Learning 2016 I attended my first conference, Learning 2016, in October. Now that I’ve had time to digest everything and read over my notes I want to share some of what I learned and experienced. In several cases the concepts themselves weren’t new to me, but what I did brought me a renewed or expanded understanding of them. In no particular order:

Application is Critical for Transfer

  • If you learn something and then don’t need to use it for a long time you’re going to forget.
  • Training often leaves out the real-life application step and doesn’t require long-term follow up. A quiz at the end doesn’t count.
  • A fellow attendee applied the Design Thinking approach we learned in one session to the task we were given in the following session, design a learning game.
  • She had to modify the method slightly to fit the new situation.
  • Seeing the method in action again, in a meaningful way, after the Design Thinking session ended has helped me remember it and see alternate applications for it.

Good Design and Ideas Don’t Have to Take Forever

  • You can definitely brainstorm, prototype, and get feedback on a training idea in just an hour. It can be iterated and refined afterward.
  • I was in two different sessions where we accomplished this task. If it can be done twice in one day, with two different groups of strangers, then it should be possible with established project teams.
  • For this to work, you need to have the right team following a proven process and make sure they have the necessary background information and parameters.
  • Talking to learners before brainstorming starts is crucial. Otherwise you’re really not making something for them and will probably miss critical needs.
  • Focus on the learning objectives at all times. Otherwise you risk designing something that could be engaging but ineffective.

Everything is Iterative

  • You can’t make something once and expect it to stay relevant forever. Long-term planning and updates are important.
  • Iteration was a key component in the two design/prototyping sessions I attended. One was about how the conference itself could be improved for next year. The other was about creating an effective learning game to improve employees’ customer service skills in retail stores.
  • Gather constructive feedback from multiple sources (SMEs, learners, project stakeholders, etc.) and use that to make refinements.
  • Don’t wait until the end of a project to let people review it. “Fail early” and keep improving along the way. The end result will be better because of it.
  • I took written notes at the conference. Now I’m working on iterating them into sketch notes. This new format has me thinking about the information in different ways.

Fearing Failure is a Crippling Mistake

  • Fear handicaps the ability to learn and achieve. So fearing failure can convince people that it’s easier to not try at all.
  • Karl Kapp pointed out that failure actually promotes more neuron growth than success does.
  • Anderson Cooper shared that he used to be afraid of public speaking. That’s why he pushed himself to speak more and more often, to overcome that fear.
  • Failure is not supposed to be an end result. It’s a natural part of the learning process. This respect for learning from mistakes has largely disappeared from L&D. As a result, training and activities get watered down so learners can “get it right the first time.” That’s not good for retention or long-term transfer.
  • It’s time to include failure in our plans and allow learners to fail their way to success. We need to stop being afraid of it.

Learning Can Happen Anywhere, Anytime, with Anyone

  • Learning is not restricted to the hours of 9-5, Monday through Friday. Nor is it confined to training courses, instruction manuals, or Q&A sessions with experts.
  • Elliott Masie talked about the learning “panorama” people can choose from. You can take formal training or follow direct instructions, but you can also watch a video, Google something on your smartphone, etc.
  • Navigating the conference center was its own learning experience. There were signs, maps, and helpful staff members you could consult or you could try to find your own way. As the conference went on the number of people lost in the hallways decreased. We learned our way around.
  • Impromptu conversations with other attendees led to reading recommendations, method suggestions, state of the industry discussions, and more. None of that was on the conference schedule. It all happened organically.
  • If you only consider what’s been done before, you and your organization will be missing countless opportunities. Stay curious and be willing to venture outside your usual bubble.

If you’re interested in what went on at the conference, take a look at my earlier post about the Learning Escape Room, which was quite an interesting activity.


If you’d like to read more about training, learning, and instructional design check out the rest of this author’s blogs.

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