The Reality of Disruptive Technologies in Training, Learning and Development

learning technology

The L&D industry is being disrupted by new technologies…like every other industry. But what does that mean? It’s easy to talk about other industries and relate how what happened to them might happen to us. It’s also easy to simply ignore that anything is changing at all. Or worse, we see change coming and do nothing. Doing nothing is not an option. And it’s no fun.

In less than 12 hours new technology has allowed me to do the following:

  1. Engage with L&D colleagues from around the globe (daily)
  2. Live stream our collaborative conversations
  3. Record the live stream for future viewing
  4. Learn about new tech from my peers
  5. Discover a fabulous story from a colleague
  6. A few hours later: Record, edit, and publish a podcast with that colleague to discuss his use of disruptive technology

In a conversation during L&D Talk Paul Bouffluer shared an experience that happened only a day earlier. But before I begin to tell you how his experience is a perfect example of disruption in our industry, let’s look at the new tech that made it possible. Never before have L&D professionals been able to come together from around the globe to daily discuss the challenges and opportunities we all face. A one year old service called has made that possible and easy to do. And if we are using it to collaborate, and learn from each other then of course others will do the same. Imagine the almost impossible odds of me ever serendipitously learning about Paul’s experience 20 years ago. And to hear about it the day after it happened would have been extremely unlikely.

The six items above identify a new era of possibility. The thinking, culture, and systems, that grew our industry will not continue moving us forward. What I was able to do in less than 12 hours was only possible because of technology. I remember delivering presentations about how L&D professionals might be doing this…some day. News flash: Today is “some day”.

Paul’s story begins with him sharing via new, disruptive, technology. But that’s only part of this disruptive story. After hearing the story and discovering more details about how it went down, I was able to piece together some key elements. Key elements that can help us define a little more clearly how our roles have changed. And how technology has disrupted the status quo of what we call Training, Learning and Development.

  • Discovery
  • Development
  • Delivery (Publishing)
  • Mobile Devices

Discovery Opportunities to Proactively Solve Business Problems

Ever since the early days of Web2.0 I’ve talked about how our roles will change. One of the most obvious to me was how we could shift from being reactive to proactive. Traditionally, the training department would be notified after a problem has occurred. Today, using social media, and other communication technologies we finally get a view into he world of those we support. By engaging with employees via technology we can discover opportunities long before they become problems.

In Paul’s story he discovered an issue via email. He saw it as an opportunity to solve a business problem from the perspective of the training department. In every other training organization I’ve worked in, there would have been instructional designers upset that the solution would be a communication, and “not training”. The new reality is that as training professionals we have the skills and talent to do far more than just course design/development. And the 21st century workplace demands that we step up, and solve problems.

Developing Media Solutions Fast

We now have more technology tools in our training toolbox than ever before. There are no instructional design models and methods that define how we use them. And that’s the most exciting part about our industry right now. We are in a much stronger position than we have been. From discounted and first-to-get-cut in downtimes to valued business partner. The opportunity is ours to lose.

Mobile phones are now fully capable multimedia development studios. Video cameras are cheaper and more powerful than ever. Streaming video is not only free but the quality is good enough to deliver live training or performance support. We options available. it simply takes a little creativity and a willingness to let go fo the dogma of our industry’s past.

Paul saw an opportunity to use the company training facility to quickly record a short video with a SME discussing some important safety reminders. While walking back to his office he was editing the video…on his phone. Not easily possible even 5 years ago. This is a perfect example of need trumps quality. It’s about accepting good enough in order to quickly deliver solutions to business problems.

Delivering Solutions Fast Means Minutes Not Months

Self-publishing media content is one of the biggest technologies disrupting so many industries. Training learning and development professionals are in good company with the news, music, and book industries. The same SaaS based systems that changed those epic industries are also changing ours. Litmos is a perfect example of a simple, flexible, and powerful system for delivering learning content. And you can deliver that content in many formats, to select groups of users, and receive valuable feedback and data on usage. This was not easily done 25 years ago.

Paul was able to use new tech to learn about a problem, create a solution, and then deliver it to a mass distributed workforce. The idea of sending out CD-ROMs to solve this problem just seems laughable. But that was only about 20 years ago. The workforce Paul supports is connected via mobile devices. And so the same tech used to create the solution is also the tech used to consume it. Remember this is all happening in a matter of hours, not days weeks or months.

You can hear my podcast conversation with Paul here. I even used a new podcast service called Check it out.

Mobile Devices and Cloud Services Have Forced Disruption of the Status Quo

So let’s recap. There’s 2 stories of disruption here: My story of discovering Paul’s story, and Paul’s story. Both highlight the amazing opportunities for learning presented by new technologies. And mobile and cloud technologies are at the heart of it all.

We can stream live video using a cloud service called The streaming can even be done from a mobile device. We can include others in live streaming video conversations. We can collaboratively work through problems and serendipitously make new discoveries. We can act on those discoveries and create solutions. Paul created a learning solution while my podcast is more of a sharing solution. And lastly we can deliver solutions to business problems in almost real time.

And I forgot to mention… Paul’s solution reached the audience 3 hours before the “official” solution (communication) was delivered.

This is the new reality we live in. If you haven’t yet figured out how to leverage new technologies to add business value from the training department, I would encourage you to reach out to those who have and engage in conversation. If you’re available at 8am PT Monday-Friday I would encourage you to join us in blab for L&D Talk. We are using technology to collaboratively learn how to leverage technology in the work we do. I hope you’ll join us.