Internet Trends Report Offers Glimpse of The Future of Training and Development?

2015 internet trends

It’s that time of year again! Mary Meeker released her now famous Internet Trends Report. A little under 200 slides of tech data nirvana. They say the first report was published in 1995. So that means we have 20 years of data to review and compare. If you’re a geek, like me, then you will probably click through the entire report. But if you do a quick google search you will find plenty of summaries and perspectives on this year’s report. What I’ll try to do here is give you a sense of what I think these internet trends might mean to the world of corporate training.

First let me start by clarifying one thing. There are a lot of tools, trends, and information, regarding Educational Technology.  EdTech and Corporate Training are very different. Certainly there is some overlap, but in general the job you need to do as a corporate trainer is not the same as a teacher in the public education system. This may seem obvious, but so often I see conversations go off the rails when these two topics are somehow mixed and misinterpreted. I don’t want that to happen here.  So, remember that you are a corporate trainer working to improve the effectiveness of employees and/or customers.

Oh no…More Talk of Generational Differences!

Millenials are now the largest generation in the workforce and their work/life expectations differ from previous generations.” – Mary Meeker

This is not insignificant! We may argue the details, descriptions, and stereotypes placed on different generations, but until seeing this data I never would have guessed how significant the impact has been and will be.  It doesn’t say that boomers, GenX, etc. are all different and blah, blah, blah, but it is very clear that millenials are a large enough demographic to influence change. Their collective behaviors (and other generations joining them) are driving new markets, new use-cases for technology, and changing the environment we call the workplace. Some companies will respond fast than others. But even if your company isn’t ready for the millenial wave, you’ll be glad you were ready when the time comes.

User Control of Content


This is one of my favorite data points in the entire report.  And there are a lot to choose from…they are all fascinating. But this is the data that shows us the shift in control. For us this reflects the users ownership of their own learning. Check out Slide 7 (image to the right). Notice how little control users had at the end of the 20th century. Now users seem to have ALL the control. Compliance training aside, the idea of an ecosystem of learning content being created and requested on demand will change your strategy significantly.

Video orientation is going vertical!

OMG! What happened? – I’ve been that guy at parties trying to gently persuade people to turn their smartphones horizontal(landscape) to get better video. Apparently the entire world doesn’t care. And instead of fighting it, software developers are just following the trend and allowing for full screen vertical video display.
As a geeky video guy, this had me very confused. Until I realized that my bias is horizontal because of my limited experience with vertical viewing. Even on my iPhone I have no problem turning my phone horizontal to watch streaming videos. It just feels like a better experience. However, that’s because that content was produced to be viewed horizontally. With so many people comfortably recording video with their smart phones vertically, and then consuming that video the same way, it makes sense that professional content would follow the trend.
What interests me is how long it will take before we begin to recommend that training videos be recorded vertically. It will obviously depend on the audience viewing your content. But my crystal ball tells me that future training events will have sessions addressing the horizontal vs. vertical video issues. For now I’d recommend horizontal for everything you are doing. But the trend towards vertical is strong.

Software Transforming How We Work

2015 Internet Trends
This has been obvious to anyone paying attention over the last 15 years. Existing enterprise software installations are being replaced by Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions. And since the tools to create SaaS solutions are improving as well, it’s easy for small startups to quickly launch niche products that are easy to use, easy to implement, secure, flexible, and mobile enabled. This is the cloud and it’s the foundation for the future of technology.

How does this relate to Training and Development? Well, I’m biased of course, but Litmos was the first learning management system built from the ground up as a SaaS platform. Implementing a SaaS platform like Litmos means you are also re-thinking how training is created, managed, consumed, and tracked. It also means you’re open to re-thinking what content can be defined as training content. And you’re unafraid of the notion that everyone can and should be creating content that others can learn from.

The transformation of how we work is all about shifting control and embracing user generated content. Every section of this report reflects this overall theme of shifting control.  As training professionals we need to get onboard or get run over.

In this slide Mary Meeker describes why messaging apps are seeing so much usage and success.

Content is User-generated, curated, and surprising!

In this report they are referring to apps like Snapchat, Vine, Instagram, and others. Ya know, all the apps your kids use that you see no use for. Like it or not, understand it or not, they are the future of communication. Is it possible to create learning content in these apps? Sure it is. It takes a VERY different mindset to do it, but it’s possible. 12-24 year olds are setting the trending standards these days. This demographic is mostly not in corporate America, but many most certainly have entry level jobs that require training. If you own a business that hires this age group, keep your eyes open and look for opportunities to engage and train them where they are already hanging out.

I’ll end here for today. Check out the slideshare and share your thoughts with me. There is a LOT of content to consume but it’s a great way to see into the future and plan for what’s next in Training and Development…even it is only indirectly.