In this week’s L&D QuestionTime we catch up with Kandy Woodfield, Director of Learning at NatCen Social Research.

Kandy is passionate about learning & helping people and organisations to reach their goals through empowering L&D.  Her career began in social research and she continues to be involved in supporting the skills of the social research sector through her leadership of NatCen Learning which provides a respected programme of capacity building & training events. Kandy successfully established the NatCen Learning brand and product suite in 2006.


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

Relevance. The world has moved on and traditional L&D functions focused on classroom training or e-learning just don’t cut the mustard anymore. Much of how people learn is informal, social and collaborative, there is wealth of learning available at the click of a Google search button nowadays so our profession needs to reinvent itself and develop a wider skillset if it’s going to survive.  We need to find a call for action, raison d’etre,  which aligns with this new landscape of learning. I’ve seen real change starting to happen in the last three years so I’m optimistic. It takes a bit of courage to challenge and change the practice which is set firm in your organisation, and stretch your own skillset and thinking, but the rewards are worth it.


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

Most recently I’ve been reading Design for how people learn by Julie Dirksen and Revolutionize Learning & Development by Clark Quinn both challenge conventional thinking about L&D and ask more of us as practitioners, I like a stretch and these authors are exercising my thinking a lot. I say this often but my personal learning network on Twitter and other social media really inspire me on a daily basis to think differently, experiment and challenge my own mind-set. The most important thing for me is to hear multiple voices about what we do and should be doing as L&D professionals, this keeps my thinking fresh, Twitter chats like the regular Friday morning #ldinsight provide that provocation for me.


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

I think augmented reality technology like the Oculus Rift and Google Glass offer lots of potential for learning. Being able to layer knowledge and learning onto people’s everyday realities whether at work or elsewhere seems to offer us the potential to engineer really practical and relevant learning experiences in situ. But the design of any augmented reality learning scenarios needs to remain grounded in what people need to know, and what the business needs to develop,  otherwise it runs the risk of becoming another bright, shiny tool we all adopt with little thought to what value it really brings. 


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

I think if we could all climb out of our L&D silos and start really looking for the value we can add across the scope of our businesses then we and our organisations would be better served. L&D professionals have a wealth of skills and knowledge to offer organisations but if we back ourselves, or allow ourselves, to be backed into a narrowly defined remit we lose much of our potential. I think we have a really important role going forward as curators and creators of brilliantly engaging learning resources  and facilitators of performance improvement and organisational development. But this won’t happen without each of us pushing the envelope in our own practice.


What do you think the world of L&D will look like by 2020?


I’d hope that learning and development will be seamlessly integrated into our everyday working lives facilitated by smart technology and even smarter conversations. L&D professionals should be right there in the mix helping people and organisations to adapt to changing contexts, challenging outmoded thinking and practices but I fear we may be bypassed if we don’t start taking on that mantle now. By 2020 whilst we’ll still talk about learning and development I doubt very much that many central L&D departments will exist in the form they are now. A role as agents for change and organisational development means we don’t need to be sat physically or virtually in splendid isolation we could work alongside HR, our Comms teams, or our business units it won’t matter as long as we’re adding value and making a difference.


What advice would you give your 21 year old self?

Never pass on an opportunity because the challenge scares you, if it doesn’t work out you can always move on and remember that you can do anything you set your mind to but you can’t do everything. I wish I’d learnt both of those things much earlier in my life.


Connect with Kandy via twitter  @jess1ecat

In next weeks QuestionTime we discover what game changers Craig Taylor of Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation would like to see.