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A Wake up Call for Practitioners
The changing tide of learning and development

By Helen Blunden / January 2015

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How can the learning professional help their organization deal with the challenges facing their business today? Nigel Paine answers this, and many other questions that are currently being asked by practitioners in his latest book, The Learning Challenge: Dealing With Technology, Innovation and Change in Learning and Development. From the outset, he makes the case that the time is right for learning and development to be forward thinking. Getting your organization ready for the 21st century. Put simply, what you did in the past, will not and cannot serve you in the future.

The Learning Challenge encapsulates the big ideas that are being faced by not only learning and development teams but all businesses as well. Technology, flexible work practices, and the workplace environment have changed the way we work, connect, and learn. These in turn, impact the role held by learning and development professionals in the workplace; they need to now demonstrate real change and business impact within their organizations.

Even the title hints that learning and development may require some support as it has been protected in the past from the major disruptions felt by other parts business. Paine emphasizes the times are changing and in order to remain effective, credible, and valuable to the business, learning and development teams will need to take heed of the signs and take charge of learning in their organizations or risk becoming redundant.

But all is not lost. Paine interviewed learning leaders around the world and provides real-life examples, evidence, and case studies of real change created within their own organizations. Each of the case studies demonstrate learning leaders have to dramatically alter their mindset and traditional response to try something new, different, and multifaceted.

The book is separated into three sections. In the first section, Paine shares his manifesto for change. He outlines how the role of learning leaders must change in today's modern workplace and delves into the evidence and references from selected thought leaders. He makes a case that in order for learning professionals to make a real impact to their business now, they need to stop ignoring what's happening in the ever changing and competing global marketplace, which in turn affect their organization's business, and start making some immediate changes.

The second part of the book jumps directly into action. What are some of the new ideas that learning professionals can implement today within the flow of work? Paine implores the reader to think beyond courses and think impact. He writes, "Instead of putting the learning into the work, you extract the work from the learning." So here's the challenge. What options are available that takes learning and development away from facilitator-based courses, workshops, and asynchronous eLearning programs to more experience-based programs?

What follows are chapters touching on how to incorporate the blended workplace learning model—what Paine describes as 70:20:10—into existing programs and how to resurrect performance support, which is often forgotten. Paine also questions whether learning leaders are using traditional instructional design models inflexibly. Another chapter on measuring impact challenges the traditional view of Kirkpatrick's evaluation and proposes Birkenhoff's Success Case Method (SCM) as the preferred method for aligning learning to the organization.

The last section of the book concentrates on the "game changers": learning analytics; big data; cognitive science; learning technologies such as virtual worlds, simulations, and gamification; and learning environments such as MOOCs (massive open online courses). It may be a matter of time to see if these new technologies spell the demise of the learning and development professional or if they redefine and morph their role into something else entirely.

In his introduction, Paine describes this book as a "personal coach" and in every chapter he brings together the references and cited papers to show what steps the learning leader can take to make demonstrable change in their workplace. His advice, such as "Ten Tips to Take this Forward" or "Top 10 To Get You Started," lays out short, simple actions to embed these changes into the workplace. He includes case studies in each chapter to stimulate thinking and encourage the reader to consider how they may apply similar ideas in their own workplace.

This book is a must have for any learning professional. It's a timely book that serves as a reminder that we, as learning professionals, cannot afford to ignore the signs of change and disruption in our business. We can take action to ensure we remain relevant and valuable to our business; it just starts with learning to open our minds, to start asking questions, and to shape new ideas for our work—and our place in work—to not only survive but to thrive in future workplaces.

About the Author

Helen Blunden is an experienced workplace-learning consultant with more than 23 years of experience in public and private sectors in Australia. With a passion for enabling people to learn beyond the classroom, she believes in the power of networks and communities to drive collaboration, engagement and meaning back into work. Through her business, Activate Learning Solutions, she helps organizations activate the desire for learning through social networking. She is also the founder of Third Place, an informal social networking and co-working community of learning professionals to connect, work, and learn from each other. Helen can be found on Twitter @ActivateLearn.

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2015 Copyright held by the Owner/Author. 1535-394X/15/01-2701118 $15.00


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