within a context, and work through a medium. You cannot perfect waves without a medium for them to run through. Reading skills are knowledge-dependent. Another example – phonics – you may sound out a word you’ve never heard of but not know what it actually means.


This industrial revolution will be about people. We can spend as much or as little as we like on technology, but it is people that will make the difference. Graduates in two years-time will all have been born in the 21st century. They will have started school the year the iphone launched, but they will be starting work in business rooted in 20th century practices.

Almost all the world’s most serious problems – greed, hate, anger, jealousy, fear have human origins. We will need human abilities to counter and overcome them. It is the same in business. We need more humanity in business.

The development of essential human skills and digital competence, in line with the performance of people and business will be the critical role L&D will play.

This will be the definition of success for learning professionals in 2019. So what do those skills really look like for learning professionals?

Data from the LPI Capability Map shows that the following are the biggest skills gaps, but also the most desirable skills for learning professionals:

  • Video Production
  • Learning Experience Designer
  • Content Curator
  • Social Community Manager
  • Data Analyst
  • Marketeer
  • Live Online Learning Facilitator

If we are to really make a positive difference with the performance of individuals and organisations, then we need to be investing in these areas. The opportunity to associate learning with success has never been bigger, but now we can see the clarity behind what our role will be.

Let’s commit to embracing technology, developing our human skills and truly driving performance.

Creating a High-Performing L&D Team

Creating a High-Performing L&D Team

Those of you familiar with the work of the Learning and Performance Institute (LPI) will be aware that two years ago the free Capability Map for Learning Professionals was launched.

The aim of this tool is to allow learning professionals from any discipline to be able to self-assess their own skills against a framework which has been developed by many of the senior figures from our industry.

The Capability Map has proven to be hugely successful, producing thousands of reports for individuals all over the world, allowing the learning community to discover their skills gaps and work on filling them.

Since the launch of this self-assessment tool, the LPI has been working on an enhancement of another service; this time aimed at the learning and development function. Again, the LPI has gleaned knowledge and skills from many of the most respected figures in learning worldwide to modernise its framework, which has already been adopted for twenty years .

Learning Department Accreditation” has been specifically designed to rapidly accelerate learning and development departments to a high standard of capability and maximise its contribution to overall business performance:

  • Identifying strengths and weaknesses against a comprehensive maturity model
  • Recognising leading practice
  • Facilitating a “direction of travel” that enables the department to quickly excel

Whereas other models have focused purely on the benchmarking of teams, LPI accreditation provides much more. You can choose to simply access a free, bespoke report for your L&D function or you can work on driving high performance by engaging fully with all three steps of the programme. So what are the three steps?

Evaluate Your Overall Capabilities – First, you need to identify your department’s current strengths, skills gaps and opportunities by taking an online self-assessment. This takes less than 15 minutes and you’ll start to get feedback almost immediately. Once you complete the evaluation, you’ll be on the path to receiving a scorecard showing precisely how your department compares against your peers – and the areas you need to prioritise.

Uncover the Opportunities, Focus on the Critical and Plan for Action – Knowing where the priorities are is simply the first step; the key issue is what to do about them! That is the critical value-add at this second level. This involves drilling down beyond the overall scorecard and looking at the metrics in greater detail. It’s then that the LPI’s skilled consultants can help you to put together a detailed action plan that will fast-track your department to excellence – and maximise the value-add that you create.

Achieve Community Recognition and Institute Accreditation – There’s a vast difference between self-assessment and a formal assessment process, both in terms of self-delusion and the subjective nature of many assessments.

Evidence from the accreditation programme shows that people do tend to respond to the diagnostic tool as they would like the situation to be – as opposed to what it actually is. In this highest level of engagement with LPI, the responses that participants have made are formally analysed with them and any inconsistencies are fully reviewed.


This is now a process which has been undertaken by over 80% of the learning provider market by volume, and over 1,000 L&D functions worldwide. The subjective knowledge of the LPI consultancy team along with the objective process creates a uniquely valuable way to measure, benchmark and improve a learning function. The LPI then works with you to recognise, support and promote your team as engineers of organisation change and demonstrable impact.

As you can imagine, we are pretty proud of the work we are doing, as a not-for-profit Institute so if you like, why not begin driving your L&D function to high performance here and get the guidance and recognition you and your team deserve.

Bowie, Creativity and Heroism


The death of David Bowie on 10th January affected me in a way I had not expected. The nature of celebrity, and all the nauseating associations with the word in 2016 have somewhat desensitised me from any particular affinity to ‘the famous’. But Bowie transcended all of that nonsense (see Fame “Fame, puts you there where things are hollow”), and even in his death managed to make a truly artistic statement.

It is only relatively recently that I have discovered the genius of his work, having heard many of his songs on the radio over the years. But, at the very point of seeing the newsflash on my iPhone screen on the morning of the 11th January, it was as though I was being made to suddenly realise and appreciate what we were lucky enough to have experienced.

There was no public announcement of his deterioration, and he managed to spend his later years in relative anonymity. This being of his own choosing. I am not sure there are many people as well known and publicly lauded as he, who would opt to do the same. He seemed committed to his wife and to his family, and perhaps in older age to have discovered true happiness. I don’t know, none of us really do, but that is how it seemed.

