There is a rainbow on the bed where you used to lie

A refraction of the light

A reflection of our nights

A transient spectrum that bleeds me dry

There is a cruel sun through the window where you used to stand

Watching and waiting

Not premeditating

The man with whom you once held hands

There is a breeze passing by, it feels gentle and warm

Vapour trails mark the sky, from journeys to and fro

Orchestral birdsong soundtracks the trees

Spring must be due

But here, where there is me, there isn’t a you

Move from Learning and Development Department to Performance Department

Move from Learning and Development Department to Performance Department

What is the key to driving performance through learning in 2020?

As we head into the new year, what resolution should learning professionals arguably add to the top of their list? To transform L&D into a performance-driven function that is tuned-in to the business and offers learning at the point of need.

Learning is, without question, undergoing a renaissance. It wasn’t so long ago that many L&D professionals were bemoaning the relentless onslaught of AI, automation and other emerging technologies as threats to their very existence. Skilled jobs in finance, HR and legal were surrendered to the machines, and L&D looked to be next in line.

But these proclamations were premature. L&D reconnected with its human soul and realised that irreplaceable qualities such as critical thinking, teamwork and creativity could join forces with technology to forge new advances in the field.

L&D isn’t immune to automation but its willingness to innovate and drive positive change is what makes it such a dynamic and vibrant industry in which to work. And the market is listening. Linkedin’s 2019 Workplace Learning report found that talent development teams were enjoying higher levels of investment from the business, compared to only two years ago when limited budgets were their biggest concern.

The global corporate training market is well over $200 billion and this growth is set to continue. Learning, and its intrinsic link to performance, is firmly on the management agenda, and, with increased buy-in from leaders, L&D can only benefit.

L&D must be the conductor, orchestrating a unified vision of learning to the entire company.

Continuous learning

It’s now accepted that learning as a one-off event, delivered as an interruption to the workflow, is not enough. Learning and work are now so intertwined that it’s difficult to say where one ends and the other begins. Continuous learning, in social, informal, and experiential contexts, mirrors the ‘real-world’ more closely and means working and learning can happen concurrently.

As Janina Kugel, CHRO at Siemens AG, said in her opening remarks at the Unleash World annual summit: “I personally believe that no organization in this world will ever reach whatever they have on their business agenda if they do not invest in continuous learning and continuous personal growth.” Linkedin’s survey agreed – 94% indicated they would stay longer in a company that invested in their development.

Continuous learning is also a sound strategy to survive in a skills-turbulent job market. In her article, Learning is the New Pension, Heather McGowan suggests that remaining employed or employable depends not on one’s formative education but on one’s willingness to learn new skills or re-train – a view met by 74% of the 10,000 people surveyed in PwC’s recent report.

This is the perfect scenario for those of us passionate about learning and performance. People want to learn in order to stay relevant, and businesses want to invest in order to stay competitive. Music to the learning professional’s ears, right?

An L&D function that is tuned-in to the business, digitally-fluent, and change-agile, can bring those who need closer to those who know.

The five challenges for learning leaders

However, this music isn’t yet harmonious; the players still need to fine-tune their instruments. For the past three years, the LPI has surveyed learning leaders who register for LEARNING LIVE about their toughest workplace challenges. From over 1,200 responses, five common issues arise:

  1. Creating a learning culture
  2. Developing the workforce of the future
  3. Digital transformation and digital learning
  4. Leadership and management development
  5. Self-directed learning

The location of learning

Each of these topics could be a separate article, yet a single concept unites them: location. For L&D to effectively tackle these issues, it must be where the learning is happening and not be an isolated function delivering a cost service back to the business.

The L&D function has an obligation to the individual and to the organisation, so it needs to listen critically, set the tempo, and interpret the score. L&D must be the conductor, orchestrating a unified vision of learning to the entire company.

With learning now the collective responsibility of the enterprise, modern L&D teams are thinking less like ‘command-and-control centres’ and more like performance advocates; the torchbearers of all that is good in learning.

They don’t mandate courses or schedule training – they recognise that a learning organisation requires interventions at the point of need, in the flow of work. And so they ‘notice and nurture’, continuously scanning for knowledge gaps and providing guidance when and where it is needed.

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Their number one challenge – creating a learning culture – may appear utopian but it can be tackled by nudging behaviour. L&D itself cannot create a ‘learning culture’ but it can create supportive infrastructures that encourage people to build, discover, and share information as part of their work. An L&D function that is tuned-in to the business, digitally-fluent, and change-agile, can bring those who need closer to those who know.

Technology to drive performance

The use of technology to enhance our work, our learning, and our lives is a key factor in how we improve organisational performance. But technology improves rapidly and with each iteration comes new questions of privacy and morality.

Do we really need that software to aggregate millions of data points on the workforce to build learner profiles? Will it help us drive organisational performance or will it drive an ethical and moral wedge between L&D and the business?

And what about the challenge of self-directed learning through interfaces such as YouTube, Siri and Alexa? That’s invaluable search data that goes directly to Google, Apple and Amazon, and not to the L&D function where, clearly, it would be equally valuable.

In fact, in 2017, the Economist wrote that data is a more valuable resource than oil and there is no doubt of its essentiality to understanding and improving organisational and individual performance.

We can now confidently move away from traditional, siloed training delivery models and become involved with everything. Technology is here to support us.

