Paul Matthews founded People Alchemy Ltd in 1999 after a distinguished career in industries as diverse as travel and engineering, during which time he held many positions, including senior posts in sales, customer service and operations, finishing at director level in a multinational IT company.
In your opinion what is the biggest anxiety within the world of learning and development at the moment?
Irrelevance. This is by no means universal, and is also often masked by the day-to-day stress and busyness. Many people in L&D are concerned about their ability to stay relevant in this faster moving world. For example, many misunderstand the 70:20:10 philosophy and see it as a threat, because their hard earned ability to design and deliver training seems to be limited to a minuscule 10% of the learning spectrum.
However, I think this anxiety is misplaced as I believe that L&D has a far bigger role to play than it currently does in most organisations. This will require some reskilling and retooling by L&D people, and that may be scary, but there are very few jobs in today’s world which do not require new skills and tools. In addition to the new skills and tools L&D needs to embrace a shift in focus from learning as an outcome, to performance as an outcome. Performance will never be irrelevant to the organisation.
Who or what is informing your thinking around L&D?
I read many different blogs from all around the world, and I do spend quite a bit of time reflecting on how the different ideas from the different blogs can be linked together. I spend a lot of time talking to senior people in L&D roles about their challenges, their thinking, and this keeps my own thinking grounded and practical. In my opinion, many people overcomplicate things, in a tender form back on the simplistic approach I grew up with on a farm in New Zealand. Figure out a simple way to do something, and even if the result isn’t perfect, provided it is good enough, the job gets done and you can move onto the next thing. I would like to think this is common sense but I do remember my father telling me when I was about five years old that common sense really is not that common.
What is the most exciting innovation on the horizon for learning?
I guess that depends on how far it is to the horizon. Having said that, it is inevitable that the advance of technology, and how it can be used within the learning field is the most exciting current and future innovation. I think the step that will mark the difference is where technology becomes seamless with everything else we do. It is getting that way now, particularly for the millennial’s. For most people, me included, technology still sits alongside us. Perhaps wearable technology like the iWatch will change that, and then it will change again when the technology is embedded within us.
What “game changers” would you like to see and why?
The biggest game changer I would like to see is for L&D to focus on improved performance as the outcome of their activities, rather than learning. This requires a performance consultancy mindset and the ability to work with the business based on performance outcomes and KPIs.
What do you think the world of L&D will look like by 2020?
2020 is only five years away, and yet a huge amount can happen in five years in terms of technology advances. There is probably a start-up business out there right now that has the potential to be as big as Google in five years’ time. In fact, there are probably several. I don’t know what they will be doing on a global scale with the world’s population, but it is certain that if people want to use whatever they are offering, it will have massive implications for L&D. Look at what has happened in the last five years with social media and how that is spilt over into the L&D playing field.
What advice would you give your 21 year old self?
I would tell my 21 year old self that he is more than he thinks he is. The problem would be to do so in a way that didn’t fuel his typical 21 year old arrogance :-)
I would also say to make room in his mind for larger outcomes and bigger things. Until he makes space in his mind for something big, all he will get is something small.
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