The 10 most important questions for ATD2015

It’s that time of the year again where weary trainers and learning managers shuffle out of their caves to meet up with their geeky friends and ATD it ’til the sun goes down. In my own cave, I fired-up my iPad app for the ATD 2015 International Conference and Exposition to see what’s on the agenda and how I will spend my long-awaited 5 days in the sunshine state of Florida. A few questions came to mind…


1 What will I learn, if anything?

This is my 4th consecutive year at the conference and although the question may seem a little arrogant, I am wondering exactly what I will learn this year and what new topics could possibly still be left. This is the first year I don’t have “some learning-thing” on my mind before leaving. And although I always come away with a thin-red-learning-line, I can’t imagine what it will be this time.


2 What’s in a name?

Since this is the 1st year ASTD is not ATD, will anything be different? Will we truly be innudated with Hollywood Talent producers, as the new-name-naysayers suggested in 2014? Or is “talent” just another way of saying L+D ?


3 Will JD Dillon still have a beard?

Seriously.. I saw him in Vegas for TK15 and literally didn’t realise it was him for about the first 30 seconds. Only by a process of association with Justin Brusino and Bianca Woods did I manage to extend my hand to the strange bearded fellow and say “hello”.




4 What is the obsession with “rock” in the learning world?

When choosing sessions to (maybe) follow, I keep seeing this word in titles. If I follow them all, I’ll come home standing out as a rock-star at work and training like a rock-star … whilst turning my boss into a rock-star , as well as my company’s learning content and having had my brain rocked. And all of that before I even squeeze through tht back-door to get into what will surely be a sell-out neuroscience session with David ( …. wait-for-it … ) Rock.


5 (In the same vein) Is there really NeuroScience in everything?

If you search the ATD conference site for sessions with the word “neuroscience” in the title, you will get even more results than you would for “rock”. It’s in our training effectiveness, our behavioural change, Captain Kirk and Mr Spock’s decision making, happiness, performance advancement and performance management, person biases, leadership , employee engagement and learning design. So, if everyone and everything has something to do with neurosciences, question 5 is actually 3 more questions:

  • Did someone hypnotise the advisory board before they chose all these sessions?
  • Will the rooms for the NeuroLeadership Institute sessions be sold-out as I predicted above (as they rightly should be, because David and Josh are awesome) or will the neuroscience-lovers spread themselves out elsewhere?
  • Should I have entitled my own session “The NeuroScience of Social Media for Formal Learning” ?


9 (see above, it works, honestly) Did Rick Lozano pack an extra guitar to jam with me and is he going to dress as Elvis for his sessions?

If there IS one rock session you should follow, its Rick’s. Seriously – if you don’t go and see at least ONE of Rick’s TWO sessions (really – they gave him two!) you will miss the opportunity to move like Jagger. I followed him before and it was awesome. HE was awesome? He IS awesome. Got it? Just go!




10 Will theĀ  bookstore have a nice new ATD-branded polo-top for me to buy?

I promise, if they don’t, I’m just going to wear my grey ASTD one anyway. So there!


Don’t forget to check out David Kelly’s ATD2015 backchannel page here.

And catch me throughout the week via my YouTube channel for speaker interviews and DisneyDiaries, Twitter for cynical discussions and attempted humour with JD and absent-Bianca and this blog for a much more serious live-account of the sessions I follow.


ps – all my session posts from all previous A(S)TD conferences can be found via this tag.





ASTDTK14: Experimenting and Engaging to Create Effective Learning

As the days distance me from Las Vegas and the ASTD Techknowledge Conference, the eternal presenter in me is looking for the message, the one big takeaway, the answer to the 3 most important questions: “What is the point? What do you want from me? What’s in it for me?”

My answer today is that learning effectiveness is all about experimenting with learning initiatives and engaging the learner…


Both innovation and even real knowledge come from experimentation

In the opening keynote at TK14, Jeff Dyer told us that one of the keys to innovation is experimentation: We have to try new things if we want to get new results. If, as Donald H Taylor told us in Brussels last October, “the goal of learning is to be … agile enough to keep up with an ever changing environment”, then we need to stop throwing traditional training solutions at our business problems and approach things differently: Using open “what if?” questions and associative thinking, we must create hypotheses for the causes of business problems (and their solutions) and then set about designing new learning experiments that can test the validity of those hypotheses and lead to effective results. This approach to dealing with problems is key to any science or research process. But the learning function is not often seen as science and research…

Rueben Tozman said we must start by thinking about business in the same terms as our customers … and then define data models that tie behaviour, processes and learning activities to bottom line results. Based on those models, we can create data-driven-learning initiatives that can truly assess the situation and improve it. Too much of what we do in L+D (particularly training) is either unmeasurable or unmeasured. At the best, we can only say how people reacted to a training, but we cannot say that performance issue “X” is due to reasons “A”, “B” or “C” or that “A”, “B” or “C” can be resolved by specific (and effectively measured) learning initiatives “1”, “2” or “3”. While the rest of the business reports on almost everything, learning stumbles along on hope and faith.

To help us out, things are changing in the world of learning measurements. The traditional LMS and its “who followed what training” statistics will be replaced with advanced learning record systems, using experiential APIs like Tin Can, that could link pretty much any learning or performance activity to a data model that provides real insight to the learning profession.

And so my first conclusion is as follows: Know what makes the business run, be open to something new and be able to design data-driven learning experiments to assess effectiveness and really improve performance.


When it comes to creating something new, think “engagement”

Technology conferences tend to focus on new approaches to learning; TK14 was no exception. Starting with quite basic “enhancement strategies and tools” like QR codes for training, video learning initiatives and social media for formal learning and moving past transmedia storytelling to more granular MOOC-based learning strategies or attempts to gamify the learning experience, the thin red line of it all was “engagement”.

Amy Jo Martin kicked-off TK14 day 2 with a message about engagement and sentiment: “What connects people to you is not what you do, but why you do it”. * Extrapolating, I thought about why learners engage with other learners, materials or specific formal initiatives: They do it because they want to improve, to find solutions, to get good at something and because they “dig” it. In all our efforts to support this, we need to keep that basic engagement alive.

* This week, the London Learning Technologies Conference was opened by Brian Solis, known for his message about “the secret ingredient to engagement: empathy” and the importance of the user-experience.

Jane Bozarth and Mark Oehlert said that learning communities exist everywhere and our job is not to convince people of their value, but rather to convince them to see the value of “formalising” community activities at work using specific platforms (like Yammer or LinkedIn) and more open sharing or learning narration. If we start small, think big and move fast (Oehlert – video) with community activities, we can create a river of information flow that has real value for the organisation.

What really stood out for me (and kept me awake at night!) was the unique and numerous possibilities of mobile, as outlined by Chad Udell. Coming to Vegas as a mobile learning cynic, I was thinking only of more boring e-learning delivered on small screens. Leaving, I am convinced that since more-and-more people love to play with their phones and phones can do more-and-more things, there are real opportunities to engage and create learning effectiveness. Bring on the mobile revolution!

What did I miss at TK14 on “engagement”? Augmented Reality. I am running my own experiments with Aurasma for training, orientation exercises and onboarding experiences and I know that David Kelly shared his experience with Google Glass at LT14uk. I am sure that in the future such tools will allow us to shorten the distance between the learner’s own reality and more layers of knowledge, skills and future enhanced performance. Fingers crossed for ASTD ICE 2014 in May…

Either way, my second conclusion is simple? Let’s find better ways to make the learning experience awesome, natural and effective.


Experimenting and engaging – that is the message for me from ASTD TK14.


See you next time!




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: