Category Archives: Uncategorized

What will be hot in L&D in 2016?

Zoltar Fortune Teller Close Up - very

Zoltar the Magnificent, fortune teller extraordinary, will – for the sum of one pound – reveal your fortune from inside his mechanical box on Brighton pier.

Each year I try to do something similar.

I am slightly less extravagant in my dress, and I’m not on a pier, but the results are at least free.

Each year I run a one-minute, one-question online poll asking L&D professionals what they think will be hot in the following year. In 2014 mobile learning topped the poll. In 2015, collaborative learning came in first.

The individual results, though, matter less than the overall trends they illustrate. For example, video dropped from 5th position in 2014 to 8th in 2015. Was that because video was suddenly less important? I doubt it. It’s much more likely that video was no longer seen as ‘hot’. It has entered the main stream of L&D practice.

What will be hot in 2016?
This year, once again, I will be asking the same question: What will be hot in workplace L&D in 2016? You can choose three items from the list.

The poll is below, mostly with the same options as in previous years. If you don’t like the options, please do choose ‘Other’ and say what you think is missing. I will add these, unedited, to the blog over the course of the survey.

To clarify – please what you think will be hot in L&D in 2016. In January, after the poll has closed, I’ll run a second poll asking whether you agree with the results, and why.

Choose up to 3 items:


The poll will finish at the end of the first week of January. Headline results will be announced here on Monday, January 11th, and the first analysis will be broadcast in a webinar in conjunction with Axonify on Wednesday January 20th at 16:00 UK, 11am ET.

I look forward to hearing what you think will be hot in workplace L&D in 2016!

See you in Sydney or Melbourne?

Are you based in Sydney or Melbourne? Working in L&D? Then let’s meet up!

I’ll be in Australia from Friday 6th to Wednesday 11th November, meeting colleagues in the world of learning and running two workshops on “The Transforming Future of Learning and Development”.

The two morning workshops take place in Sydney (6th November) and Melbourne (9th November) and are organized by PSK Performance.

In small groups, we’ll be looking at why the world of L&D is changing so fast right now, why current operating models of L&D are inadequate to deal with the changes, and what can be done to survive and thrive in the future.

I aim to provide input, provoke discussion and confront some of the issues facing L&D today so that participants will leave with a broad picture of what’s changing in L&D as well as practical actions to take.

In the workshops, we’ll draw on everyone’ s experience, including my own 25 years in the industry, including 15 years as chairman of Learning Technologies, Europe’s largest conference dedicated to technology-supported workplace learning, and 5 years as chairman of the Learning and Performance Institute.

To know more, and to register, please contact me, or click on the links below:

The Transforming Future of Learning and Development
Sydney, Friday 6th November (am)
Melbourne, Monday 9th November (am)

I hope to see you there!

“Webinar Master” on the way


My e-book “Webinar Master” is due to be published on November 16th by British e-book specialist Canelo.

The book is based on my experience coaching speakers for, hosting, and delivering hundreds of webinars since 2007, largely for the Learning and Skills Group (LSG), an international community of about 8,000 learning and development professionals.

It will make you a webinar master – if you put it into practice.

I’ve had the good fortune to work with some wonderful, experienced speakers, and had the delight of coaching some first time speakers to deliver tremendously powerful sessions. I’ve seen what works and have built up a methodology for delivering great webinars, consistently. The fruits of that experience are distilled here for you.

As well as the triumphs, I’ve also had my share of disasters – from the time the webinar service failed 2 minutes before we were due to start (and me in a New York hotel room in my pyjamas at 5 am) to the time both my broadband internet feeds at my home office failed and we ran the session through my mobile phone’s Wi-Fi tethering. In all the hundreds of sessions I’ve been responsible for in that period, we’ve only once been unable to get on air.

It’s been an exciting journey, and the thrill hasn’t gone yet. I still get excited before we kick off one of our Thursday LSG sessions, and still feel that buzz when a presentation and the ensuing Q&A have gone particularly well. And after every webinar, I want to do it all over again.

I hope that after reading this book you, too, will enjoy presenting through webinars, and that you will find the same energy and excitement in using this vital modern medium of communication.

Click for more information, and to register for a message from me when the book is out, visit my books page.

