In this issue of the ever popular L&D QuestionTime we hear from Darren A.Smith.

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

The biggest anxiety in the world of L&D at the moment is making online learning work. There is so much online learning that is rubbish. Simply Powerpoint with voiceover. It is causing this new phenomenon to have a bad name even before it has got out of the gate. People are writing about how to do it effectively and what many write is a lot of guff. In one man’s opinion, mine, if you are serious about behavioural change and the learning has a big enough gap, online can only be part of a training piece. Not the whole piece. Yes, if you want to learn how to create a stronger password, online will work. If you want to learn how to negotiate more effectively and significantly change your behaviour, a programme of classroom, self-study, line manager support, and workplace activities in the workplace is the only answer.

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

There are 3 that are informing my thinking on L&D right now;

A. BJ Fogg. He is a Stanford University Professor and arguably the grandfather of habits. His work on habit formation is fascinating me at present. I love his simple graph that breaks down habit formation into motivation and ability, and then he has created 3 triggers that help us to understand what we need to do in order to create a habit. For example, if you want to lose weight, you probably know what to do, you just love biscuits. The answer is a ‘Spark’ trigger. For example, a picture of a bigger you on the biscuit tin.

B. The book ‘Made to Stick’ is helping me to understand how we can make our messages more powerful. For example, the story in the book is one of the American Shark Institute. They were struggling to tell people that sharks weren’t that bad. And yes, of course, everyone, said, ‘Not a chance do I believe you’. They have big teeth. They kill. And theirs ‘Jaws’. These guys that wrote the book designed the Institute’s website homepage and it asked the visitor to make a choice, ‘Choose which animal kills more people each year in the US’. The choice was a Deer or a Shark. You guessed it. Deers was the answer! Recommended reading 

C. I’m reading a lot about e learning and making it better. The people that are informing my thinking to create the best products are those that keep coming back to ‘make it interesting’ and how to achieve this. Our e learning products have a minimum of 7 types of interactivity, from videos to hover to accessing our Knowledge Vault. Yet, they could be even better and we shall keep at it! We have added gamification because whilst most people will say that they are not motivated by winning a gold star, ‘Candy crush’ proves that very wrong.

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

Of course, it has to be VR. I tried a headset recently and loved it. So real, and it will only get better. I am excited about what VR can bring to the world of learning. Imagine not choosing a scenario on online learning but actually walking with the person to choose. Fabulous!

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

I’m going to talk about us. Sorry. Just indulge me for one question. We are game changing because unlike most training providers we have chosen one small market of 10,000 companies to work in – The UK Grocery Industry and just the suppliers within that market. We took the risk many years ago to hyper-specialise. Secondly, we offer a unique training method – Sticky Learning ®, with a strapline, ‘80% of our learners are still using their skills 5 months later – we money back guarantee it!’. A bold move and our clients love it. And we just overtook Hemsley Fraser on Youtube views and subscribers. Our channel has over 250 x 1-minute videos. We describe ourselves online as the size of a Chihuahua with the bark of a Rottweiler.

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

Whilst technology will rightfully take its place, let’s not forget that some of the learning research is over 150 years old and still ignored by most. So, maybe the changes won’t be that quick. For example. Hermann Ebbinghaus created the ‘Forgetting Curve’ in the 1850’s, yet 99% of the training world still offers 1-day training courses, with no follow-up, so the learning is lost within 30 days. We stopped selling 1-day training courses some time back. Whilst technology will bring new and different ways to learn, I suspect that face-to-face training courses will still dominate the market. I’d just like to see more people take advantage of Sticky Learning to get a real return on their investment.

What advice would you give your 21 year old self?

Simple. Laugh more. Argue less. Choose your battles. And continue to write your life goals, your annual goals, and your month goals, because those drove the success we enjoy today.

About the author – Darren A.Smith:

Darren is the founder of Making Business Matter and has worked in the world of supermarkets and suppliers for over 24 years. His story is one of a game of two halves. For the first 12 years he worked as a Buyer & Category Manager in one of the big four UK supermarkets buying mainly fresh foods, from cheese to fruit to ready meals.

Seeing the opportunity to enable supermarkets and suppliers to work better together, he founded MBM and has spent the last 14 years working with suppliers on People Development to enable them to get the best from their people with their retail accounts through Sticky Learning ®. His main specialities are Category Management Training, Negotiation Skills and Time Management. The latter particularly because he was once an ‘email inbox junkie’!  He has had articles published by The Grocer, FPJ, Supply Management, & many more, and written the GSCOP book, plus a testimonial for his work on the Free Guides from Charles Jennings (Founder of 70:20:10). His favourite film will send him into a tailspin as he has so many, yet with his arm up his back, he chose ‘Gladiator’.

When he’s not working you’ll find him living in Thame with his wife, Gayle, and children, Gabby and Jack, creating memorable experiences because he believes ‘life is for the taking’.