When we have data, we can interpret it to gain information. The processing of information leads to knowledge, and the application of knowledge leads to wisdom. It might also be said that wisdom can lead to performance improvement because we know what to do, when to do it, and why.

Unfortunately, these are areas in which L&D struggles. The LPI’s Capability Map, which helps learning professionals discover their skills gaps, reports a significant shortcoming in L&D’s ability to evaluate impact, assess performance and analyse data. This should be a concern to L&D leaders for, without data analytics, there can be no real knowledge or wisdom.

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Artificial intelligence is proving to be a useful tool in gathering and interpreting data – one need look no further than Google or Facebook to appreciate the power that data+information can wield in a connected society (and the morality issues that arise from it). The gaining of knowledge remains a uniquely human skill and, although AI is evolving quickly, it still needs human help to learn and adapt itself to business challenges. Wisdom, however, remains firmly out of reach of the machines.

Become a performance advocate in 2020

In this age of rapid technological change, the sharing of knowledge and wisdom will be led by people, context and culture. And the drive towards performance will be led by learning.

L&D has the opportunity to capitalise. We can now confidently move away from traditional, siloed training delivery models and become involved with everything. Technology is here to support us.

All we need to do is focus, listen to the business, capture only enough data to understand what decisions are right for our people, nudge people towards continuous learning, nurture, support and champion. Only then can we increase our knowledge and wisdom to drive individual and organisational performance through learning.

What do you think makes a great learning organisation?

What traits, cultures and capabilities make somewhere a great place to learn? Take part in our one question survey.

Developing a Learning Culture that Works – The Two Essential Keys.

This week I was fortunate enough to attend the Mobile Learning Summer University (hosted by Teach on Mars) in Sophias Antipolis (South of France). I had been invited to deliver a keynote on the modernisation of workplace learning, and the new roles required to deliver success. This also provided me with the opportunity to speak to some great people who are genuinely driving performance through learning in their organisations. Companies such as Dior, Gucci, Disney, Chanel, Acqua di Parma, Louis Vuitton were represented and it was fascinating to hear their approaches.

I have written before about how lifelong learning is now at the very centre of recruitment, talent retention, and organisational success. The challenge for many CLOs seemed to be that in recognising this, how could they be where the learning really is happening. They recognise that we should move from traditional courses to learning experiences. They recognise that colleagues are going out of the business to get answers in the flow of work.

They also recognise that technology alone is not the answer. The number one challenge according to CLOs now is Learning Culture. How do we really create that desire to learn, and harness it to propagate individual and organisational success? The people side of learning technology has replaced digital transformation as the number one and this is creating a real sense of human purpose amongst learning professionals.

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I am hearing more and more that organisations want to maximise AI for human advantage, not to replace humans. But the contextualisation of information gathered through AI is not always easy. We are operating in permanent beta, which is not a bad thing, as we continue to experiment, but the proliferation of platforms can make things confusing.

What I was fascinated to witness this week, was how large organisations are looking at employee engagement, efficacy, talent development..etc using technology. Data fluency not data literacy.

9.2 billion dollars was spent on learning technologies alone last year, a 30% increase on 2017. Not all of this was successful. Now we are witnessing a greater understanding of the potential of platforms such as Teach on Mars, to facilitate very ‘human’ business ideas.

Core to this approach is one word – Data. The extraction and analysis of data from and for the business, coupled with skilful performance consultancy is the basis of effective learning in the workplace. Data is the start point and Performance is the end point. The Alpha and Omega. Historically, we have been awful at this, with L&D and HR being the worst functions for insight in a recent global report. Finance, marketing, IT, Sales, Customer Service, Logistics were all higher. No data, no narrative, no context, no chance of adding value.

Why? Is it because people are reluctant to share their data? No, this is a myth. In the same report, 63% of employees say they expect their employer to offer them a personalised employee experience, and to do that they are happy for the employer to use data about:

  • Demographic
  • Contact
  • L&D
  • Communication preferences
  • Performance Aspirations/ ambitions

So, the data is there, and your colleagues are willing to share it in return for a personalised learning experience. The missing piece of this learning and performance jigsaw is the lack of cohesive communication. We start by doing two things, if we are to create a data-driven, engaging, personalised learning culture.

·     Talk to the business

·     Talk to the employees

Combining this data will create a solution which improves retention, attracts talent, drives human performance. This can also drive algorithm based solutions. Data is the key to the effective transition to the future of work where we exist in a fully optimised digital environment.

But what I did find surprising, and at the same time, extraordinarily optimistic, was how the large global brands I met this week were creating the culture of learning. At the heart of this was aspiration. Aspiration and Competitiveness. Data provided the information, which in turn created learning experiences, but why were 93% of DIOR employees engaging with this content? What was the HOW?

Well, along with other attending companies this week, they had created an organisation-wide learning olympics. People were competing to learn, and rewarded. And it worked. For everyone. The company, the employees, the brand, society, customers. Everyone.

So, start with data, communicate with the business and employees (because they are happy to share information), relate your approach to the business requirements, and provide people with the platform to not just learn, but ASPIRE! Data and Aspiration. Your two keys to learning and performance success.

Thank you to the Teach on Mars team for an insightful week, and to those organisations who were happy to share their experiences.

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If you are in a learning leadership role and would like to attend Learning Live to find out more about how to address your true top challenges, and meet with CLOs from organisations like those listed above, then you can register for free here LEARNINGLIVE , and we will do our very best to support you and inspire you.

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.