Days 3 + 4 at ATD2015

Back in Belgium, here is a mini-summary of the last 2 days of ATD2015, which thanks to Harry Potter and Lufthansa, could not be delivered earlier…

Day 3

Day 4

…and that’s pretty much it. Another year of ATD conference fun over 😦

It was really great!

Thanks for reading


How to turn users into contributors – JD Dillon at ATD2015

Having spent the last 3 days missing the elusive slightly-bearded JD Dillon at ATD2015, I am in session W212 to find out how Kaplan is transforming users into contributors. Much of the time, our people know better than we do. How can we release that into the organisation? We know we are supposed to, but what are the principles and tools we need to keep in mind to make this happen?

Admitting that he has nothing original to say today (!), JD started by reminding us of one of the key messages from yesterday’s keynote speaker Sugata Mitra: “It’s not about making learning happen, but letting it happen.”

Adding to this, he notes that many learning professionals have trouble bringing something useful to the business table: We are slow, we are not the experts and we are focussed on building and pushing things into the organisation. We have limited reach, yet we still try to get everyone trained. And we are obliged to justify every last bit of our efforts and carefully spend a set budget (to get everyone trained). JD says we have to stop trying all this formal process-driven nonsense to get to the table and … BE the table.

What does that mean?

Firstly, think about the way we learn at work and compare to the way we learn at home: If I have a problem with my plumbing at home, I jump on Google or YouTube with a problem-based search in mind and find what I need to move forward with my problem right now. I don’t worry about the production value of what I find and I certainly don’t have to fill in any forms or get my manager’s permission to learn.

Why can’t learning at work be like learning at home?

Or rather: How can we shift our focus as learning professionals to make learning at work like learning at home?


We need to foster the right contribution behaviours

To ensure we have meaningful, relevant, scalable and reusable content from our users, JD proposes to focus on a few things:

  • Firstly, we need to eliminate the perfection mentality. People need to know that it’s OK to just share stuff. One minute of video doesn’t oblige 5 hours of production. Spelling mistakes are not a problem.
  • Secondly, enable bragging and helping. People who do good work should talk about that work and share their stories. Sometimes they will think that is arrogant to do this. But as users, we are all looking for content. So somebody has to share!
  • Thirdly (actually, I’m pretty sure I missed points 3+4) we need to give some kind of structure that makes it easy for people to contribute from everywhere.

In principle, this all sounds great, but there is still some cynicism from learning professionals: We worry about control and consistency. We think people will surely get things wrong. “They don’t understand people’s needs like we do.” etc etc…


Here are the tips I heard from JD and some of the attendees today and my own 2-cents on the topic:

  • Get a wiki
  • Don’t try to moderate everything – let it go and let the contributors find the balance
  • Keep a formal controlled space for the content that your company is not willing to leave in the hands of the users
  • Teach (or encourage) contributors what makes a good contribution
  • Help content-generators to “think SEO”
  • Ask people to jump in and share a story. And thank them when they do.
  • Add a little points system for sharing. People won’t generate content to get the points, but some (yes, ONLY some) will dig it and appreciate the “thanks”.
  • Keep your eye on what is happening on your system or in the organisation (report, if necessary) and use that to think about what topics are hot, where people have picked up content after a formal learning initiative etc..
  • Ask your users (consumers and content-generators) what functions or support they want on the platforms you use
  • Ask people to create little video-blogs to tell more about “how” they do what they do rathe than just writing on the “what”
  • Look for early-adopters in the organisations and whisper “requests to share” in their ears. When the latecomers start looking around, at least they will see something useful.
  • Get top-level managers to “narrate their work”. When the top-guy is doin this, it sends a message to people that it’s OK to share. But be careful with the tone.. If you can feel that your top-guy is really not the guy to set the right tone with that, DON’T ask!

Thanks for reading


The value and competence of curation

ASTD2013 Sunday session SU210 with David Kelly is under way. Participants are busy tweeting and blogging and generally making lots of Internet noise. Sounds great, eh? That’s what the new world of work is all about: Sharing content, hashtag marathons, putting everything everywhere for everyone. Right? Well maybe…

According to David Kelly, many people do not really understand what curation is about. Some do not even think about it. But in today’s fast-sharing, content “creating and commenting” learning environment, it is a critical future competency for everyone.

What is curation and why is it so important?

Most people associate curation with the role of a museum curator. That person collects and displays articles in a set place for other visiting people. In the learning world, curation is basically the same thing.

In our digital (learning) world today, there is a lot of noise. People who find, rate and share things for others create more and more Internet noise every day. Add to that the fact that production of new content is easier than ever before and we have more and more and more and more noise noise noise… So we need good curators.

Who is curating content? Who should be?

