Martyn Lewis

Martyn Lewis is an esteemed entrepreneur, sales strategist, facilitator and keynote speaker. The founder of two successful companies—Market-Partners and its spinoff, 3g Selling—Martyn brings to his speaking engagements a singular combination of subject matter mastery and applied experience. Deeply attuned to the needs and expectations of his audience, Martyn’s delivery style is always characterized by warmth, wit and a vigorous engagement with the topic he’s presenting on. He encourages his audience to push beyond conventional modes of thinking, and is visionary in his ability to anticipate and articulate emerging trends and challenges.

Can I Get a Copy of the Slides? The Case for Blended Training

There is always at least one. One person in a training program, or worse still, that couldn’t make it to the program, that asks, “Can I get a copy of the slides?”  I am on a personal mission to never hear anyone ask for a copy of the slides again.

Why do we so often hear people ask for a copy of the slides?  Simply put, it is in the belief that the learning content of the training program exists across a sequential series of PowerPoint slides. It is the belief that if you were to “read” the slides, you could get the content, rather like reading a book.

However, in defense of those who ask that question, we have trained them to think this way. Frequently training programs are designed, or rather not designed, by using PowerPoint like a book upon which to spread out our content.

We have been thinking about training this way now for some 200 years; essentially the flow of information from an expert to the learners. All the requisite learning content – the information – is then put into the PowerPoint slide deck.

The traditional physical classroom has only helped to reinforce this vision of learning. Our learners are held captive for hours, often days, while the content is poured from the expert through PowerPoint and into their brains. Of course, as learning and development professionals, we know that this isn’t the best recipe for success. Nevertheless, training all too often revolves around this approach.

It’s time to fully embrace the new vehicles and approaches to learning. In a world where millions of people are learning any manner of assorted topics from YouTube. Where a significant percentage of the total population of the world collaborates on Facebook. Where people take it for granted that they can gain access to all types of information from their phone. It remains a frustrating, and a total mystery, to me why organizations still, in large part, think they have to put people in physical classrooms to learn.

We do, however, need to learn new habits. Perhaps one of the most important reasons for still putting people in classrooms is to hold them hostage.  Over the years people have largely learned to show up on time, stay put, and to limit the number of interruptions during the event itself.  However, this same level of discipline is not shown for learning in the virtual world.  The habits associated with virtual and self-paced learning are more to procrastinate and allow any interruption to be a distraction.  It’s sad to think that the only real value associated with the traditional classroom are the walls.  We have to help people learn the new habits for successful virtual learning.

In a similar way, people have learned that if they are having to get a flight to get to the physical classroom, they must be there on time. People know that the plane won’t wait for them, not even a minute. With very few exceptions, they manage to board on time and switch off their phones for the duration of the flight. However, they have not yet adopted the same habits when it comes virtual learning.

Our role as learning and development professionals is to transform ourselves from the designers and deliverers of training events to the architects and enablers of learning journeys.

So, no, you can’t have the PowerPoint slides. The content is not actually there. The content is totally disseminated. It’s dynamic. It’s in the conversations, the collaboration, and the knowledge we gain through the various experiences curated on our perpetual learning journey. In today’s world, the content is not in a slide deck, it should be available to learners anywhere, anytime.

Martyn Lewis

Founder, 3GS

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Feeding the Curiosity

Passionately Curious

“I have no special talents, I am only passionately curious.”   Albert Einstein

A study by Korn Ferry, the world’s largest executive search firm, referenced in today’s WSJ asked the question what is the most important characteristic in a CEO. The answer was learning agility. The Journal asked Garry Burnison, the CEO of Korn Ferry, what exactly is learning agility. Interestingly, he stated that it “comes down to people’s willingness to grow, to learn, to have an insatiable curiosity. He went on to share the importance to an organization of innovation and a workforce that is “incredibly curious”. The article goes on to underscore the importance to an organization of having employees that are curious, can learn, can adapt and can innovate. Not really new stuff and to anyone who has been remotely involved in learning and development this will all seem like elementary logic.

