Tech-Wise Learning Leaders in 2018?

Our Chief Learning Officers and Learning Leaders must rapidly increase their “Tech-Wisdom” to handle the significant shifts in technology innovations and deployments in our workplaces.

Most CLOs can navigate the current conversations about Talent/Learning Databases and Mobile Devices, and can decode many conversations as they delve into the inner workings of APIs, Technology Stacks, and Clouds. And, as good leaders should, they rely on their team members to support their tech-readiness along the way.

But, it is time for many of our Learning Leaders to build a deliberate learning program to make them more “Tech-Wise” and “Tech-Conversation-Ready”. 

In recent months, I have seen the eyes of Learning Leaders glaze over when strategic conversations dove into these topics:

  • BlockChain Techologies
  • Audio Search & Knowledge Tech
  • Machine Learning
  • Augmented Reality Context
  • Automation Process Cycles
  • Big Data for Talent Analytics

It is not the role of a Learning Leader to be an expert in any of these technologies, but we need to have a core conceptual understanding and an active vocabulary to dialogue and to test the realities of predictions, claims, and product assertions.

Let’s build a learning pathway for our Learning Leaders to get more “Tech-Wise” for 2018:

  • It’s Vocabulary Time! We need to build a vocabulary of 5 to 15 phrases for each technology that will build our ability to have conversations as Learning Leaders. Ask a member of your team or a resource in your IT department to build a vocabulary list with a one-paragraph definition for each term.
  • It’s Example Time! Learning Leaders need concrete workplace examples of each technology. For example, you might hear the term “BlockChain” and think it is about geeks playing with BitCoins. In truth, BlockChain is a much wider, global exchange for financial transactions. Learn 2 to 3 examples, outside of your corporate setting.
  • It’s Timeline Time! Each of these technologies lives on a predictive timeline from idea into actual productive implementation in your workplace – or not! Suppliers of technologies often exaggerate how ripe and ready their tech truly is or predict that they will change the world of learning in just three years. Remember, the predictions of SecondLife as the replacement of all classrooms was way wrong! Gain some advice to build a timeline and plot where these technologies might fit into your workplace future.
  • It’s Personal Tech Time! Some of the most provocative technologies are now starting in the home and personal market. Look at the role of Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri. They are growing in the personal marketplace years before they are fully adapted into the corporate setting. And, they are often used by the employee on their own device rather than on an enterprise platform. A “Tech-Wise” Learning Leader has their own at-home lab to use and engage with emerging technologies – and perhaps observe their family members as “test users”.
  • It’s Replacement Time! Watch for the technologies, systems, or platforms that are fading from use or even being eliminated at the workplace. Are new features in Talent Systems radically reducing the use of some Learning Systems technologies? Ask for and understand the vector of which technologies are shrinking in the workplace!
  • It’s Evidence & Data Time! Learn what evidence and data are essential to track as new technologies are deployed in the marketplace. How will an organization know if these technologies are having an impact on the workplace and the workforce? Push to get a sense of these technologies.
  • It’s User Experience (UX) Time! There is a growing field of User Experience that is researching how emerging technologies are being accepted or embraced by users. The UX field is an ideal one for a Learning Leader to follow as it is focused on the key question of how a technology will be experienced by real people in a real work setting.

Finally, the biggest one: It’s Smart Innovation Time! The Learning Leader should avoid being either the front advocate or leading cynic on technologies. Your role is not to push any specific technology, which may be quickly replaced by something faster and cheaper. Instead, you want to be the leading facilitator of discussions about how to mix and match existing technologies, emerging technologies, and changing work processes. Benchmark fiercely in your field – and beyond! 

A Learning Leader in 2018 should be Tech-Curious, Tech-Open, Tech-Experimenting, Tech-Supported, Tech-Learning, Tech-Verbal, and Tech-Wise!

Published in CLO Magazine, January/February 2018

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