  • In 1922, Readers Digest magazine made curation famous by offering readers the chance to go to one place and get a short summary of many other magazines that they therefore no longer needed to read. A good 2013 equivalent is the Huffington Post.
  • According to David Kelly, the world today is full of curators. Anyone who browses through Facebook can find things, comment, contextualise and share for a specific audience.
  • From an organisational point of view, David suggests that curators would be well placed in learning and development functions. Curators need to have permission to look around and share (freely) and they need to have a good connection with relevant different parts of the organisation.
  • David agrees that trainers who are experts that only deliver content would do well to get interested in the curation of content. Learners who can find content by themselves may stop seeing the need for a trainer who doesn’t bring some added-value in this digital age.
  • How should we approach curation? What steps should be followed? When? How?

  • Curators need to have clear objectives and these should be matched to the types of curating activity noted below. In David’s own experience, his conference back-channel curation is really an aggregation platform (see below). His objective is to put everything together in one place so that others don’t need to do the work themselves. Bearing this in mind, he is very careful not to filter out information based on his own bias. Other curators might filter more in order to bring more relevance to the consuming audience.
  • There 3 main things to do to curate well: Listen, Analyse and Share. If you only do 2 of them, you are not really curating. When you listen, you need to analyse in order to improve relevance. If you only listen and then share without analysing, you will create more noise. If you analyse and share it will be very nicely organised, but potentially not relevant because you didn’t listen enough. And if you only listen and analyse but don’t share, you are doing PKM, not curation.
  • If you are not an expert in the field you are curating, then you must be very close the needs of your audience. You need to be able to contextualise things you share in order to bring value to them. You need to be able to answer the only 3 audience questions that count.
  • Are their different types of curation?
    According to David Kelly, there are at least 5 types of curation, which are mixed together in different ways

  • Aggregating = grabbing everything related to a given topic and putting it together
  • Filtering = taking out all the things that are not relevant
  • Elevating = making some things stand out more than others so that people can find it more easily
  • Mash-up = taking 2 unrelated things and putting them together to create something new. In a learning context, you take 2 pieces of information that seem to be linked by a theme or context and when I bring them together, they create a new message and meaning./li>
  • Timeline curation = putting things together in a chronological order
  • What are the key competences required for effective curation?

    One of the critical components of effective curation is trust. If your approach to curating things is to retweet and share and email information across an organisation or community, you risk to just make a lot more noise. People will only come back to you and follow your train of thoughts if they trust you. You have to have an attitude that makes sense to the people you are curating for. They have to see quality in what you do, so they believe that it is worth coming to “your museum”.

    3 other important things are:

  • Proximity to the learning audience. According to David Kelly, this is one major reason why traditional in-house trainers are not necessarily naturally good curators. They have the habit of solving specific problems
  • Good judgement of quality: An effective curator analyses well what is relevant for his audience.
  • Daring. Those familiar with Eli Parisier’s “filter bubble” issue will recognise that it can be useful to have a curator who throws something at people that they weren’t expecting or that their own private (Google) search would not have proposed. Machines can do a great job of filtering information: Google’s algorithms strip away the billions of available pages on the Internet to give you the best match to your search. But curators will throw in something different and daring from time to time
  • Thanks for reading and don’t forget to tune into the ASTD2013 Daily Dallas Weather Reports on during the conference…

    For more references on curation, read the following posts:

  • Harold Jarche on Personal Knowledge Management (which is NOT curation) including his ideas on filtering
  • A pre-conference post from David on the importance of curation
  • One of my posts :-/ on Community Management competences, which I think might overlap with the curation competence
  • David Kelly’s curated resource on curation:
  • 11 questions for ASTD2013 Sunday sessions

    Gearing up for the Sunday sessions of #ASTD2013 and making first choices of what to follow. Here are the sessions I’m thinking of following and the questions that come to mind…


    Session SU111 on MOOCs with Julia Wilkowski and Phil Wagner from Google

    • To which business performance and learning objectives does a MOOC best correspond?
    • Which businesses or learning audiences can best profit from a MOOC? Are MOOCS only suitable for large, multi-site organisations?
    • What are the most important principles to consider when setting up a MOOC? What steps must be taken to succeed?
    • What specific competences does a MOOC creator or facilitator need? (eg: Are Community Management skills required?)


    Session SU210 on the importance of curation with @LnDDave David Kelly

    • Why is curation such an important concept today?
    • What are the competences that must be developed to curate well?
    • How does a good curator filter and contextualise well for his people?
    • What kinds of tools and platforms can help with curation?


    Session SU301 with Shari Yocum on analysing informal networks in order to identify and develop essential business assets

    • What do you mean by “holistic analysis” and how is it conducted?
    • How can a good analysis helps to make better development choices??
    • Which tools are available and in what areas has success already been proven?


    Tune back in soon to find out what I heard!