It led me to think about what organizations are doing to inspire and feed their employee’s curiosity. Outside of the work place I would argue that our curiosity is actually being over-inspired and over-feed. It is all too easy to Google away and learn just about anything. We can easily lose track of time as our curiosities are fed through Facebook, LinkedIn and other social platforms. However, what do we see in the workplace? Few organizations have used technology to inspire, motivate, and turn on the curiosity of their employees. Sure they may have made their employee handbook available online but is that the limit of possibilities. I think not.

The time is overdue for organizations to think about the development of their workforce in new and different ways. The notion of training simply being delivered at a specific time, in a specific place, to a group of learners all at the same time is out of step with today’s world.

To feed the curiosity of the workforce, and to reap the undeniable rewards of a more agile, innovative, and adaptive organization, we have to re-architect, rethink, and redesign how training and development is enabled. We have to undergo the transformation from developing and delivering training events to architecting and enabling learning journeys. Learning journeys that leverage technology to offer individualized training when it is required, where it required. Technology that enables simple and effective collaboration, sharing and exploration between individuals across the organization.

It’s time to harness the power of technology, rethink corporate training, and feed the curiosity of the workforce.

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The Rush to Provide Instruction Online

In this week’s Economist there is an article about the “rush to provide stand-alone instruction on line” in higher education title “Massive open online forces”.  Although the article focuses on higher education I think it is very pertinent because it is the students that live in this world that will soon be representative of our work force. Here are a few comments and thoughts (quotes shown by quotation marks) on  from the article that can be found at http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21595901-rise-online-instruction-will-upend-economics-higher-education-massive.

 Background

  • “Teaching has been constrained by technology”
  • “a student needed to be in a lecture hall to hear a professor or around a table to debate with fellow students”
  • “Innovation is eliminating those constraints”

Trends

  • “Online is replacing offline”
  • “Even those living on campus may nonetheless learn largely online, skipping lectures and only reporting for the final exam”
  • “the rush to provide stand-alone instruction online”

Economics

  • “adding students (in the old physical way) is expensive”
  • In the physical world…“lecturers can teach at most a few hundred students”
  • “The fixed cost of creating an online course is relatively high” but adding students is low

Style

  • I have been set totally against MOOCS (massively open online courses) due to their lack of interactivity, so it is really interesting to notes now how MOOCS are usually always associated with discussion forums and the chance to interactive virtually with the lecturers

Results

  • “An analysis of over 1,000 studies of online course results conducted by America’s Department of Education found that people who complete such courses do better on average than students in face-to-face instruction”

I strongly believe that this is the way of the of the future, and it is now a change management effort to transition everyone there rather than either a lack of technological capability or a question of “if”.

 

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You can’t innovate at a distance – are you kidding me?

One of the big debates this morning comes from Yahoo’s decision to bring all of their employees into the office in the name of innovation. The pros and cons of telecommuting, or “working at home”, have been debated for decades, but I believe we are at a tipping point as illustrated by the amount of discussion on this topic this morning.

When considering the merits of the virtual workforce it is not a case of if this works; it’s a case of how this works. As with any major shift in cultural norms and working practices, it takes time. And it requires old habits to be broken and new habits to be formed. I could state the many benefits of adopting a more balanced approach to simply requiring people to be in the office 9 to 5 Monday to Friday, but these are largely already known. The key, though, is in learning how to work virtually, how to collaborate virtually, how to lead virtually, and indeed how to innovate virtually. It can be done.

3GS is viewed as a leader in innovative ways in which to move training out of the physical classroom and into the virtual world. This move to the virtual classroom is also seen by many as inferior to traditional classroom training But we have now shown that we can new approaches to learning can deliver superior results to the physical classroom It does, however, require behaving and thinking differently.

