LT 2014 keynote preview: Brian Solis

Jon Kennard
Freelance writer
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A digital analyst, sociologist, and futurist, Brian Solis has studied and influenced the effects of emerging technology on business, marketing, and culture. Ahead of his keynote at this week's event we interviewed him about the future of our relationship with workplace technology.

Learning Technologies is an opportunity to share and learn from those defining the future of learning and those also confused, frustrated or intimidated by it. Technology, taking learning out of the discussion for the moment, is part of the solution but it’s also part of the problem. In my presentation, I’ll explore the dynamics of human behavior from a bottom-up or escalation perspective. Whether you’re a student in university or an employee learning new skills or procedures at an organisation, the philosophies and systems governing education are traditionally designed from that of a top-down approach. 

Let me give you an example: In the past, education was something designed by experts who assembled the knowledge sources and materials necessary to prepare students for the next related subject or perhaps for a particular profession or overall direction. As technology was introduced into our everyday culture, it did so usually from the top down, typically in work or school simply because of the high purchase and management costs. Here, technology was meant to increase efficiencies, reduce long-term costs, and improve the dynamics for learning. Organisations were initially responsible for how we were introduced to technology and therefore how we used it. This process largely governs how we learn today.

"What’s key to understand is how people are using technology and how their behaviours, values, and expectations have evolved. Once you do, you’ll see that technology becomes an enabler for something more natural"

As cost and adoption barriers fell, technology worked its way into consumer homes. With the rise of social and mobile, technology is now part of our everyday lifestyle. The result however, is that consumer familiarity with technology and how quickly they adopt and incorporate it into all they do has outpaced that of companies and institutions. The impact is profound. People are learning, communicating and collaborating differently in their personal life. Yet elsewhere, they’re expected to follow dated protocol that is at best counterintuitive. This is causing a revolt which is only going to become increasingly dire as time and technology progress. 

Students, employees, are fuelling an escalation of expectations and demands to do things differently. At the same time, decision-makers are struggling to understand how to adapt legacy investments, systems and processes to pave the way for a more engaging and productive future for all.

Said simply, the answer is not technology. Yet, companies throw technology at problems each time with similar, lackluster or failing results. What’s key to understand is how people are using technology and how their behaviours, values, and expectations have evolved. Once you do, you’ll see that technology becomes an enabler for something more natural, creating a culture of learning and collaboration that’s more natural and successful. This gives rise to more than IT or technology experts. Digital anthropologists and other social and data scientists will help us empathise with a connected generation or Generation-C as I call them, to lead instead of react to each trend.

Brian Solis is a digital analyst and principal at Altimeter Group. You can catch his keynote at 10am on Wednesday 29 January of Learning Technologies

About Jon Kennard

About Jon Kennard

Jon Kennard is a freelance writer and social media manager, and former editor of


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