    Thanks for reading
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    @LnDDave David Kelly on Learning Conferences in 2013

    As part of my preparation for the ASTD ICE 2013 conference in Dallas this month, I’ve been interviewing people like Tony Bingham, Juana Llorens and Frederic Williquet (coming soon). Today, its David Kelly, better known to his 3000+ Twitter followers as @LnDDave and to others as the King of the backchannel… David is speaking at the ASTD2013 International Conference and Exhibition during session SU210 “Curation: Beyond the Buzzword”. In this interview, he outlines his approach to conference success and the learning and development topics he is currently most interested in.


    Q1: In the previous conferences you have attended what have been the most interesting sessions you followed?

    I usually break conference sessions into two categories: Sessions that will provide me with knowledge and skills that I can use today and sessions that will expand my skill sets and prepare me for skills I will need tomorrow.

    I’m at a point in my career where I probably allocate my sessions to 25% “today” and 75% “tomorrow”. However, I’m lucky enough to have been in this field for about 15 years and have been to more conferences and professional development opportunities than most in the field. The average practitioner has less experience and does not regularly attend conferences, so I would expect their allocation to skew more towards skills they can use today.

    Specifically for me though, I usually try to find one or two sessions that break the mould from what you might expect from a learning professional conference. For example, some of the sessions I’ve been interested in at recent events include topics like sketch-noting, looking at design in places outside of instructional design and gaming.


    Q2: I know you’ve spoken at and attended a number of conferences in the past few years. What topics do you think still merit more work and attention in 2013?

    I recall reading a statistic recently that said the average experience of people in our field is five years. If that’s true, then most of the people in our field are likely novices. As I mentioned a moment ago, a sizable percentage of any conference audience will be new to the field and may actually be attending a conference for the first time. As such, there’s always going to be a need for entry-level programs that help those novices develop skills they can use immediately. And I think that’s very important.

    What interests me more though are the sessions that go beyond the basics and stretch the novice skills set. I think conferences need more sessions that make attendees rethink the traditional “training” paradigm; sessions that help refocus our field away from “training” and “learning” as the default and start shifting our focus towards “performance” and “contextual connections”. With that in mind, I’m hoping to see more conferences including sessions focused on topics such as telling better stories with our data, performance support instead of training, experience design over instructional design, and breaking away from the course model.


    Q3: What are according to you the 3 biggest challenges that learning and development managers will face over the next 5 years?

    Just three? I’m kidding. Here are three that immediately come to mind:

    • Redefining data: There’s a lot of buzz around data right now. If you look at most conference programs you’ll likely see sessions including terms like “Big Data”, “Tin Can” and “The Experience API”. Learning professionals need to pay attention to this. The way we define data, in terms of metrics like completions or pass/fail, is going to be replaced with data that tells a much more meaningful story around performance. The question is: Will learning professionals be ready?
    • Learning as part of the work: Traditionally, workers needed to stop work in order to learn or be trained. You needed to either leave the workplace to attend training or stop working to sit in front of a computer to complete an elearning course. That’s changing. Technology now enables learning and skill development to be built right into the existing workflow without the need to have an employee stop working to attend ‘training’. It’s less intrusive and fits better into the model of how workers really learn how to do their jobs. The problem is: The traditional training skill set does not support playing in that space.
    • Shifting from “knowing” to “connecting”: The shelf life of information is decreasing rapidly while the speed in which performance support interventions are required is increasing even faster. In today’s world of exponentially increasing data it is impossible to know everything. What is therefore far more important is to be able to find the answer to anything in a timely manner. With that in mind the role of the learning professional shifts away from building and delivering solutions towards building connections between those with needs and those with the resources that satisfy the need. This involves competencies that are new to the learning profession such as curation and community management.


    Q4: People not attending a conference can follow content via your backchannel “hub page”. Do you have ideas on how they can get more actively involved during conference week?

    Without question the best way to be more involved in a conference backchannel is to prepare yourself for it ahead of time. Many people want to participate, but don’t regularly use Twitter, where most backchannels today take place. That’s a recipe for failure. The value of a backchannel comes from the sharing and from the connections and interactions you have with other like-minded professionals. You can’t concentrate on “what to tweet” to participate in a backchannel if you’re still struggling with “how to tweet”.


    Q5: What are your own personal objectives for conferences this year?

    My objectives for conferences are actually pretty consistent when examined at a high level. They include:

    • Learning about the trends that will impact our industry in the future.
    • Looking for sessions that might provide answers to problems I am actively trying to solve.
    • Connecting with attendees and continue to expand my personal learning network.


    Maybe you have a question for David yourself? He will be speaking at the ASTD2013 International Conference and Exhibition during session SU210 “Curation: Beyond the Buzzword”.

    You can find him on Twitter and keep in touch with his opinion on the ever changing world of learning and development.

    Or you can leave a comment here.

    Thanks for reading!


    David Kelly headshot

    David Kelly is the Program Director for The eLearning Guild based out of New York, USA. He has over over 15 years of experience in the learning field, serving capacities of training director, internal learning and performance consultant, social media trainer and community manager. Regularly referenced as king of the conference backchannel, David is also a Twitter chat curator. Learn more about David at his website: