Founder and CEO Learning Futures Group
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Learning professionals: let’s get through the crisis together

As with so many other industries right now, the learning and development profession is facing a tough road ahead. How can we collaborate and innovate in order to get through the crisis in one piece?

26th Mar 2020
Founder and CEO Learning Futures Group
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In light of the ongoing global pandemic, I want to say a few words. Arguably, all I’m doing is acknowledging the obvious: that our world has been turned upside down and inside out and completely disrupted. 

That, like all of you, I am still processing the speed with which things have gone from an incredibly furious pace of travel, work and activities in the first 66 days of 2020 to an abrupt, dystopian, sobering, and, at times, terrifying halt. 

That we are all finding the situation changing by the hour. 

That any frame of reference or template that we think we have to process what’s going on quickly becomes inadequate in the face of the latest news, and the new reality. 

That the last 10 days has seen a torrent of cancellations, disappointments, business closings, and increasingly draconian social and physical constraints, as we as a species confront an ancient enemy in a new form.  

But also, that we are clear what needs to be done to protect our civilisation while our amazing friends and protectors in the scientific and medical community establish the front lines in the fight and race to develop treatments and cures.    

And that in order to address the existential threat of the CV-19 outbreak, we have to bring the global economy to a near halt... an experiment that we have not run before, and that has no precedent, certainly not in recent history.

Events in the past couple of days in the UK underline how serious this prospect is being taken by our governments.

The practice of working from home, distance learning, digitally mediated collaboration and even socialising will have profound and long lasting effects on the world of work.

Welcome to Planet ‘VUCA’

All these threats have propelled many of us with renewed force into a new world of work, with a speed and force we could never imagine. Just over a year ago, I started my ‘Learning Is The New Working’ podcast with an investigation/discussion with major Learning influencer Lisa Kay Solomon.

There, I came across a tool Lisa uses a lot in her work with clients. VUCA – Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity – is a concept that came out of US military planning. The idea is that we live in deep complexity, which should spark us to be more prepared for disruption.

But I certainly did not imagine the force and rapidity with which the forces of change would assail us, nor how it would be at this rapid, global scale.  

So, we live with VUCA. Now, we also have CV-19. It’s almost overwhelming, and I think many of us will be struggling with the challenge. But for me, the topics that have emerged through all the podcast conversations I’ve had on ‘Learning Is The New Working’, including and after Lisa, seem very relevant to me in these troubled times:

  • The need to be agile  

  • The need to question established routines 

  • The importance of sponsoring curiosity and a learning culture 

  • Using what we have, in terms of technology 

  • Taking fact and science-based approaches 

  • Running radical experiments 

  • And to focus, in both business and our real lives, on our common humanity

The willingness to collaborate and innovate is extraordinary and the best of humanity.

Coming together in tough times

It also now seems inevitable that the practice of working from home, distance learning, digitally mediated collaboration and even socialising will have profound and long lasting effects on the world of work, leadership, learning and school.

Life and work are fusing very closely to reinforce that conclusion. Here’s what I’ve seen in the past few weeks: 

  • My wife is a school administrator for the equivalent of a pre- and primary school in Seattle. I’m so impressed with how her 400 children, teachers and parents have pivoted to an online model in just one week – so far with great results, and a lot of learning! 

  • Many of my industry colleagues have moved onboarding, training and events online. Redfin, a local real estate tech company here in my city, skilled up their faculty and moved onboarding and critical training 100% online – and online simply was not their culture two weeks ago  

  • There’s a tsunami of work from home, lead from home, and online meeting etiquette tips on LinkedIn as people instinctively share best practices. ‘My home workspace’, under the stairs or on the roof or in the garage, is a new Instagram staple – as is the daily Zoom work meet and the weekend ‘drinks party’ (so important to keep us all socially connected) 

  • Last week, we pivoted our community town hall for learning professionals from our usual physical room capacity of 50 participants to an online session with over 120 participants who were energised and committed to virtually connect and share best practice and learnings  

  • Great young innovators at www.Arist.co who I work with have paired with the lovely people of Pyramid Consulting to produce a text-based micro learning course on CV-19. As we speak, volunteers are translating it so that it can be a critical resource for low-bandwidth areas of the world that we just know are next in line

I love these stories – the willingness to collaborate and innovate is extraordinary and the best of humanity. Which is good, because the current signs are that things will get worse before they improve.

  • Training providers who have only experimented with online delivery now find themselves almost a 100% in the online business. Alas, many will likely fail to generate the cashflow they need to survive and keep staff employed  

  • Many people in our profession will likely get laid off or furloughed, just as hospitality and airline workers already have. How can we help reskill or maintain skills sets? 

  • Tech vendors really need to get their acts together NOW to help home schooled children, teachers, and the unemployed/temporarily income-less 

My plea...

My plea to the global L&D community TrainingZone serves so well is to lead by learning example at this critical time:

  • Please promote legitimate sources of information

  • Look after your health and those in your space with you

  • Follow the NHS guidelines for protecting yourself, the vulnerable, and wider society

  • Take care of each other

That way, we’ll get through this in one piece, and get back to a much cooler learning future as a community – empowering all sorts of very fulfilling work for us as individuals and organisations.

Very soon. 

Chris is actively looking for the most helpful stories and practices of how we as a community are responding to the Covid-19 outbreak for his podcast. Comment below if you have a story to share.

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