There are so many examples of how technology has enabled us to live our lives very differently, and virtually. I personally coach, from my home office, young adults in South Africa that are among the most innovative individuals I have ever worked with. Just ask any group of teenagers how they collaborate and innovate – oh, and you better do this by texting them as you likely won’t find them in one place for long.

I totally agree with Richard Branson that this move by Yahoo is a step backwards. More however, I think it is indicative of a lack of innovation to adopt the new approaches necessary to make this work.

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Why Training Doesn’t Work

Technology has enabled us to work, live and play in dramatically different ways. We can now easily and instantly communicate with others around the globe and gain access to a wealth of knowledge and information anywhere and at any time. This allows us to deliver training in dramatically new ways. No longer do we have to hold our learners hostage in a physical classroom. Instead, we can deliver training to them over the web anywhere and at any time. However, most people find that it is almost next to impossible to engage a learner in a live virtual classroom when they have so many distractions, demands on their time and nobody physically present to “motivate” them to stay with the program. In some instances they try to spice up their webinars with techniques and approaches to gain some level of interaction.  Even then, many still find that the virtual classroom is a poor and distant cousin to the traditional physical classroom. As a result, many organizations have decided that virtual training really won’t work. There are, however, two very significant faults in this conclusion.

First, the physical classroom is rarely a highly effective environment for learning. Ironically, the biggest benefit to the classroom is its ability to hold the learner physically hostage as the mind can still wander just as quickly as when the learner is participating in a virtual class. More importantly, people have become highly tolerant of poor training, whether physical or virtual, as the benchmark is so low. They may sit for an hour or more listening to information that is only marginally relevant to them. They may be asked to participate in an exercise that is not really applicable to their own roles or needs. How often have your heard someone share that from a day in a training class the best they could hope for would be to pick up one or two good ideas? Finally, consider how quickly the content of a training program decays, and the extent that a participant ends up actually changing their behavior and/or applying new knowledge or approaches due to a training course. The bar is indeed set very low.

Second, the seemingly logical conclusion that you can’t gain someone’s attention when you are remote and they can so easily become distracted is totally flawed. The broadcast media has been doing this for years. It is quite easy to flip channels or walk away from the television set, a purely one-way media, yet we stay glued in front of the television happily watching anything from historical documentaries to the most inane of reality shows.

When faced with the opportunity to provide training in new ways, (perhaps moving a program that was previously delivered in a physical classroom to the live virtual classroom), it is not a simple case of doing what we have always done. It is not a case of moving content from the physical to the virtual classroom and using flashier PowerPoint with some polls and questions. Technology has enabled us to do what we haven’t done before so why do we continue to use technology to do what we have always done?

We must rethink, redesign and rearchitect our training programs like never before. Previously, when designing training for the physical classroom we had massive constraints. Constraints that were so obvious we now take them for granted, such as:

  • The fixed number of participants in the class
  • The duration of the program
  • The very high costs and time constraints of including multiple facilitators and subject matter experts
  • The necessity of delivering all that was required in one shot
  • The inability to observe and work with participants as they apply new knowledge and skills in the workplace

When designing training for the virtual world these are no longer constraints, and indeed become opportunities.  For example, we can now work with participants over a matter of weeks as they now not only learn, but apply and then share their own real-world experiences.

The rearchitecting of our approaches to training in the virtual world has very little to do with flashing up our PowerPoint and introducing some polls. We need to rethink how we will achieve our learning objectives with many, many more approaches that we ever had when constrained by the physical classroom. At the same time we can learn a great deal from the broadcast media and start making our learning programs far more relevant and engaging to our learners. We should also be using the time we do have with learners to engage them in ways that spawn collaboration and truly do move from the “sage on the stage” to the “guide on the side.”  Our live virtual classroom should be an environment where there is a high degree of collaboration, sharing of ideas between learners and experts, and discussion about what the learners are finding as they implement new ideas and approaches in the real world. This is a very long way from an individual presenting PowerPoint over the web.

