Some great L&D insights, and how they were extricated.


xAPI.  Let’s use it to measure the alignment of curated learning pathways to what people are really interested in.  Slip it into a wider approach to human-centric learner experience design.  On the journey map, have an extra horizontal line for the trigger points you need to measure activity at.  Test and learn:  put out pathways quickly and par-baked; track the xAPI outcomes real-time and adjust from there.


There.  You are free to not read anything more.  Unless you want to know where I got that idea.  The stimuli, the cocoon, the people present, the factors that brought those people there.  If so, read on.  If not, at the very least you have an idea to chew over.  It’s yours now.


When I was about 20, I would earn some drinking money by doing the odd Tuesday evening market research night.  In those heady pre mobile phone, pre email days, you would get a phone call the day before to suss out your availability.  When you got there, you would walk into a room with 7 other complete strangers, with only the comfort of knowing that you were all demographically similar to offset the anticipatory queasiness of having to try experimental foods whilst having your every mannerism of disgust/delight recorded for posterity.  It was all about the $20 in the unmarked white envelope at the end, but I still remember the feeling.


So it was that I got the same feeling last week when I rocked up to a lunch last week.  Put on by an eLearning company, it was at a very empty suburban pub.  I was a last-minute call-up, as my boss couldn’t make it; even with my colleague there too, I wondered what I’d walked into.  Lo and behold, it was market research. No such thing as a…


…but it was actually great, and I want to tell you why.  It was a value exchange (I know, what a wanky phrase… but I love it. And it was a value exchange).  Here is the ledger:


What I got:

  • My aforementioned idea.
  • A free meal.
  • Insights from some cross-industry L&D peeps.
  • A pretty good summary of where xAPI is heading.

What the other cross-industry L&D peeps got:

  • Same as me.

What the organisers got:

  • A big bill.
  • Insights from some cross-industry L&D peeps.
  • My aforementioned idea.
  • The possibility of doing business with some cross-industry L&D peeps.


In case you are a bit bothered by something right now and you can’t put your finger on it, it is probably that I have just outlined a three-sided ledger.  Or that you missed out on a free lunch.  So let me help you feel better by going into a bit more detail about what made this lunch so god-damn classy: classy enough to be called a luncheon.


The organisers had picked out an intimate and eclectic group.  There were really different perspectives on offer: young gun-for-hire digital natives innovating at small companies where they are the L&D department, seasoned veterans methodically convincing the leaders at their mid-tier firms of the need to evolve learning for performance, subject matter experts in deep-but-narrow L&D fields artfully manoeuvring their particular cog in the wheel of the huge conglomerate they inhabit. These perspectives came out unfettered, firstly around the well-structured presentation (mainly use-cases for xAPI) and then over lunch.


There was nothing about the organiser’s product.  In fact, there wasn’t any noticeable flinching at the discussion of the merits and otherwise of direct competitors.  What they did do was make it clear up-front that they were recording the conversation, as they were assembling the insights (along with those from a similar lunch run in another city) into an e-book to share.  They would also seek individuals’ permission first for particular quotes.  That, to me, is classy.


So, in the midst of the conversation, came the reflective thought that emerged as my idea.  My sole contribution, but seemingly a good one, as it kicked off a new stream of conversation.  I felt like I earnt the meal.  But I also don’t feel that my idea belongs exclusively to those who were there, nor the other ideas shared. Here are some other gems I noted down from the other attendees:

  • The concept of ‘disposable training’ to encourage the L&D team to abandon their perfectionism and construct timely, limited-run learning. Nice, huh?
  • Using xAPI to measure feedback. Imagine someone working out loud to a discrete group of mentors, and getting the quick encouragement/advice they need to translate into better performance and professional growth.  Then imagine reporting the scale and efficacy of that learning in the 20% to the senior leaders of your business. Yowza.
  • Integrating xAPI to measure collaboration, then directly rewarding people for that behaviour. I’d love that.
  • A different tack to use with senior leaders: “You in the business are actually doing the whole 70% really well. You learn professionally.  But work with me in L&D to help measure and track the ROI of what you do.  There is a difference between learning and training.” Worth a go.
  • A reminder of why taking 12 months to build an eLearn is not cool anymore: “eLearning is meant to be high volume and fast to deploy.  We need to design it first as modularised learning objects. Then chuck pathways together quickly that fit the business need.” Simple, radically.


I’m going to an Unconference this week; running a session, helping with the hackathon.  The vibe is great, and the organisers of the luncheon last week kind of replicated that.  So kudos to them.  If you are interested, their name is WorkStar.  I have no affiliation with them, but I doff my hat nonetheless.  Keep an eye out for their xAPI e-Book: it should have every good idea from those luncheons, including theirs that I haven’t mentioned here.


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