Future

Future gazing

The few days spent in Washington DC attending the annual conference of the World Future Society was quite an experience. ( Detailed agenda and such else is here ).  I had curated a collection of tweets from the conference and was published by team Founding Fuel earlier.

The future has been a topic of interest for a long while and the new ideas and conversations with several other futurists has only deepened it even further. Our future emerges at a faster clip that we dont often get to see the resultant changes that envelope us. How will our lives change with all the technology around? Will we live longer? Will we be happier? What would we drive around in? How will we learn? What will be life like in the age of our kids? How do we prepare them for that future? And of course, how will the future of work shape up? These and more questions abounded when I went in.

I intend publishing a few more blogposts over the next few weeks and share some ideas, learning and experiences. As always, I seek your responses, comments and ideas.

For now, here is what got published at Founding Fuel earlier.

New realities for the future

Some spring cleaning lead to this post. Yes. Out stumbled an old Nokia E 61i. It was a prized possession a few years ago. It was in colour and had a fantastic QWERTY keyboard. Those were the pre-iPhone days. There were no apps nor was there Whatsapp. Life was good! Frankly, the dead device rekindled memories of a rather lively time!

This prompted a wonder about our commentary in the future of the times that we live in now. How will the future look like? I didn’t have to go far for pointers.

For Robert Scoble & Shel Isreal are at it again.  A book is in the works. Their earlier books had held my attention and I was rather taken by their commentary. Naked Conversations especially was of great interest. Remember, this was 2006!

In a series of blogposts, Shel Israel has been publishing excerpts from the book that is in the works. The book is called ‘Beyond Mobile : Life after smartphones’

It is a startling picture of the future. Of what it will be without smartphones. They write “It will become less important to life and business and we will start using it less and less. We see a future for it similar to the landline phone of yore. Someday a decade more into the future, you will wonder why you need the device and be locked into a carrier contract for something you don’t really much use anymore”

This is tough to imagine. Sitting where we are, where the growth and dominance of mobile phones and how they have become an extended arm of sorts to our lives is daily lore. But given the early signs, this clearly is possible.

“In fact, it is moving more and more faster : more and more is happening and fewer and fewer things will not be affected”. They speak of four engines that will drive this.

a. Mixed Reality : ‘What is now VR and AR will converge into one technology, MR…By 2025 MR glasses will replace todays smartphone”

b. Digital Genies :  A new term coined by these folks to describe devices and software that use AI.

c. Autonomous Cars

d. Robots

These are in their early stages now, used by gamers and the like. There is a line in the post that caught my attention like none else. “The products that start revolutions aren’t the ones that finish them”

The earliest versions of each of these technologies are well in place. Used by gamers and other niche players. Mainstream product based application and use is a good distance away, from what the authors imagine. Yet, possibilities of what can get built ON TOP OF these baby steps is astounding. To say the least!

They proceed to talk of how the young will lead a cultural chasm of sorts. The millennials and their coming of age is but a predictable road. I sincerely hope they will go beyond this popular commentary. The idea that a classificiation based on ‘age’ alone has validity that goes the full distance is beyond real. ’Millenials’ to me is not as much age, as much as it is a ‘state of mind’. By the way, the authors have coined a new demographic called ‘minecrafters’ who follow the ‘millenials’.  I have a few of those folks in the family too!

A world where the collective imagination of every generation that walks and survives is important for our future. Not just the young by age!

I hope the authors will explore other areas. Like how the leapfrogging of technology platforms in developing economies will cause even wider chasms in society. Or for that matter, how the ever widening gulf between between aspirations and opportunities can wreck our collective future. Perhaps, how the circular economy will be of greater relevance given the finite supply of rare earth. All of these affect mobile phones and will have a bearing on the post mobile scenario as well.

Even as we await the book, these are times for us to pause and ponder on the dynamics of our lives and their interplay with technology. A future without the ubiquitous mobile phone seems round the corner. While it provides for great progress it also sets amidst us a degree of imbalance. How much more will we have to bend at the altar of invasive technology driven lives, what all components of our lives will it touch, time will tell.

All this translates to new ways of doing business as well. That it will change is sure. To what degree, however, remains a question reserved for the rookie swimmer at the deep end of the pool. Gasping for fresh air every time he comes to the surface.

Perhaps the deepest of our troubles lie in being able to navigate some of the legacy systems and mental models that we have inherited AND fly the plane in new directions.  Often times, a mere imagination of the scale of required change causes organisations and leaders to freeze where they are.

Experiments may fail, can cause much derision and not take off as envisaged. Yet, it is important to place bets, take calls and move on.  Bets that seem rather outlandish in the current context may well be what pays off in the long run.

