More Tech, More Problems?

More Tech, More Problems?

As we create more and more technology to solve our problems, new problems emerge—particularly in learning, adapting, and sharing knowledge with our people.

Posted by Dean Pianta, Solutions Manager

Email, Slack, Dropbox, SharePoint, Quip, Teamwork, Trello—the list of tools designed to make our teams more efficient is never-ending. But some tools encourage more silos. And most lead to new inefficiencies and problems across large organizations.

What if a solution brought all your favorite things together?

When we look at tech today, it’s clear that the limiting factor is not in the speed of innovation or addition of new features, but rather “us.” We are simply not learning and embracing new tech fast enough.

When rolling out new technology, the common approach is to package some tutorials and enroll the user community. Unfortunately, at some point, the innovation leap is so significant that the skills gap cannot be “powerpointed” into a next, next, next tutorial.

More needs to be done. From adaptive learning; deep analytics; and ready, relevant, personalized experiences; there are many possibilities to tackling the widespread challenges of knowledge-sharing in an organization today.

Today, some training is still too complex. It is often:

  • Too difficult to convey with traditional methodologies (prescriptive, directed learning)
  • Impossible for subject matter experts to fully capture because all the answers are not known. Knowledge at this level is not an “answer”—but more of a “process.”
  • Not realistic for the instructional systems designers to create content in a timely fashion (nonlinear, vast subject matter)

There’s just too much distance between innovation and the community’s capabilities and culture. And more importantly, we have not spent enough time thinking about the “gap.”

Let’s look deeper into the problem. Scott Brinker pointed out the role of technology management in his blog. What changes should be adopted?

Technology is changing faster than organizations can keep up. So, should we innovate less? No. But the real question is—do we create personalized interfaces that expose functionality based on a user’s experience and proficiency with the solution?

An ever-increasing gap means that people simply cannot adopt, adapt, and fully leverage the capability from each new technology. Some refer to this gap as “technological unemployment.” I refer to it as opportunity; an opportunity to improve how organizations continuously learn.

To embrace our full potential, we need to rethink how knowledge is transferred to our people today.

I would define the goal of both training and knowledge management to be to close that gap. But to do that, we need to be able to measure where the organization is. Only then can we manage and improve it.

What Next? Four Digital Marketing “Pearls” That Can Help Today’s eLearning and Knowledge Management Practices

We can learn from fast-moving industries and apply their best practices to improve how we think about knowledge transfer.

I believe the last eight years of disruption found in digital marketing can pave the way for the badly needed transformation of Knowledge Management (KM)—especially for the really complex problems. I believe these concepts can augment (and sometimes replace) what we’re currently doing.

  1. The customer-centric model. The learner is the customer here—and we’re marketing knowledge. This new model is one where the learner experience is prioritized, personalized, constantly evaluated, and provided with ready, relevant information. Show a learner what they need to see. Know the learner well enough to gauge their experience and interests and use that to design adaptive interfaces. While we’re at it, use that to suggest content and who they might want to “follow” or which community of interest they should join.
  2. Crowd-sourcing social information. The overall democratization of knowledge transfer is key for a few reasons: it distributes some aspects of content creation out to the field, provides insight as to what the field thinks and needs, and builds inherent relevance at the peer networking level. This is obviously not exclusive to online retail, but retail has mastered it. Think about Amazon.com—the reviews at the bottom of the product pages are created by the buyer community (and likely curated). This reduces the amount of content required to be formally authored, provides insight back to the vendor, and builds trust amongst potential buyers.
  3. Segmentation, Communities of Learning. Personalized information requires us to group like-minded people. In this way, separate content is delivered to each group. Groups benefit by seeing comments from peers they have chosen or with whom they have something in common. The key to success is moderation. A subject matter expert can be assigned or revealed within the community, but it is imperative that if someone asks a question, an answer is shared in a reasonable time frame.
  4. Learning Services Ecosystem. With an underlying technology foundation used to support a majority of the Fortune 500, it’s essential to exploit Platform as a Service (PaaS) cloud service offerings. This provides an ideal balance of reuse to draft off a trillion-dollar industry and still provide purpose-built eLearning and KM experiences. Another major benefit from PaaS is its ability to offer features specific to different groups. I mentioned earlier that we can only innovate as fast as the culture of users is ready to adapt. PaaS allows us to innovate at the speed of light—but throttle it appropriately based on what the end users are ready for. So, imagine different communities of interest using different sets of features. Then consider over time how a demand signal comes from the laggard community that wants more features. Maybe they’re ready for ideation or social feedback constructs such as the “like” capability.

For a culture to truly evolve at the roots, people need to see and understand the deeper value of new systems. Why spend the extra time to change, when staying the same is so easy and comfortable?

Busy people can’t just be handed new tools without thorough explanation on how this will benefit their lives sooner or later, or without training that’s engaging and easy to understand.

Perhaps crowdsourcing is a way to convey value. Adoption can’t be pushed in a top-down fashion. Instead, it needs to be kick started and socially guided with a bottom-up model. Providing more insight to instructors on what is being used, not being used, and facilitating conversations is important—and that value needs to be formally conveyed.

But beyond that, it’s critical for managers of all levels to encourage the use of a social, informal platform for the community to recognize the value of innovation, to give a voice to subject matter experts and change agents, and to make it easy to share and communicate amongst their company networks.

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