This confidence to do what he wanted to do, and on his own terms, both in his career and personal life, marks him out as an exceptional individual, and one whom I admire immensely though posthumously.

To know you are dying and to commit to an incredible final album which lyrically addresses the issue of mortality head on and effectively says goodbye to the world, is an indication of what I perceive to be the driving force within his life. An hour spent on youtube looking up Bowie clips (which he predicted in the year 2000 people would do, having launched his own website prior to this and before almost any other artist, in this interview Bowie and the Internet) will tell you the same. He was ferociously creative.

No other artist has had such success with personas musically, and yet he was also an accomplished and admired actor, writer, and tech-geek. He seemed insatiably driven, and seriously talented. A powerful combination, but with Bowie there always seemed a fragility too, that allowed you to warm to him. He rarely appeared egotistical, and was often self-deprecating when discussing his own works.

Read what his collaborators say about him and you will find that he was an eminently genial and encouraging man. Read what musicians say about him, and you will find him universally lauded. Read what he wrote himself, and you will find poetry, incisive commentary, articulate narratives, complex themes, dangerous subject matter, provocative prose.

I was lucky enough to see the Victoria and Albert exhibition dedicated to the influence of Bowie, and one would have to have been culturally empty to not appreciate the impact he had on British life in particular.

This is a man who placed transgender issues on our tv screens forty years ago. How much progress has been made in this area?

He tackled MTV head on about what he perceived as institutional racism within the organisation Bowie and MTV decades ago.

He also managed to harness the power of the internet artistically before Spotify existed. Indeed he appeared capable of exploiting the power of most media. When asked in 1998 by Vanity Fair, who were his heroes in real life he responded “the consumer”. Not only was he artistically celebrated, he was also commercially astute, and successful. He stayed true to his arts, and people loved it.

What can we take from this? So much, that it would be a disservice for to try and write it down here, but what I want to learn from his life, is that there are values we can cling to and be happy. Be creative, be sincere, be humble, be honest, be hardworking, be loyal, be different, be intelligent, be a rebel, be a hero..Bowie Heroes

When will we ever learn?

When will we ever learn?

From a performance perspective does the business come before the individual?

Or can there be an equal amount of value placed on the outcomes of learning experiences for the individual learner as there is to the performance outcomes of the organisation?

No one person is bigger than the team, of course.

But if we are, as learning professionals, to truly affect the performance of our colleagues in the workplace then shouldn’t the aim be to address both personal and corporate capabilities?

In 1967 Bridget Plowden produced a report on the education system, and the key message contained within that report was to “place the child at the heart of the education system” (

Two decades later, Ron Dearing produced his report on education, bringing a time management focus to schools. In stark contrast to Plowden’s report, it was felt by many that this was reducing schools to the methodologies of businesses without enough emphasis being placed on the child.

Forty seven years on from Plowden’s report are we really placing the learner at the heart of the corporate learning world? If not why not? Are the pressures of incessant metrics, ‘more for less’ cultural approaches, ‘anytime anywhere’ learning affecting the experience and results adversely?

Those familiar with my last blog post will know that I strongly advocate the development of performance consultancy skills for learning professionals. But this should not be at the complete expense of personal development for colleagues.

One of the challenges is that we are in an age where the individual learner is becoming increasingly responsible for their own career progression and adult education. As someone who has recruited many young people over the last decade, I can say that the new generation wants to know what the employer can do for them rather than answer questions about what they can do for the employer.

Information is accessible and disposable; for many young people the need to ‘upskill’ seems unnecessary, as the answers are freely available for anyone on the internet. It is a different way of working and as professionals responsible for learning we need to engage the digital learning generation sooner rather than later.

Can we put our colleagues at the heart of our learning services, and can we embrace the digital learner? The LPI will be releasing whitepapers, hosting webinars, and running workshops about the digital learner over the coming months. Follow @yourlpi for more details.


What learning professionals must become and how

The biggest skills gap among learning professionals today is business skills. This is the result of thousands of independent self-assessments from learning professionals all over the world, and has been gleaned from the LPI Capability Map

So why can so many learning professionals not speak the language of business? Is it the result of training being isolated in the corporate world, and viewed as a necessary evil? Is it down to the individuals? Or is training/learning just too difficult to measure after all, and consequently is disregarded as a mystic art?

We must speak the language of business

Being able to demonstrate that the training provided and the learning completed has had an impact on the performance of the business is, to many CLOs, the holy grail, and rightly so. If it is having no impact, then why bother at all?

For many people involved in our profession of learning, demonstrable impact has never played a part in our everyday role. But it should. If it doesn’t, there is a high probability your department will not exist in the coming years, or worse, months. So how do we become what we need to become – Performance Consultants?

Be authentic at all times

Unless you build trust and rapport with your business leaders they will not open up to you about the real issues and will deal with you in a superficial way.

Create a process

Establish a process that leads you and your business leaders to identify the real issues, face up to them and agree solutions that will work.

