With the recent announcement of the finalists of the 2019 Learning Awards, we continue this new series of L&D QuestionTime in which we hear from this years finalists.

Today we hear from Tom Fowler shortlisted in the Learning Professional of The Year category.

In your opinion what is the biggest anxiety within the world of learning and development at the moment?

L&D, once the self-proclaimed gatekeeper of all business knowledge, is coming to terms with a few startling facts: Learners want more than L&D have ever provided, quicker, in ways never provided before. Organisations don’t have the time or patience with the lengthy processes, delivery methods and even the language of the classic L&D practitioner, and when the organisation’s success is determined by the speed of constant behavioural change, why should they? To quote an internet meme: “When god gives you lemons, you find a new god”. We’ve probably all drawn a change-curve on a flip-chart at some point. Some in the function are stuck in the denial part; others are still trying to figure out what’s in it for them. Standing still is a death-wish, but if we afforded ourselves the time to develop the traits deemed crucial for any future role (think ‘cognitive flexibility’ rather than ‘coding’) and we step back and think critically about what we provide and how we provide it, a massive opportunity awaits us all.

Who or what is informing your thinking around L&D?

A chance-conversation with Bob Mosher at a Learning Technologies conference really changed my entire perspective of how to better support performance in a workflow. John Stepper’s work highlighted the importance of affording people the time to invest in relationships. Cathy Moore showed me that doing is often better than knowing. Martin LeBlanc’s tweet of “A user interface is like a joke. If you have to explain it it’s not that good” has underpinned my whole attitude to design. Day-to-day, it’s my colleagues, the teams we work with, the stakeholders we partner and our customers that inform me most. If we’re not working in their eyes, we’re not working at all! Further afield, hip-hop, punk rock, and having the friends and family I do have all been essential in exposing me to healthy levels of critical-thinking.

What is the most exciting innovation on the horizon for learning?

Over the next year, I’m really going to enjoy editing VR videos, but as the most exciting innovation goes, I’d have to say it’s the arrival of AI in learning. My spotify algorithm knows me better than I do. Why can’t the same level of personalisation be applied to learning, based on a user’s performance, preferences, aspirations and what other high performing individuals in the same role are doing? It’s very easy to dismiss this approach as ‘big brother’, which is why it’s equally important to demystify the technology and give learners full control over their own data. It may seem like a long way off, but with a few companies already far beyond testing the water and getting great results, it’s actually just round the corner.

What “game changers” would you like to see and why?

The greatest irony that plagues our industry is that learning and development teams generally don’t afford themselves the time and investment to learn and develop. If you didn’t laugh, you’d cry. If we just took more time out to look at the changing world and then joined the dots to how we need to change (just like the highest performing individuals out there in business and beyond advocate), we’d take game-changing strides in advancing our field.

What do you think the world of L&D will look like by 2030?

It’ll be power-point clickers down and lab-coats on. As we come to terms with learning and development playing a part in everything and we take a more holistic approach to how people actually learn, things will become less about delivery and more about ecosystem management, with the in-demand skills being more around data science, UX design (or just ‘design’ as it should be called), psychology, and anthropology. I’m looking forward to it.

What advice would you give your 21 year old self?

Don’t worry about not knowing what you want to be when you grow up – because it doesn’t exist yet. Go and see that Beastie Boys Concert.

About Tom:

Tom is a Learning Consultant for LV= General Insurance, and is responsible for mentoring the operational training team in digital design and delivery, and leading on the advancement and adoption of digital learning technologies in the business. Bad at snowboarding. Worse at playing guitar.

Connect with Tom on LinkedIn