There are several organisations that are placing big bets and making smart moves. One such that I saw and experienced first hand is TATA Tiscon. TATA Tiscon is in the business of making steel rebars. A few months ago, I was exposed to some new thinking thats on at TATA Tiscon’s marketing team.  What caught my eye was the  investment that company was making, in helping customers make informed choices about buying rebars. Retail stores fully equipped with Virtual Reality based technologies to help consumers imagine the quality of construction and choose between the various rebars was a pleasant surprise.

VR TATA Tiscon Exp

I am not privy to  its impact on sales /  purchase decision / brand mindshare owing to this technology.  What warmed the cockles was the fact that the organisation is bold enough to experiment. Especially so, given the category and the general assumption that  immediate customers may not be the ones articulating the need for such a technology.

There are several organisations that that are making this move. Most of it is a bit of a struggle and wonder.  Making these moves is a bit of walking in the dark.  But it is important to keep moving and leverage its effects over time. The value of such experiments is more in the lessons they teach than in the immediate numbers they bring.  This is hustling. The opposite of this hustling is to stay still. That stasis is death.

People like Shel Isreal and Robert Scoble can get on the roof top and holler about things that they see. It requires gumption and an energy to start thinking and acting on these as individuals and communities. We all need to do so. We have never been limited by technologies but only by our imagination.

There is a different effect of not imagining with courage and hustling. You know what that is. The Nokia device reminds me of that.

Disclaimer : The TATA Tiscon experience was part of a blogger program put together by Blogadda.com. A different blogpost had resulted then  

Seeking new frontiers in L&D

Fly

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way….

The immortal lines of Charles Dickens as he opened “A Tale of Two Cities”.

Those opening lines seem so very appropriate to the state of Learning & Development in the world right now. The world is changing at a pace that can mildly be described as ‘too rapid for comfort’.

The disruption caused by technology on different cultures, the way we lead our lives, our connections with people, our aspirations and the power to express our thoughts in the mode of sharing are so fundamentally different from what we have ever seen before.

At the core of this are people and their lives. In society and in corporate settings.

So whats different in the corporate world? Several aspects!  The four that come to my mind now are these.

a. Organisations are different – Hierarchies are creaking and breaking. The paradigm of engagement is changing. Command and control is giving way to the importance of ‘discretionary effort’. Yet at another level the patience for the long term is slowly beginning to be usurped by success in the ‘next quarter’.

b. Leadership – Transparency. Sustainability. Agility. Ethical Standards. Comfort with social technologies. Comfort with flat organisations with an absolute anchor on authenticity. Suddenly there is a draft of new expectations from every leader. Current and more importantly, the future will bear unmistakable imprints of this time.

c. Technology shifts – Mobile, social technologies and cloud computing has broken down walls and has given way to innumerable ways of sharing and learning on a scale that is not only unprecedented but has also lead personal choices to prevail over collective mandates

d. Employee mindsets have moved. From a time where employees were dependent on the organisations for devices, connectivity and gateways to knowledge have had a massive change with democratisation of all the vectors.

These obviously provide enough of imperative to massive change that is required in the Learning & Development teams. Some questions include

  • How do we move from (Information Rich + interaction Poor) ways of learning to (Interaction Rich + contextual relevance + democratized many to many) modes of learning.
  • How do we move from ‘interventions’ to ‘embedding of learning in work’. How should jobs be designed for the new world?
  • What new mindsets must be embedded into the DNA of organisations in the new world, for which, what new ways of thinking must CLOs and L&D teams imbibe?

Questions of this ilk need greater discussion and the collaborative conscience and mindshare of a diverse array of minds which is precisely what we will attempt at #IndiaHRChat (better explained here)

Now #IndiaHRChat on Twitter, hosted by Dr.Tanvi Gautam has, within a short time, evolved into a wonderful medium for such discussions to flourish. Previous hosts have included Dr.Anand Pillai, Yash Mahadick, Sairee, ElangoGurprriet Siingh. The chat logs are all available for you to check out the the multifaceted views that emerge.

The discussion on titled “L&D : The Next Frontier is scheduled for 7.00 PM IST, 28th Aug 2013 and am a guest in the program. Please do join in. Wherever you are.

The conversations will be for an live for 60 minutes and hopefully will continue for sometime in your workplaces thereafter!  Thequestions that we will discuss answers about

1. How is learning & development different today than it was 5 years ago ?

2. Where does the ultimate ownership of workforce learning lie – employer/employee/both ?

3. What should be the mandate & outcomes that L&D teams should strive for ?

4. What does it take for a CLO and his/her team to become and stay successful ?

5. What is coming in the way of L&D reaching the next frontier ?

6. What is the biggest challenge in organizations adopting more ‘social’ forms of learning

7.  What is your biggest take away from today’s chat ? – 

To make the best use of our time together, it would be wonderful if you could make time to go over the stuff below to set the context for our conversation. A pre-read of sorts! 🙂

This is also available as a Internet Time Alliance Whitepaper in PDF format here. Irrespective of jumping into the chat or otherwise, I recommend you make the time to read this stuff and reflect!