3 L&D lessons from Australia’s cricketing collapse

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Cricket, a long drawn-out slogging match. Unless you’re Australia in the first innings at Trent Bridge in the 2015 Ashes.

For Australia, yesterday’s crushing first innings defeat in the Ashes at Trent Bridge was a subject for national soul searching, typified by the response of The Sydney Morning Herald: England humiliate Australia on a first day that will live in infamy. (North American readers can just jump from here to the bullet list below.) All out for 60 before lunch? It’s unheard of – almost. You have to go back to the 1950s and ’40s for equivalent batting collapses.

So what lessons can L&D learn from this? Here are three I would suggest, two here and one at the bottom of this post:

  • Training is not always the answer. The Australians have spent their lives since boyhood training at cricket and dreaming of beating England, in England. A few more hours in the nets would be pointless. They have the skill. For various reasons they did not apply it yesterday morning.
  • Knowledge without application is useless. Do the Australians know the fielding positions on a cricket field? Of course they do. In fact, they found the slips quite easily yesterday morning. More knowledge is not the answer.

I have talked widely about the training ghetto. In the training ghetto, the L&D team is usually responsible for just three types of training: compliance training, on boarding training, and fix-my-team training.

The last of these is when the manager appears in the training department doorway and says, effectively, “my team is broken, please fix it.” Usually they ask for something like time management training across the team. Of course the manager is abdicating responsibility for his or her role as manager. Training is never the answer here. The answer is to be a better manager.

John Purcell of Bath University was fond of this equation defining performance:

P = f (A, M, O)

P = Performance
A = Ability, can they do it?
M = Motivation, do they want to do it?
O = Opportunity, are they able to do it?

Of all of these, the part that L&D is traditionally responsible – Ability – is arguably the least important. After all, only 11% of contracts are terminated because of a lack of employee ability. We know Australia have the ability.

So where did they fall down yesterday? It was not Opportunity, because after lunch England came into bat and did very nicely, ending the day on 274 for 4.

It must, therefore, have been Motivation.

I am not saying that the individual players did not want to win. But there was among them something fans of any sport will recognise – a sort of dazed shellshock. When your team is like that it cannot rely on individual motivation. Only leadership on the field and in the dressing room can rescue matters, which brings me to the final L&D lesson:

  • Exceptional performance demands leadership. We are fond of saying – rightly – that L&D is all about performance. But while L&D is necessary for performance, it is not sufficient. Exceptional performance demands leadership, leadership that inspires external motivation to push you to greatness, especially when times are tough.

We cannot in L&D expect to solve all performance problems and – crucially – we should set the expectation with others that we cannot. Sometimes, we must say that a performance problem can only be solved by better management and better leadership.

PS – I fully expect Australia to have rediscovered their internal leadership and to come out fighting today.

PPS – If you’re from North America and have been left a little puzzled by this post, please read Not everyone reads American on the use of sporting metaphor in writing.

Memory is more than Ebbinghaus

This blog is inspired by the #blimage blog series.

“Dante Alighieri01”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

In February my wife and I visited Florence in Italy. It’s an extraordinary place – go for the art, go for the leather shops, go for the food, but if you ever have the opportunity, just go.

Walking past the Uffizi we paused in front of a statue. Recognising it was Dante Alighieri, we fell into a collective fit of the giggles. Then we recited together:

Dante Alighieri
Seldom troubled a dairy.
He wrote the Inferno
On a bottle of Pernod.

It’s a Clerihew, named for its inventor Edward Clerihew Bentley. All Clerihews follow the same four-line format and contain some ridiculous biographical nonsense.

My father – who is fond of all forms of poetry – recited this Clerihew to me when I was a young teenager:

Sir Humphrey Davy
Abominated gravy.
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered sodium.

I heard this Clerihew once, and remembered it. In contrast I had to ask my dad several times who the author was before I could remember his name – Clerihew. The picture of Davy suffering at the hands of the mob for his science was at once ridiculous and vivid and formed a dramatic picture in my mind.

Years later, living in Turkey, I purchased The Complete Clerihews at a British Council library sale of excess stock. A quarter century later, it remains a treasured book, always guaranteed to produce a laugh with its combination of Clerihew’s text and illustrations.