If your L&D organization is still asking, “How do we engage learners in a webinar?” they may be asking the wrong question. The question should be, “How do we architect learning programs that create results?” By using technology, we have the ability to architect programs that are continuous in nature versus bounded by the time we have people captive in a classroom. Learning should be blended in terms of delivery modalities and integrate new knowledge, application, coaching and reflection. We should also consider the aspects of change management that will enable our learners to move through their learning experiences in a motivated and supportive fashion. If we are simply focusing on how to deliver a better webinar we are missing the big picture and the real opportunity to do something truly impactful for the learner and for the organization.

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Training As If Your Life Depended On It

Would you ever think of sending an untrained fireman into a burning building? Are your employees equally prepared for what they may face in their jobs?

A recent edition of The Economist reported on the fact that computer-based simulation is now being used to train the military. The trend of training military personnel by immersion in a simulation of life-threatening situations, battles and maneuvers did not necessarily come as a surprise to me. The part that did surprise me was the fact that in these training exercises, circuits are attached to trainees, giving them electrical shocks when they make a wrong move. Such shocks represent being hit, or even killed, by enemy fire. That’s one heck of a way to motivate an individual and truly engage them in the learning experience!

It led me down a path of thinking: what if we did the same thing. What if there was a clear and painful consequence of not staying engaged in the training, missing something of importance or failing to implement what was learned. We too could offer training as if the learner’s life depended on it. It wasn’t long though before the somewhat happy state of thinking about gaining participant’s attention in this way reversed back around, leaving me to wonder just how prepared we are, as learning professionals, to construct training in such a way that we could be sure we are “shocking” the right individual at the right time and for the right reason. The Economist article on military training simulations talked about the dramatic lengths the program designers must go to in order to ensure the training is relevant, up-to-date and realistic and that it truly factors in all of the variables that may impact performance on the job. Isn’t this what separates most simulations from real-life experiences?

Consider this: how often have we facilitated role plays, case studies or exercises in our training programs that may offer some degree of learning benefit but fail to capture the complexity of real-world situations? It is my belief that this is yet another reason why so many training courses being offered today are questioned both by the learner and by the sponsor as to their real return. Do they simply offer a few tips and tricks, or do they offer real learning experiences?

I suggest, therefore, before we start hooking up our own learners to electric shocks, we need to look to ourselves first. How relevant is our training and how does it truly model what happens in the real-world? How do we break out of the tendency to drown people with new information in a physical classroom and how do we start coaching and supporting our learners—over time—as they implement and apply new skills and knowledge within the complexity of the real world in which we are asking them to perform. It’s time to rethink how we design and deliver training for today’s workforce!

On this note, 3GS recently presented at the CLO Spring 2012 Symposium, where we attended various sessions and met with senior leaders in learning. Throughout the many conversations we had, we noted a clear focus on the future of learning and on the virtual classroom. While there were many presentations on how to embrace social/mobile and virtual learning, there was a notable lack of thought leadership on how to put all of these great tools together in a way that would offer a more strategic approach to creating a continuous and blended learning environment.

As leaders in learning we have not only the opportunity, but the obligation, to rethink how we design and deliver learning but the key to success is not a simple case of doing what we have always done. It is not a case of simply moving content from the physical to the virtual classroom or offering training on a tablet or micro learning on a PDA. These tools give us more choices than ever but to truly engage learners and to deliver information and training to the right people at the right time our approach to design must be reconsidered.

With an eye toward laying out a vision of what truly effective virtual training can and should look like, Nicki Bouton of 3GS delivered a session at last week’s CLO Spring Symposium that focused on designing effective learning experiences.  If you didn’t attend the conference I would invite you to download a copy of her presentation here or to register for a live recording click here.