Know where you are in that process

Agree your role so that you can manage the conversation and help your business leaders understand what their real issues are and how they can solve them with your help as a trusted partner.

Colleagues not Delegates

If you are running formal courses, live or virtual, your attendees are colleagues not students. How many other departments in your business refer to colleagues as anything other than colleagues?

Learning people are the real engineers of performance improvement for business. Raise your profile, commit to excellence and make a positive difference to your organisational results.

Learning: Communication is the Key

Learning: Communication is the Key

For much of my time as Managing Director of LPI there has been a great deal of reflection on the skills which make up what could be perceived as the ‘perfect’ learning professional.

Whilst this is clearly a subjective topic, the LPI has gone some way to identifying which skills are more prevalent than others within the profession, and of course which skills are lacking.

Forgive the plug, but as an entirely free self-assessment service I would urge you to spend fifteen minutes of your time completing the Capability Map (, and consequently ascertain for yourself where your strengths and improvement areas lie.

After all if we are not committed to our own professional development, then how can we expect others to be committed to theirs? Thousands of assessments have now been completed by learning professionals around the world, and there are some interesting trends appearing.

We have documented these for you, and the findings are available in a free report which can be downloaded from the LPI website

What is clear is that effective communication is paramount, and this is communication in a variety of forms. We all know that in the classroom strong communication skills are essential, but what about in the virtual classroom? Although it is arguably a different skillset, communication skills in live online learning are vital if learning is to take place.

Here the power of the spoken word is augmented, and maintaining continued interest can be more challenging. Powerful communication leads to genuine learning facilitation in both environments, and the role of the teacher/trainer/tutor is, as it always has been, critical.

What about other communication requirements?

Learning can no longer be seen as a luxury within companies. In order to survive, the training department of 2014 must be able to demonstrate that the learning provided can be aligned with the performance of the business.

At the Learning and Performance Institute we are acutely aware of this, and our members are finding superbly creative ways of doing just that. As learning professionals we need to learn to become performance consultants. We must accept that measurement, analysis, and metrics all form part of our daily lives and embrace the opportunities this provides us to prove the great job we are doing.

Finally, don’t let the communicating be limited to your own organisation. Speak to the learning community out there. Listen to peers, share thoughts and content, ask questions, utilise social media and engage. As the largest membership body dedicated to this community we at the LPI can recognise and support you in achieving this. I hope you can join us and we look forward to working with you to help you achieve your goals.

Kitty, The Savoy, and the “live” experience

Kitty, The Savoy, and the “live” experience

This week I was lucky enough to be invited to The Savoy Hotel to see Kitty La Roar perform in the Beaufort Room. Obviously it is a privilege in itself to be in The Savoy, which must be one of the most visually impressive Hotels in the City, inside and out. Apparently it has recently undergone a multi-million pound refurbishment, which needless to say has only served to make the interior even more opulent.

However, despite the almost intimidating surroundings it was not this which I was struck with most by the evening. Kitty La Roar is an outstandingly talented jazz and cabaret singer, who regularly plays the leading venues in the capital, and has a mesmerizing impact on audiences along with her pianist/musical partner “Nick of Time”. The feeling is almost that of being transported to another era; that of Cole Porter and Gershwin, but accompanied with a gracious nod to genuine divas like Liza, Shirley and Judy.

In truth, this is not particularly my choice of music, and yet the feeling of being there was fantastically different. You were almost part of the performance as the surroundings so befitted the music, and the voice. This you cannot get from a download in my opinion, which led me to thinking…Is there no substitute for the live experience?

For years, in the industry (or profession as some like to call it) I work in, there has been the argument over the comparative merits of classroom based learning to e-learning. It is generally accepted that there are occasions when one outdoes the other – cost savings, human interaction, bite sized, not distracted by work..etc

More recently the phenomenon of live online learning, or virtual classrooms, has represented the strongest growth area in training (as per LPI’s Learning Survey and ASTD research). This is the fastest growing method of training in leading countries and perhaps constitutes the optimum balance of the benefits of both “e-learning” and classroom based training . Everyone I speak to, who has invested in this method, speaks highly of the individual and organisational advantages it provides.

So as I sat there watching Kitty, in these incredible surroundings, I thought, there really isn’t any substitute for the live experience, as far as emotional reaction and engagement. As a learning provider if one can recreate the atmosphere, or “vibe”, depending on your generational terminology preference (let’s call it GTP), then half of the battle is won. People want to participate, be involved, express emotions and feelings.

Having said all of this, the fact remains there is clearly a place for non-tutored e-learning, of course there is, and I have been privileged enough to witness some incredible self-paced e-learning from outstanding providers over a number of years. Logistically it makes sense.

Similarly though, I cannot choose to watch a singer perform when I want to hear them sing – I have to download the tracks or buy the CDs (depending on your GTP..!), which is great, but is it the same? Is it mere convenience. Perhaps the virtual classroom equivalent is having Kitty stream her performance live to my tablet, laptop, PC (GTP again), whilst myself and others share comments.

As I am new to blogging, I want to conclude therefore with a question then – Is “live” best?