My 7 takeaways from World of Learning

Ger Driesen

by Ger Driesen
20 October 2017

On 17 and 18 October 2017, I participated in the World of Learning conference in Birmingham. Here’s what I experienced as the core messages from the seven sessions I attended.

1) Reconciling Dilemmas

Fons Trompenaars delivered the opening keynote address with the core advice to focus on reconciling dilemmas. He is well known for his expertise in cultural differences and how to overcome them. Guess what: it’s also about reconciling dilemmas. Trompenaars suggests that the dilemmas that occur in today’s complex world can’t be solved by making one-dimensional choices: centralise or decentralise, formal learning or informal learning, innovation or compliance. The way to go is to combine the opposites to think ‘and over or’. His example question was: ‘Is the human body centralised or decentralised?’. The answer is ‘Yes’. It is partly centralised, so it can function in a partly decentralised way.

2) Resources and Experiences Instead of Courses

Nick Shackleton Jones shared his ideas and experiences around a new approach to learning design. He suggests a more user-centered approach to learning design that will lead to solutions that can be characterised as resources and experiences, not courses. One of the premises is that people at work essentially want to get their work done and are eager to use ‘stuff’ that can help them do just that. He presented a continuum that gives clues on when to focus on resources and when on experiences. Resources are easy-to-use, simple, performance-support items like checklists, flowcharts, apps and videos that support specific tasks. Nick explained his vision on when to create experiences and when to create resources. When people care less for a topic and don’t buy in easily, but it is a relevant and important topic for the organisation, you should create experiences that they can explore and discuss to understand the topic better and make it meaningful. 

When people care less for a topic and don’t buy in easily, but it is a relevant and important topic for the organisation, you should create experiences that they can explore and discuss to understand the topic better and make it meaningful.

This is more of a ‘push’ approach. When people care more, they prefer resources and useful things like checklists. This is more a ‘pull’ approach.

3) Neuroscience to Change Behaviour

Liggy Webb surprised the audience with a room without chairs. This directly created an active atmosphere and was very aligned with one of the core messages of the session. This message was also provided to the participants by a postcard saying, ‘The distance between your dreams and reality is ACTION’. She explained the importance of a ‘growth mindset’, the idea around a ‘neuroplastic brain’ where your brain is able to change (=learning) throughout your life. I liked a discussion with two other attendees where we shared a successful change and an unsuccessful change and the reasons behind them. A successful change relies heavily on preparation and structure: organising for success.

4) Beat Google

Geoff Stead shared his lessons mainly from his time at a high-tech company that had an abundance of budget and resources to support learning. What can you do and how can you be relevant as a learning department in this situation?

Beat Google’, says Geoff Stead – be the first place people go to for help is what he means by that.

To support this, you should bring together internal and external content with multi-device access. Don’t get trapped in your silo is his second lesson. To do so, think bigger than learning and development (L&D). The third advice is to use business, not learning metrics, to measure effectiveness. It all has to be relevant for the business. To do so, L&D professionals have to build new skills like understanding the business and all kinds of new technological applications.

5) Transfer Starts with Analysis

Paul Matthews gave a very clear message during the panel session on how to integrate learning into the workflow. Transfer starts way before learning starts – it begins with a good analysis of an issue. If learning is not the right solution, you’ll never get learning transferred into the workflow (or maybe you get the wrong things transferred). If the issue is not well understood in its context, you’ll never find the most-relevant clues for the best design to make transfer happen. Another aspect that was brought in by Andy Lancaster is the role of leaders. They can play an important role to support the integration of learning into the workflow.

6) Caring Discomfort for Leadership Development

Nigel Paine shared some exciting experiences around his travel to the South Pole and the lessons drawn from that for leadership development. He talked about disconnection, dislocation and discomfort, leading to discovery. I was triggered by the idea of creating discomfort and the ethical aspect of that. Nigel explained further that it’s all about ‘caring discomfort’. It’s not about ‘playing the courageous hero’ but more about supporting each other as leadership team members to be successful in a situation of discomfort and discovering more about leadership behaviour.

7) The Basic Formula for Change

Formula of change

Robin Hoyle gave the audience an interesting formula that relates to change. The formula is: D x V x F > R

D = Dissatisfaction: I don’t like the current situation; I want to change it.

V = Vision: the idea of a direction, of how reality looks like without the discomfort.

F = First steps: what are the first steps to get to the right direction. Not all steps: for engagement, people like to be able to influence the next steps after they’ve been showing the direction and the first steps.

R = Resistance (or costs): the D x V x F should be bigger than the resistance to change. The ‘what’s in it for me’ should be clear and outbalance the resistance.

The D x V x F > R can be used as a checklist to better understand all elements and see what needs to be adjusted to make change happen.


Ger Driesen

Ger Driesen, Learning Innovation Leader at aNewSpring
Think of connecting people, ideas and inspiration in the global L&D community and you’ve just created the perfect description of Ger Driesen. In his role as Learning Innovation Leader at aNewSpring he focuses on motivating and guiding professionals to build inspiring learning journeys. During his career he has had a variety of L&D roles, from consultant, trainer and facilitator, to L&D manager and entrepreneur. He’s also known as ‘the Dutch L&D trendcatcher’. Keep up with Ger on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Ger Driesen
Learning Innovation Leader