This is a work of Jane Hart and the Internet Time Alliance, a set of people who have been at the bleeding edge of leading the L&D space to the new frontier. I read this piece a couple of years ago and believe most aspects of this work will continue to be relevant for some time to come.

So there, #IndiaHRChat sure looks like its going to be an interesting time. It would be wonderful to hear your views on the questions. If for some reason you aren’t going to be there, do leave a comment here or a tweet to me ( @_kavi)  and I will tweet it out to the group on your behalf.

Learning & Development has the opportunity to create meaningful difference to the future of organisations and if you extend it, to societies as well. To make that difference, every single view will count and your participation, whatever you do for a living, will be important.  Would be lovely to see you  then.

Crystal ball gazing! L&D in 2013 & times ahead.

The Chief Learning Officer Magazine group on Linkedin had a question : “What learning and development trends are you anticipating in 2013?”  What started out as simple crystal ball gazing into 2013 ended with a slew of points, which I then brought down to the Top 10.   Read on!

2013 will see employees born in the 1990s coming into organisations. The world has always been different for this generation. A world where the internet has always been available. Choice is central. Freedom is valued. Authority is irrelevant if it doesn’t add value! Thus 2013 and the next few years will perhaps be the inflection points where fundamental changes in the way L&D ( & organisations ) operate will commence taking place.

Obviously, different parts of the world are differently placed to leverage what the year ahead has to offer. Some technologically advanced & privileged and yet others rich in contexts and physical interactions. Therefore, the challenges and trends are going to be remarkably different.

Yet, here are a few trends. Perhaps, hopes that I nurture for 2013 and the times ahead.

1. Principally, learning & development will have a whole lot to answer. ‘Outcome accountability’ will supersede ‘action accountability’. The age old question of effectiveness will continue to hold court. But with even greater focus. A question that wont get answered by a meaningless set of numbers but by a coherent change, seen in the field.

2. 2013 hopefully will see L&D and line managers reach out to each other and collectively own accountability for employee learning and organisational growth. Or rather, they will be forced to. (Or so I hope!). Learner and line manager accountability will have more mind share than the present.

3. The need to think BEYOND the classroom and e-learning courses will not only be acutely felt, it would be persistently demanded by leadership teams. With economies and organisations still negotiating uncharted territories, the need for cost effective long lasting change will stand tall. Not fancy courses, exotic locations, flash and binders. Action Learning and similar pedagogies will get far greater mileage than what they get now.

4. Imaginative blends that have accent on ‘choice’, enabling employees to choose what is most required for himself / herself will begin emerging. And these choices will not be limited to what the L&D team can put together but all that is available in the world! L&D would well not be gatekeepers but rather facilitate employees leveraging these better. MOOCs & Personal Learning Networks are cases in point. With commoditization of information and knowledge, L&D could well move to being ‘levers’ to help learners and their managers to access their own learning

5. The accent of ‘performance’ on the learning agenda will increase and thus ‘performance support’ and ‘transfer of learning’ will gain far more importance than ‘learning’ itself. (The outcomes superseding action theme applies here as well).

6. Executive Coaching as a performance support tool will emerge stronger than it is today. This capability for executive coaching coming from within or from learning services organisations.

7. The technology enabled learning space will grow far beyond the confines of an LMS and E-Learning courses. The primacy of ‘What do you know’, slowly getting replaced by ‘Who do you know that knows what you want to know’. Experts and expertise that resided with a few will increasingly get to reside in the open space for people to access. And more often than not, beyond the organisation’s firewall. (The organisation’s firewall in itself could undergo a change, to include vendors, suppliers et al!)

8. Technology will enable byte sized chunking of learning and creating opportunities for employees to learn anytime. Easy and ready to access formal learning content, user generated content and curated content, at the time of actual requirement for learning / reinforcement. Mobiles, tablets, laptops will all be vehicles to access content resting on the cloud, ready to be accessed closest to actual performance. Technology will sure change the anachronistic methods of evaluation and hopefully lead us to a purposeful use of big data.

9. The importance of line leaders taking ownership of organisational learning and all kinds of investment in employee development will start getting more acutely felt. Thus comprehensive learning interventions that are led by co-designed and co-facilitated by line managers will see greater emphasis. Not only will it hold great value for employees, it would pave the way for contextual leadership building as well. L&D to get line managers skilled and willing to do this more often will be key to success

10. All of these would mean the need for L&D folks to critically look at their own portfolio of talent and skills will emerge stronger than ever! L&D leaders who weave imaginative, cost effective solutions in partnership with employees/ line leadership resulting in meaningful, measurable impact will be sought after!

Like always, would love to hear your views.