By Tony O’Driscoll
In my introductory remarks as Conference Sensei at Training 2011 in February, I suggested there has never been a better time for those of us who work in learning. Learning and change are two sides of the same coin. As the rate of change accelerates exponentially, so, too, does the need to learn. To help organizations cope with this unprecedented rate of change, we also need to re-examine our own approaches to ensure we are delivering the most effective and efficient interventions.
Our intent in designing the rapid-fire keynote format was to expose learning professionals to the recent breakthroughs in brain science, gaming, technology, creativity, rationality, and design.
Knowing how the brain focuses attention and understanding how game designers create a sense of engagement that borders on addiction can influence how we think about the design of learning experiences.
Knowing how industrial designers ply their craft by not only relying on deductive and inductive reasoning but also by having the courage to take an abductive leap of faith to try something different can influence how we construct differentiated experiences for learners.
Recognizing how technology is changing the learning landscape to a point where self-directed learning is becoming increasingly pervasive can influence learning designers to embrace this trend rather than ignore it.
Experiencing what it is like to daydream and let the mind wander as the first step to unleashing the latent creative potential within an organization can influence how we introduce more reflection and synthesis into the experiences we create.
Seeing the evidence to suggest that most human behavior is only rational about 30 percent of the time and that the rest of the interactions in organizations reside on a foundation of emotion might cause us to better balance the social-relational and procedural content we deliver. The list of implications from these rapid-fire keynotes goes on and on.
While each of the keynotes had its own message and corresponding set of implications for learning, I believe the differing chords they struck at Training 2011 resolved themselves into a single memorable harmonic during Jeff Baxter’s closing session. How is it that a rock star with no training in engineering or science can become an advisor to members of Congress, Homeland Security, and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency? Jeff contends that he did so by taking what he learned in one discipline and applying it in another.
As a musician, Jeff learned how to improvise by translating one genre of music into another in real time. He took this improvisational skill that he cultivated over many years with Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers and applied it to developing next-generation paradigms of defense and up-ending war-game exercises in the most
unanticipated ways. By thinking asymmetrically and applying what he learned in an adjacent context, Jeff was able to bring incredible value to an organization in clear need of transformation.
My personal hope is that, after attending this conference, you, too, can “be like Jeff” in taking what you have learned from the rapid-fire keynotes and applying asymmetric thinking to change the game in learning within your respective organizations.
I wish you all the best in that endeavor, and I hope that we have the opportunity to meet again at Training 2012 in Atlanta.
Tony O’Driscoll is the executive director of the Center for Technology, Entertainment, and Media (CTEM) at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. His most recent book, “Learning in 3-D: Bringing a New Dimension to Enterprise Learning and Collaboration,” explores how emerging Web technologies are transforming the learning landscape within organizations.