But sometimes when you take a break from providing someone else’s education, you end up learning a thing or two yourself. In Chief Learning Officer’s case, two trips come immediately to my mind, two trips involving two CLO editors, but one common theme: Learning is a game of problems and solutions, challenges and opportunities.
In the first case, I sent one of my editors to Florida, where he attended a focus group of learning professionals sponsored by Pearson Education. The discussion centered on the problems and solutions of providing workforce education. Some of the problems I’m sure you’re already familiar with:
- Finding quality content.
- Customizing content to address company-specific needs.
- Translating that content into distance-learning solutions.
- Distributing, managing and controlling that content.
- Assessing the value of the content.
- Assessing the application of the learning.
- The costs involved with all of the above.
As you might imagine, the solutions discussed were both widespread and localized, and there wasn’t always consensus of opinion. That, of course, is what made the discussion valuable. The bottom line there was that solutions are available, but are best applied in the realm of specific company problems using specific company resources.
I took the second of these eye-opening trips myself, traveling to Nashville to speak at NETg Thomson Learning’s NETglobal conference. I joined a panel of experts—including Jerry White, who heads up e-learning for the FBI, and Vince Rowe, EVP of KnowledgePool—to discuss the two-sided coin of challenges and opportunities, something I know you’re familiar with. Using the Sept. 11 crisis as a starting point, we discussed the opportunities that learning executives have realized since the challenges of changing times and economic uncertainties bloomed in terrorism’s wake. For example:
- The challenges added fuel to the drive for new delivery tools and technologies. While already in place at many organizations, e-learning technology rose to new heights to give learning providers the opportunity to maximize the delivery of enterprise education. Even in tough economic times, learning investments grew as the full potentials were realized.
- Investments, of course, lead to thoughts of return. Companies rightly need to know they’re investing wisely, and they’ve adapted to understand that not all returns are financial. Companies are now looking at factors like course completion rates, sales results, customer satisfaction and market branding, and are realizing education is an element in all those.
- One lesson that has strengthened in the midst of this change is the need for strategic alignment of education. Every business has goals. Designing education programs by working backward from those goals helps drive things forward. Education is the driver for any positive change, and with certain missions and objectives in mind, smart corporations are tapping the untapped potential of reduced resources and benefiting from it.
- One thing that isn’t changing, however, is the need for fiscal responsibility. That’s never been more clear than in times of reduced resources, otherwise known as the need to do more with less. Education is again the key, with companies using learning and development to re-deploy resources to fill specific gaps.
If there’s a common theme running through those conversations in two states to two audiences of two different sizes, it’s the one thing philosophers have been saying for centuries—for every problem there is a solution, for every dark cloud there is a silver lining. I have no doubt you have your own specific examples of this general theory. I’d love to hear about them.
Editor in Chief