It is from this book that I read Dante’s Clerihew. Again, it stuck at one reading – it was so deliciously absurd, how could it not? At some point in our near two decades of married life, I recited it to my wife who laughed, appreciating in particular the sly innuendo of ‘Never troubled a dairy’ and it stuck with her, too.

And so, a few years later, we found ourselves in Florence, laughing at poor Dante’s statue.

All this says something about memory. Two different people hear 15 words in a particular order and remember them perfectly at one sitting.


Unlike my memory of Sir Humphrey Davy’s, I have no strong mental image of the Dante Clerihew, so this isn’t about pictures. Its appeal is purely in the sheer delight in the words, the absurdity of the situation, the portrayal of Italy’s leading man of letters as a lush, the anachronism of the drink Pernod. Together those 15 words form a coherent whole that stuck a vibrant chord with my mind – and my wife’s – and stuck, seemingly forever.

Now contrast this with what is often repeated about what we know about the human memory from the experiments of Herman Ebbinghaus. The ‘Forgetting Curve’ has been a standard inclusion in L&D presentations for many years now (including my own):


The Forgetting Curve

The common interpretation of this curve is that memory automatically decays after we are exposed to something new, and it needs several repetitions to remember the new thing.

It’s actually more complex than that.

Remember how Ebbinghaus did his experiments – by reading new, nonsense syllables and attempting to remember them. All subsequent experiments to explore this phenomenon have taken the same approach. The syllable sets are carefully sifted before they are given to people to ensure that each individual non-word has no meaning.

This is entirely right, if you want to explore people’s memory properly, you can’t have some people better able to remember their syllables because the syllable (let’s say ‘BRIK’) sounds more familiar than another group’s syllable (say ‘ZIK’).

In memory experiments, the content you learn is meaningless.

But in real life, much of what we learn is not meaningless. When my father rattled off the Humphrey Davy Clerihew, I already knew who that famous scientist was; I knew he had discovered sodium, and I knew what odium meant. There was very little entirely new meaning that I had to take on board. Only the arrangement of the words was new. The Forgetting Curve did not apply.

Let me be clear here. I am not saying that the Forgetting Curve is wrong. Quite clearly it is right for a great deal of what we learn. In fact, the very word Clerihew required me to do some spaced learning (going back and asking my dad repeatedly what that bloke’s name was) until it stuck. Why? Because the word by itself had absolutely no meaning. There were no hooks in my mind ready for it to latch on to.

In contrast, when I read the Dante poem I knew all the words, and they made me laugh. If I had been asked to remember this, instead:

Dairy the Alighieri
Pernod troubled on he
a bottle Inferno
On wrote a Dante bottle of seldom

I would have once again required spaced learning – repeatedly testing myself until I got it right.

Not everyone is a fan of Clerihews. But everyone has a memory that is particularly attuned to learning some things very easily. For me, it’s song lyrics, the origins of words and useless facts like the speed of light in miles per second and the capital of Mongolia.

In addition to these idiosyncratic traits, people develop the ability to memorize certain things faster and more accurately as a result of their work. Famously, Chase and Simon (1973) showed board positions from chess games to a range of players from beginners to international masters for about 5 seconds. When asked to recall the location of the chess pieces, the beginners could manage on average 4 pieces, while the masters could recall virtually all 20 pieces.

This was not a matter of super memory but of meaning. When shown a board not from a game, but with randomly arranged pieces, the masters fared no better than the beginners. They were unable to use their immediate appreciation of how the pieces related to each other to make sense of the position. It was like trying to memorize a poem with jumbled up words.

This knowledge can be used in learning and is. Sometimes spaced learning is the right choice. Sometimes it is the only choice. Sometimes we make content vivid, we use humour, contrast and absurdity to make it need less repetition. But as well as these tricks of the trade, the best content designers do something else.

They go to where the person already is, and use what they already have, to make the content coherent, resonant and easy to remember. They present their chess players with a real game position; they give their poetry lovers words with rich meaning, because they know the best language – the only effective language – is the language of your audience.


If you’d like to know more about spaced learning, read Dr Will Thalheimer’s excellent research piece.

If you’d like to take up the #blimage challenge, pick one of these photos and see what it triggers in your mind:

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