Skills for 21st Century L&D Professionals

Don at SpeexxLast week I had the good fortune to be invited to Berlin to talk at the excellent Online Educa conference.

I started by speaking at the pre-conference event run by online language and communications experts Speexx (photo above), followed the next day by facilitating a world cafe on the skills needed by L&D professionals in the 21st Century.

Cafes are great fun – all about conversation rather than speaker delivery, and I was delighted to have a great group to work with. I have also have the privilege of having attended  cafes in the past run by master facilitator David Gurteen.

Cafe 4

David’s unassuming style adds to the effectiveness of his cafes; participants discuss at tables, make notes on a shared document, then circulate to other tables and continue the discussion. The result is valuable learning and reflection at each table.

In this case I decided to formally collect the thoughts of the delegates – a multi-cultural, multi-country, multi-lingual group of about 35 who came up with excellent suggestions to two questions over the course of an hour (following my 10 minute scene-setting). This blog is my opportunity to repay them for their creativity by publishing the results of the cafe.

Cafe 1

Question 1: What skills does L&D need to succeed in the 21st Century?

In my role as chair of the Learning and Performance Institute this has been a long standing interest of mine.

Here, unedited, are the answers the group came up with, in bold if a response was given more than once:

Embrace new technologies and methods
Be lifelong learning
Communications / e-communications
Value/Proof / $ / Results
Change management
Professional / management skills
Designing learning
Facilitating collective intelligence
Decision making
From knowledge to doing
Personalization, Localization, Globalization

This is a combination of skills and values, with some detailed technical skills and some very high-level skills. There was considerable consensus over this set of skills, even though the discussion was harder and more intense when I asked the tables – after initially brain storming all skills – to choose the three they thought most important.

Cafe 2

The second question was about resources: How will L&D go about building these skills? There was a wide range of answers. Here they are, again without any editing (I’ll add links later):

Dirty learning using amateur video
‘Intro to elearning’ (book)
Telling ain’t training’ (book)
‘Training ain’t performance’ (book)
LTSI Learning Tranfer  

Facebook book groups

          Learning and Development

Learning & Development Tree

e-Learning in Developing and Developed Countries

Learning and Development, Home Centre KSA

Learning and Development SA



‘Where good ideas come’ Stephen Johnson

‘Creativity’ Ken Robinson
RSE Animate
‘Resonate’ Nancy Duarte
Best selling books in airports!

LinkedIn influencers list




Corporate learning
Weiterbildings blog
Hypothesis blog
Mindtools app
Twitter – Jane Hart
Ted Talks (put it on your LMS)
Round table discussions
How-to videos
Websites – elearning
Role models
Others who are successful
People thinkings who are good
What they do
Leveraging whoever – blogs, social, media, technology
Networking – conferences, LinkedIn
Seek out knowledge, mapping
Constantly find people who know things and use them
Masie Learning 2013 30 under 30 best resources and website

Amazon You-Tube
Excellence Centre
Knowledge Management Systems
Role rotation

Feedback 1

What a list!

My thanks to everyone for sharing their thoughts.

This comprehensive list generates in me one immediate reaction: if this is what 35 people can generate in 15 minutes’ discussion, what else can we produce when we really share?

(It’s also a good argument for more cafe sessions at conferences.)

Saturday 14 December: Having created this post over the past few days of travelling, writing and speaking, I’m glad to get it up, but I’m aware there it’s of limited use without any links. I’ll add those next week when I have time.

In my role as chair of the LPI (Learning and Performance Institute) I have collected many links and resources around the professional development of L&D. Here are a few I recommend visiting:


What will be big in learning in 2014?

What will be big in learning in 2014? Over the coming weeks there will be phalanx of papers, blogs and other comment around this, and a regiment of Jeremiahs repudiating them. That’s not a bad thing. Providing the predictions are the product of reflection (rather than the empty noise of the social media echo chamber) they can be useful in making us think about where we’re going, regardless of how accurate they turn out to be.

So to stimulate some thinking and reflection, here’s a question: what do you think will be the key trends in learning in 2014?. Choose your top three or suggest something else:

I’ll almost certainly be writing a post with my own predictions for 2014 in a few weeks – it would be good to see how much our thinking overlaps, or doesn’t.

