Learning tech and a sweet 16 in the sky.
This week was packed with firsts.
It was my first business trip in more than 3 years.
It was my first time seeing my book for sale in real life.
And it was my first time crashing a sweet sixteen birthday party.
A tale of two flights.
My flight from Orlando to New Orleans - my first since March 2020 - was perfect. We left on-time. The crew was awesome. I was seated in first class - and by that I mean the emergency exit row. And the 120 competitive high school cheerleaders on the plane slept the entire time.
ICYDK: The Walt Disney World Resort is the epicenter of US competitive cheerleading. It’s normal for flights in and out of town to be packed with energetic high school kids this time of year. I was … concerned … when I arrived at my gate to find I was one of the few non-cheerleaders on the early morning flight. That concern quickly faded when I noticed how exhausted the kids were after days of competition and celebration. After all, they had just won the national championship!
I spent the next three days telling the story about my surprisingly quiet flight into New Orleans. The universe must have been listening.
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Party in the 737.
The flight back to Orlando was the exact opposite - and the most memorable plane ride ever.
I once again arrived at the gate to discover it was packed with cheerleaders. I was one of maybe six people on the flight not involved in the sport. The teens were … loud … at the gate. “Do a flip!” is apparently the cool thing for cheerleaders to say nowadays. BTW - can you tell I don’t have kids?
It took forever to get the plane boarded. It was a full flight, and people struggled to find seats. This person didn’t want to sit next to that person. You know how it goes. I was immersed in the drama because most of the plane’s occupants were too young to sit next to me in the emergency exit row. Eventually, a few moms traded seats, and we got on our way. After a bumpy takeoff, we reached our cruising altitude of 37,000 feet. That’s when things got even more interesting.
It was Riley’s 16th birthday! Who’s Riley? I have no idea. But the flight attendants knew, and they were about to turn this 737 into a late-night, high-flying party bus!
Mood lighting. Toilet paper streamers. Games. Miley Cyrus tunes. I didn’t realize onboarding for flight attendants included a course called “How to Throw a Mid-Flight Birthday Party.” They even read messages from Riley’s parents and grandparents over the intercom. I watched the revelry unfold and wondered how parents do what they do. If I was going to get stuck on a plane filled with screaming cheerleaders, this was the best possible way to do it.
Happy birthday, Riley!
Oh yeah … the tech stuff …
The whole point of getting on a plane was to share my insights on learning tech at ATD TechKnowledge.
There’s SO MUCH NOISE in the marketplace. Everyday there’s a new delivery platform or a new authoring tool or a new integration opportunity. It’s impossible to keep up, even for someone who spends most of their time thinking about EX technology.
Which technologies are making a real impact?
Which technologies are just hype - at least for now?
And which technologies should I consider implementing within my organization?
I tried to help L&D pros answer these questions during my session - Hype or Happening: Finding potential in learning technology trends.
The presentation deck is available for download on my website. Here’s the TL;DR.
First, we explored The 4 Truths of Learning Technology.
L&D lags the trends. It’s 15 years later and we’re still trying to figure out how to leverage smartphones to help people do their jobs better. L&D must monitor tech trends, experiment with new tools and embrace innovation to advance our practices - even if we must change how we do what we do.
Technology is an enabler, not a solution. No amount of tech can replace a thorough understanding of business priorities, skill requirements and day-to-day performance challenges. We must understand the WHYs of learning tech before we can get value from our digital efforts.
There is no one (digital) ring to rule them all. We’re finally moving beyond the belief that one platform can handle the complex needs of our workforces. Ecosystems for the win!
You can’t go deep on every trend. No one can be an expert in everything. We must make informed, forward-thinking decisions regarding the trends we monitor, adopt, mitigate and ignore.
Next, we discussed key questions L&D pros must answer before buying into a new tech trend.
Is the technology proven? It’s gotta be more than just an interesting idea.
Do you have the appropriate level of expertise? Do lots of homework before buying in so you don’t have to rely on vendors and consultants to make things work.
Are you trying to solve a meaningful problem? You can’t measure the value of your tech investment unless you know what problem you’re using it to address.
Is your organization prepared for the change? You may think it’s a great idea, but the rest of the company (stakeholders, IT, legal, managers, employees) will need to buy in too.
Do you have the capability to implement? You’re going to need money, time and cycles to make this work.
Is there a rule that dictates what you can do? Consider internal and external regulations before making your tech decisions.
Will the decision be made for you? Innovation will not wait for L&D to catch up.
Finally, we dug into the 2023 LearnGeek Innovation Cycle and had a spirited conversation on trends like AI (the one topic on the curve L&D cannot afford to ignore), blockchain (useful in finance, not so much in L&D) and the metaverse (still not a thing).
It was a great trip! Between stellar flight crews, friendly Uber drivers, amazing conference participants and unexpected revelry at 37K feet, I couldn’t have asked for a better first step back into the physical world outside of Orlando.
One thing this week.
Read your data security policy. Please … please … PLEASE … do not put proprietary information into a free AI tool, including ChatGPT. This includes company data, customer data, personally identifiable information (PII) - anything you’re not meant to share with the rest of the world. These tools are likely retaining your data and potentially using it to train their AI models. Inputting this information without IT approval may be a violation of your data security policy as well as local regulations.
Remember - if the product is free, you (and your data) are the product. Consult with IT before adding new tools to your workflow, no matter how popular or cool or free they are!
Talkin’ L&D. I’m hosting weekly open discussions on LinkedIn Live Audio about all things L&D. This is an informal opportunity to geek out with L&D peers about everything from technology and strategy to content design and job hunting.
Pop in to join the conversation, ask questions or just listen while you work. I’ve scheduled four one-hour sessions so far (sign up below). If people enjoy these chats, I’ll keep it going indefinitely.
Next week, I’ll wanna talk about the word “democratize.”
Be well. JD.