- B-to-b training technology is an innovative space one generation away from groundbreaking application
- Most of the key functionality needed to deliver scalable, high-impact training requires stronger combinations
- Once achieved, the scale and impact of these combinations will fundamentally transform the training space
One of the great pleasures of being a parent in the era of iTunes and Netflix is the opportunity to subject my children to all the movies and TV shows I thought were earth-shattering in my youth. My kids have been repeatedly exposed to the richness of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Red Dwarf, The NeverEnding Story, the original Tron, all of the Back to the Future flicks, Spaceballs and so much more. Though they’ve been able to navigate 50-plus apps – all educational ones, of course – on an iPad since they were two, my kids generally indulge me, looking past the cardboard sets and vacuum tube lights of these film choices and enjoying the story.
One day, when he was about eight, my oldest son looked at me and said, “You know, Mom, your old movies have some great ideas. They just didn’t really know what to do with those ideas, eh?” With all the wisdom of a movie critic in training, he cut to the challenge in innovation: integration and application.
In the learning and training technology space, we are deep in the tension between technological innovation and useful application. Those responsible for enablement or focused on it as a leader can demo everything from video training tools to analytics overlays, augmented/virtual reality training tools, and micro-learning push platforms. As amazing as some of these innovations are, however, there are still some gaps in coordinated application – an iteration left to go before that innovation achieves the desired impact that front-line training, enablement and learning efforts require. Those gaps include:
Generating content in a way that scales to the proximal knowledge or skill level of the learner. The emphasis here is on generating the right level of content after a quick diagnostic that determines the current competency level, and thus accelerates the learner to the point at which he or she can add new information or skills. Teaching at the proximal point of knowledge, rather than forcing everyone to re-learn what they already know, is a huge time-saving tool that keeps motivation high and ensures minimal time away from productive tasks. Combining this evaluation and data-tagging process with a strong delivery mechanism is a valuable application. This approach also allows, for example, for sales training that not only arrives just in time (i.e. when the rep needs it), but also at the level at which the rep needs it. This ensures that reps aren’t getting a whole suite of content tagged to those terms, but the level of content they’ve mastered individually, with prompts on how to learn those more complex skills if needed.
Generating content in cognitively adaptive ways. The holy grail of adaptive learning is a tool that accelerates content generation into different media, so that content creators need only create content. For example, the tool could automatically generate content in video formats, with experiences in text, virtual/augmented reality and aural/podcasting out of that initial input. The innovation for this form of content generation exists, but the combination of it into a tool for content creators that also delivers learning and training materials would realize the goal of rapid learning and accelerated time to competency.
Assessing skill directly through virtual/augmented reality. The technology for virtual/augmented reality assessment exists, but combining those assessments with robust competency levels and adjustable criteria is a key step toward making that virtual/augmented reality valuable. Above all, combining assessment of this quality with content generation that scales to the proximal (saving valuable time) and cognitively adapts (accelerating time to competency) is the real achievement. For example, a user could directly assess complex sales skills in an augmented reality simulation against strong competency-based criteria globally and virtually, all while feeding that data into a competency tool that allowed for monthly and quarterly performance review.
Organizations often avoid or procrastinate focusing on good learning and development because it’s so challenging to do well and monitor how it contributes to the business. Innovators seeking to respond to a key need, especially in the b-to-b sales and marketing space, may find that it isn’t the new that’s needed anymore – it’s a combination of existing innovation that will overcome the final hurdles to scalable, consistent and quality learning programs of complex skill and design. Making cool features for the sake of having features doesn’t actually solve the fundamental challenges of learners, enablement professionals and training content creators, who are still having to string together a mess of solutions to meet their needs. As you seek to make smart learning and training investments for your team, keep an eye out for those innovators who focus on integration and user needs application to bring those good ideas off the screen and into real life.