Nicki’s session explored the following aspects of creating a blended and continuous approach to learning:

  • The model for live virtual training vs. physical classroom training
  • The critical difference between live and asynchronous virtual training, and how the chosen modality impacts effectiveness
  • The optimal architecture of a total, continuous learning environment
  • The top five traps that inhibit virtual training impact—and how to overcome them

3GS’s dynamic approach to live, instructor-led virtual training equips learning and development decision-makers with a convenient, cost-effective training approach that outperforms both the physical classroom and basic webinar-style virtual training in the areas of learner engagement, training results and business impact.

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What’s In, What’s Out for Training in 2012

Having just returned from presenting at the Training 2012 Conference, it’s a good time to reflect on the emerging trends for the year, using this major event as a litmus test for the industry.  Hours spent walking the expo floor, talking to numerous delegates, listening to the keynotes and participating in many break out sessions, I’m left with the impression that our world has changed in the last year or two.  My own observations would lead me to believe that we have shifted from being caught up in many futuristic technologies to the more pragmatic development and delivery of effective training.

Here’s my top 3 “What’s In and What’s Out” list.

WHAT’S IN

#1 A Results Orientation
This top trend was not just apparent in the conversations regarding measurement and business impact, but there was also a prevailing theme of the importance of how we deliver training.  There was a much stronger emphasis on the training method as being vital to achieving the desired impact upon the learner and the organization.

#2 Blended Learning
There is a continual and understandable focus on delivering training, or better still enabling training, in multiple and different ways.  I was at the conference to deliver a session on best practices for live virtual training as part of the very extensive and well-attended conference stream on the live virtual classroom.  Although I haven’t counted, I would estimate that at least 30% of all the breakout sessions focused on what we could call a non-traditional way of delivering training.  There is clearly a plethora of ways to enable training other than putting people into a physical classroom and yet there is some sort of notable fear of change that leads people to cling to the tradition of the physical classroom setting where learners are held hostage for several days while information is fire-hosed at them.  Seriously, is that the best we can do?  Wake up and look around you, that isn’t the way we work, play or learn anymore!  Let’s step up as learning leaders and focus on the new methods that translate into more effective ways in which to develop and deliver training experiences.

#3 Sales Training
It has been a few years since I saw the emphasis on training sales teams that there was at this event.  A number of the breakout sessions were focused purely on training sales people.  Connecting this observation with my #1 above, I also saw that just about every session or conversation on sales training revolved around how to deliver sales training that directly impacts sales results.

WHAT’S OUT

#1 Avatars
The focus we saw just a few years ago that would have led us to believe that the future of training would see us all immersed in virtual reality and learning through the use of an avatar has all but disappeared.  Not to say I didn’t see some very effective ways in which to learn using the online word and simulation, but the total simulated “second life” style of learning seems to have lost its gloss.  Perhaps this is a direct result of the undeniable trend of cost cutting.  To create effective immersive virtual reality is anything but cheap.

#2 Technology for Technology’s Sake
No doubt many participants had iPads and various tablets with them, and many of the exhibitors may have been using these devices too, but the focus we saw a year ago on mobility and technology seems to have diminished.  Once again, I would suggest that this is the result of tightening budgets and a focus on what we can do today to impact results.  It is no longer about the technology itself–it’s about how we enable effective learning.

#3 Motivation Masquerading as Learning
For far too many years we have seen what I would call motivational events, games or speakers being used in the training landscape.  While there is nothing wrong with a good motivational event to “pump up” the crowd, these can’t be mistaken for training that delivers new learning.  Perhaps as a result of my #1 observation of What’s In, I see the focus moving away from motivation masquerading as learning.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the motivational speaker at an event as much as anyone else, but as was noted at several times throughout the conference, enabling effective learning and delivering results does not come down to a motivational event.

As ever, I enjoyed the ability to mix and mingle with so many leaders in the world of training, and perhaps pick up on a few of the trends that will drive us and the industry during the course of 2012.

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