Digital technology has broadened the range of training tools available by introducing such tools as MOOCs, rich media, gamification, serious games and augmented reality, among others. Innovations are coming and going in quick succession, sometimes giving the impression of a frantic race for the latest trendy solution.
Should we succumb to the siren call... or wait until an innovation has proved its worth before incorporating it in our learning programmes?
Do the benefits to be gained from certain innovations cover the risks and the costs of developing and distributing them?
Learning methods have not fundamentally changed, but the pace, environment and purposes of learning in the professional sphere have. Today companies must tackle new challenges:
- Upskill employees more quickly while minimising the time they have to spend away from their workspace.
- Appeal to employees: the resources available on the internet are often fun and enjoyable, so the training provided by the company is increasingly expected to be convivial, enjoyable and on a par with the resources employees are accustomed to finding online.
- Demonstrate the training effectiveness, if not the cost effectiveness, of training initiatives.
Innovation is not an end in itself, but a means to boost value creation.
What is the value of a solution? It is the ratio between its usefulness in the beneficiary’s eyes (such as a better understanding of a concept) and its cost (all of the means used to enable this understanding).
The key question we should be asking ourselves is therefore: where can innovation in training create value for the company?
How can we innovate?
- Innovation in content to capture and disseminate emerging trends, as they appear, in functions whose environment is evolving faster than the line-of-business reference documents.
- Innovation in training programmes: to enable a gradual acquisition of content, at the learner’s pace, and at a lower cost to the company.
- Innovation in the training methods: to create even richer interactions between learners and between learners and the content.
- Innovation in the emotional experience: to help embed knowledge for the long term and make learners keen to use it on the job.
- Innovation in services: to make the choice, delivery, administration and invoicing of training courses more convenient, more efficient and less expensive.
It is of course possible to innovate in several areas at once, but in some projects, there is more to be gained from an innovation in data exchange that reduces course administrative costs than from an innovation in actual training methods.
Empathise with the learner
Before trying to address needs that the learner has not yet expressed, it is a good idea to identify the minor annoyances that plague them today and which could be eliminated through innovation.
For example, many learners say the training materials frustrate them: they are too heavy, rapidly outdated and difficult to find or re-use on the job.
However, tools are available now that let users access resource documents from any device, so that they can get the information they need when and where they actually need it.
Focusing on the learner experience and the minor annoyances it generates is a good way of ensuring that the innovation in training will be rapidly adopted and demonstrate its usefulness.
Placing value on innovation
Often the repercussions of an innovation extend beyond its original purpose. For example, starting a Twitter discussion thread to accompany a learning path and let learners give feedback on and assimilate part of the content will also be an opportunity for some of them to learn to use Twitter and therefore acquire two skills for the price of one.
On the other hand, occasionally a company will have an exaggerated idea of the utility of certain solutions, which turn out in the end to be far less promising than originally imagined.
It should also be borne in mind that you only realise how complicated it will be to deploy an innovation once the process is under way. What will the real costs of implementing it be? How extensive will the change management be for trainers and learners? It is hard to answer these questions until you’re actually up to your elbows in it.
But in that case, if there are doubts about the utility and costs of implementing an innovation, how do you decide to go ahead and launch it?
The answer is to run very small-scale trials that will return user feedback without incurring heavy development costs. This is the best way to spot the handful of really useful ideas that will generate lasting value... providing you are failure-tolerant.
The Cegos Innovation In Training Initiative
Cegos set up a structured innovation initiative in 2012 to test innovations and spot the ones that will create value. Cegos works in collaboration with its customers, sharing or co-developing certain trials with them and incorporating tried-and-tested innovations in its solutions.
The initiative is broken down into 4 key stages:
1)The intelligence phase is used to pick up weak signals and trends in technology, science, legislation, sociology and instructional design.
2) In the creativity phase, Cegos runs regular applied creativity sessions to convert these signals and trends into learning.
Two additional factors make these sessions effective:
a. The use of a strawman: the typical features of learners of the future;
b. The sessions take an open innovation approach and invite stakeholders from both inside and outside the training community.
3) The testing phase, also known as the prototyping phase.
4) The deployment phase is set in motion once the prototypes have demonstrated their value for learners.