We are falling behind a dramatically shifting world

LENGTH: 7 minutes (1428 words)

Let’s face it, traditional Learning Management Systems (LMS) are dead [1]. If you are like millions of others, you’re stuck using a legacy system. Don’t panic – but definitely do not become complacent.  Your business and your job depend on the adoption of next generation education technology and ideologies.

90% of CEOs believe their company is facing disruptive change driven by digital technologies, yet 70% say that their organization is lacking the skills required to adapt [2].

It’s obvious the world is shifting dramatically. The way we work, live, and learn continues to evolve at an unprecedented pace. But what’s impossible to comprehend is exactly how the world will shift more in the next five years than in did in the last twenty. Businesses who fail to adapt, will cease to exist. What’s worse, employees who fail to adapt will be out of work.

As technology and business practices shift at accelerating rates, humans need to adopt a life long learning mindset. In fact, let’s take this step further and say we need to adopt a “perpetual learning” mindset. I know what you’re thinking; our lives are already too busy! How is it possible to be in a perpetual state of learning?

The path of least resistance

I’d like to share a personal story with you. Le me rewind to 2013 for the birth of my second son. My wife was thrown a curve ball. Her labour progressed slowly and was unusually painful. It was a very different experience than she had with our first born.  Something didn’t seem right.  The hospital was overwhelmed with emergencies. The high case load prevented staff from giving the care they aspire to deliver.  Many hours passed before a young anesthesiologist finally dashed into our room. She apologized and announced that she had to rush back to another emergency. No sooner had she inserted the epidural, than she was gone again. My wife had been patiently waiting for hours to get relief from the pain. But for some reason it didn’t come. The nurse explained it may take some time for the anesthesia to kick in. Forty five minutes went by. Nothing. Then an hour. Still no relief.

My wife’s tolerance for pain ran out and I was given a direct order, “Do something!” So I did the only thing I could and ran to the nursing station. I informed our nurse who hurried back to check the infusion pump. It was then that we realized the pump was malfunctioning. Medication wasn’t flowing. I could see the intense pain on my wife’s face. The nurse fiddled with the pump, hastily guessing at the solution. She was in a rush. When she couldn’t solve the problem, she ran to get a colleague. But the second nurse used a similar trial and error approach. She hastily fiddled in hopes of stumbling upon the solution. It had then been almost three hours since the epidural was first inserted. Eventually a third nurse joined. But it was too late, our baby was coming and my wife would just have to manage the pain. Additional complications created by my wife’s MS were ignored because staff spent so much time trying to solve the problem with the infusion pump.

Fast forward four years later, I am happy to report both my wife and son are living happy lives. As far as medical scenarios are concerned, this one was minor. However it illustrates a key point we can’t ignore as business leaders and learning & development professionals. This key point is human nature. Human beings will always choose the path of least resistance. In this case, the path began by “playing” with the device (the infusion pump), followed by asking a friend (the two nurses). Bob Mosher calls this the sneakernet; where we limit our access to guidance because we seek it only from people or sources which are immediately accessible.

As it turns out, the solution to fixing the pump was quite simple. A more seasoned nurse would have spotted the problem immediately. Furthermore, the solution was also listed in the troubleshooting section of the pump’s manual. I should point out, the manual is rather inconveniently stored behind the nursing station. Buried beneath a monumental pile of museum-worthy documents. If only the nurse had time to flip through a 153 page user manual!

Issues like this arise all the time. And not just in healthcare. Office workers face similar challenges. In a typical office environment, multiple systems and processes interact with one another on a regular basis. Change is inevitable. One week a payroll system changes, the next week HR rolls out a new benefits claim process, and the week after that, new health & safety procedures are introduced. Change is constant. How do we keep up? It would be unreasonable to train every employee to deal with every new change. Likewise, it would be impossible to train a new nurse to handle EVERY eventuality.

The death of traditional education technology

So what can we do? In a world that is in a constant state of flux, it seems impossible to keep our knowledge, skills and attitudes current. How do we adjust our workflows, and adapt to the changes thrust upon us?  Traditionally speaking, learning management systems (LMSs) have been universally loathed wastelands for mandatory & compliance training. They are typically viewed as adding little visible value to businesses. As learning and development professionals, we recognize the potential but often struggle to demonstrate ROI. We understand how to impact the business, boost productivity, improve performance, and reduce costs. However, demonstrating that return takes time and resources which businesses are not willing to invest.

This struggle is coming to an end. At least for leaders who are willing to shift with the tide. Business processes and learning technology are colliding unlike ever before. A beautiful new era is emerging where education technology works symbiotically with business processes, people, and systems. Best of all, this technology is grounded by the neuroscience of behaviour and learning. The advances in neuroscience are key, because it means new technology considers how we work, learn, and live. It can help us maximize productivity, engagement, and job satisfaction.

Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and IoT

The average knowledge worker spends 1.8 hours EVERY DAY searching for information to do their jobs[3]. In most of these cases, the problem is a result of one of three issues.

  1. Employees did not receive proper training
  2. Support or job aids are not easily accessible
  3. Systems and processes are designed inefficiently

Here’s the good news. Imagine this; a young nurse walks into a patient’s room. But this room is unlike any we’ve seen before. Through the Internet of Things (IoT), the room is already aware of a malfunction with the infusion pump. The room is also aware of the nurse’s presence, her skill levels, and the fact that her patient is 8 cm dilated, and in the transitional phase of labor. Now imagine the room projecting a virtual and artificially intelligent mentor, intuitively springing to action. Using Augmented Reality (AR), the virtual mentor can digitally project visual cues while giving oral guidance. It coaches the nurse on fixing the infusion pump, then guides her to help the mother prepare for delivery. Sounds like science fiction right?

Advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning are helping businesses deliver exactly what employees need at the exact moment of need.  No more, no less. An intelligent LMS or EPSS (Electronic Performance Support System) can shift the focus of workplace learning from “just-in-case” to “just-in-time”. We are already beginning to see more guidance embedded directly in our workflows through these performance support solutions.

What’s the risk of ignoring new learning technology?

Change is rapid. The bottom line; businesses who fail to adopt these new learning technologies and the accompanying ideologies will cease to exist within 5-10 years. For those who choose to adapt, they will have three major advantages.

  • First off, they will realize a dramatic reduction in errors and associated costs.
  • Secondly, productivity will skyrocket, not only because employees will spend less time searching for information, but because their frustration driven by futile searches will be eliminated. In turn, engagement and job satisfaction will rise.
  • Finally, these technologies, will free employees to be more creative in their roles. We will have more time to innovate and to conquer projects which have been simmering on the back-burner.

Of course all this extra time for creativity and innovation will just further fuel our pace of change. Will we be able to keep up? Could this be the Pandora’s box of learning technology? Or will we welcome the universal guidance and subsequent 1.8 hours of free time every day?


  1. eLogic Learning. (2017). 15 eLearning Trends and Statistics to Know for 2017. [online] Available at: https://elogiclearning.com/15-elearning-trends-and-statistics-to-know-for-2017/[Accessed 27 Apr. 2017].
  2. Medium. (2017). Why Your Organization Needs a Learning Culture – Actionable – Medium. [online] Available at: https://medium.com/@actionableco/why-your-organization-needs-a-learning-culture-44e78cce93e1[Accessed 26 Apr. 2017].
  3. McKinsey & Company. (2012). The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies.[online] Available at: http://www.mckinsey.com/industries/high-tech/our-insights/the-social-economy[Accessed 26 Apr. 2017].