Learning 3 – what are the key competencies for learning professionals?

On Friday I attended the Learning 3 symposium at the British Museum in London along with Jane Hart, Laura Overton and a crowd of others, mostly from the UK Further and Higher Education sectors.

Here’s a picture of me at the event producing a 30-second series of sound bites on what the future of Learning and Development needs  (the picture links to a video on the Learning 3 Ning site).

What our hosts LLUK (and particularly Briony Taylor) wanted to stimulate was a dialog around this question:

      What are the skills and competencies needed by the lifelong learning sector now?

During the day I put out a quick Twitter poll on this, as it seemed odd to be discussing Learning 3 in a room without pulling in the wider learning community. Jane Hart did the same.

The learning Twittersphere was engaged: we generated quite a few replies….

Here are some suggestions of key competencies needed for today’s L&D professional:

Some of these may be more attitudinal rather than strictly competencies, but it’s an interesting mix. What do you think?

For more on the continuing conversation, visit the debate on the Learning3 Ning community.

9 responses to “Learning 3 – what are the key competencies for learning professionals?

  1. This is interesting. And my own contribution would be ‘promiscuity’. I think we’ve dug ourselves into a ‘professionalism’ hole and have failed to notice how the gaming/marketing/IA/UX people have simply outstripped us in many respects.

    I’d also add that another key competency will be the ability to embrace an attitudinal/competency duality (and develop a mistrust of the competency framework shibboleth). Too often, they’re seen as separate and I think it’s more helpful to see them as intertwingled. Every competency has an attitudinal substrate. (And I’d argue the reverse is true too.)

  2. Hi Simon – really good point. Thanks for the contribution. Although I believe an understanding of competency is essential, it is certainly not sufficient.

    An understanding of what makes a good L&D practitioner also needs something on attitudes (as you say) along with a description of a core body of knowledge. These two are likely to be at least as contentious as any debate about L&D competencies.

  3. It seems to me another important competence has two components:

    The first is the ability to construct and confirm a model of an external system: what the client’s sales process really does, for example, or what really happens in product engineering.

    Crucially, it describes things as they are, not how an organization chart or process diagram imagines them to be.

    The test of competence here is whether the client would agree about the overall accuracy of the model, even if it’s not one the client himself would construct.

    You can see that first component as a set of markers and a whiteboard, then, to sketch out the system with which the practitioner is dealing.

    Stretching that analogy beyond all reason, the second component involves an eraser and the wall the whiteboard’s mounted on.

    The role of the eraser is obvious. Not only will the model need editing and refining; over time the practitioner may need to shift it to a different level–higher for more of a big-picture view, lower for more detailed analysis.

    What’s the wall got to do with anything? It’s vital for the practitioner to remember that it’s just a model–in fact, it’s just his model, mounted on his mental wall. The walls that matter most are the client’s.

    My thinking here is strongly influenced by Robert Townsend’s description of the Avis Rent A Car advertising philosophy, developed with the firm Doyle Dane Bernbach:

    Avis will never know as much about advertising as DDB, and DDB will never know as much about the rent a car business as Avis.

  4. Dave – thanks for this. Plenty to think about here. “Understand, model and update client’s processes” might begin to encapsulate some of this.

  5. Yes, I think that’s a pretty good capsulization–though perhaps because of my own pastoverconfidence (hubris?), I think for me it’s wise to recall that I don’t always know what I’m talking about, even when it sound good to others.

    More seriously, it’s a matter of being able to imagine the system(s) underlying some aspect of the client’s business, and remembering always that what will trip you up in the end is not what you don’t know, but the things you know that just aren’t true.

  6. I’m not sure this is a competency but from my experience of workplace learning I think the learning professional needs to be able to do two things:
    1) accept that others will know more than you. I know this is an obvious thing to say, but technology is providing opportunities for all and you do get people who really understand their niche area – far better than the the learning professional will. So, start from that point and continually inquire about where you fit in and where participants fit in.
    2) Brings me on to facilitation – how to really harness the knowledge and experience of paricipants knowing they as individuals and a group will know more than you.

  7. Two great points Martin. I think that facilitation is a competency whereas understanding that others know more than you is more of an attitude (on the other hand, the ability to take time to model and understand other’s work is a competence).

  8. youjust DON’T get it.

    Same OLD names. Same EXPERTISE.

    The future is UNexpertise.

    Marketing yourself as an expet. You are so full ofit. And all your clique.

  9. Pingback: GoodPractice | Thoughts on motivation, learning and performance » GoodPractice

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