PS – if you think our propensity for trend-watching in L&D is a bit much, check out Wedding Shoe Trends for 2014.

1 December Update

If you’ve completed the poll and added an ‘Other’ comment, it remains buried in he poll engine. Here are the ‘other’ comments we’ve had so far, unedited:

Increased demand for value and results
Campaign based learning
Experience API
PLNs & peer networks
Games based learning
big data for L&D
Cognitive science
Online classroom delivery skills
Learning analytics
Mobile isn’t only delivery; video, curation, ugc, open, etc can all be mobile

6 January update

The poll is now closed. You can see the results in my video blog Three key learning trends for 2014

Return to the Training Ghetto

I’ve been talking a lot about the Training Ghetto this year, and so I thought I’d capture my thoughts about it on video.

If you prefer reading rather than watching and listening, visit the original blog post about the Training Ghetto from April 2013.

What’s the mobile learning lesson for L&D?

Photo by MrBeck the world of L&D we talk a lot about mobile learning and it’s pretty much accepted that from shaky beginnings around 2007 (when we tried to squeeze training courses onto a two inch black and white LED screen) things have leapt forward. Think of everything that you can now do with a smart phone, tablet, phablet and any other smart device format.

Drill down a little, however, and the reality of L&D’s involvement with mobile devices is slightly more complex, and reveals a great deal about how we view technology.

And it’s not all good.

Training Magazine’s annual survey of US L&D professionals shows that just 1.5% of training was delivered via mobile devices. That’s right, after about 7 years of hype and discussion we’ve reached 1.5%. That’s not leaping. That’s trench warfare.

And yet of course we use smart devices for learning all the time.

Every time we Google something, check a map for our location, quiz friends and colleagues for the answer to a question we are operating exactly in the sweet spot of L&D: we are learning something, or using a performance aid.

Of course we don’t call it that.

We call it ‘finding something out’, or ‘doing our job’. The learning is almost invisible because it is embedded in our daily lives; it didn’t require us to go somewhere special, to do anything special. It happened at the best possible time – when we had a need for it, and were attuned to be receptive to new information.

The implications for those of us involved in Learning Technologies are profound.

There will certainly be some courses and resources that can be usefully deployed over mobile devices, but don’t let’s kid ourselves that that should be the future, or the limit, of our ambitions here. Rather than concentrating on writing courses, we should be establishing good practice in our organisations for finding information and experts and for sharing information. Where necessary we should be setting up the systems and then letting people get on with using them. We need to use this opportunity to move from being the gatekeepers of knowledge to the facilitators of conversations and learning

Mobile devices do not just set us free as consumers, they have liberated us as professionals to take on the role that L&D should always have had – to help others learn, when they need to, where they need to, from each other.

This was originally published as the introduction to Inside Learning Technology Magazine #44, October 2013. 

Reflections on Learning 2013

My reflections on Learning 2013, a great conference with over 1,600 people attending, run by Elliott Masie. Attending, I identified 5 trends in the packed schedule, and 5 things that are gathering momentum.


  1. Compression – learning content is getting shorter. Dramatically so.
  2. Video is here to stay, especially short videos.
  3. Big data will be part of our lives in business and L&D needs to be able to understand and use it. We can be its slave or its master.
  4. Neuroscience – we know more than ever about how the brain learns. Let’s use that knowledge.
  5. Courage will be needed to make the changes the profession requires.

Things around for a while and now gathering momentum:

  1. The classroom – it’s being flipped, changed and increasingly used to get the best out of face-to-face contact
  2. Performance support – kudos to Conrad Gottfreson and Bob Mosher for making the language of performance mainstream
  3. Measurement and value – we’re getting away from mechanistic ROI to an understanding of what creating value really means
  4. Leading learning with data, not dogma. I dream of a day when fact-based decision making becomes the norm in our profession.
  5. The role of L&D in the future. Do we have the skills to do the job? I was lucky enough to meet people who I believe do have those skills at the conference

Photos by Ed Burke, the Masie Center