The Evolution of Learning Technology: Integrated Learning PlatformsFeaturing: Steve Dineen, Fuse Universal CEO
Podcast IntroductionsLarry Durham: Welcome to the hive. I’m your host, Larry Durham. As most of our listeners know, we cover a wide range of topics on innovation in the areas of talent development and learning. And I have to say nothing gets more questions or garners more interest and requests from our listeners than the topic of technology and what lies ahead. So with that in mind, we wanted to have a guest who’s really steeped in learning technology and someone who also thinks about performance on the job. So on this episode we are happy to have Steve Dineen. He’s the founder and CEO of fuse universal. Steve started views 12 years ago, so he’s no stranger to the evolution scene in learning technologies. And for the last two decades he’s been partnering with organizations to improve their performance. Steve’s uniquely qualified to be our guest on this episode. So Steve, welcome to the hive. Steve Dineen Great to be here. Thanks.
The Landscape of Learning Technology
Great. Good to have you. Well, there’s a lot of questions as our listeners know, we try and keep the cast relatively short, so let’s get right into it. There’s a few things that we wanted to ask, but I thought to set the stage for be great to hear from you how you view the current learning technology landscape and how you perceive that changing over the coming years.
Well, that’s a great question. The first thing is we see ourselves, I guess in a quite a big paradigm shift and It’s really interesting. Obviously the market’s been here for quite some time in terms of any technology, 15-20 odd years. But it’s probably true to say that as a learning industry where we’re still predominantly analog and we’re probably now I think, at this moment going through the change that we’ve seen go through other departments like sales and marketing and other industries like I’ve been in tech tech. So I think what we’re now is literally at the beginning stage of the true digital disruption of L&D and because of that, I think we’re seeing a great array of learning technologies come to market. And I think in all ways I think we see the two worlds that we come from the, you know, the lost generation and next-generation are kind of crossing over in terms of features and functionality are coming from a very different direction.
Hmm, good point. Now you mentioned something, I agree with you. I think as a learning professional, I hope I can say this on behalf of my colleagues, sometimes learning within organizations is slow to change or maybe the last to come to the party. If you could talk a little bit about, you know, I think we’re all familiar with LMSs and then came along the learning content management and then now we have learning experience platforms, integrated learning platforms and many of the LOSs is trying to become integrated platforms. If could talk a little bit about what you see happening in that space with those different providers.
Well. Yeah, I think the first thing you got to say is as a buyer, as a customer, it must be really confusing. You go back years and it was pretty straightforward, right? You had the LMS category and that was pretty much it. I think now than what you saw is people that were dissatisfied with the LMS trying to be, not that it didn’t do its basics good, right? I mean, the LMSs are there to do event management and they do that well and to do basic tracking compliance around that side, it does it well, but then obviously people want a lot more because if we, in this world of digital disruption and then trying to push that type of product, people were getting frustrated. They couldn’t get into the next generation of learning they wanted to. So, I think what we saw then was some good new ideas come to the marketplace.
But again, I think everyone was kind of looking for a silver bullet. So I think you know the LXP, it’s interesting to see. Yeah, I’m less perspective on that and because we don’t really, although we have LXP from functionality and we have an LMS functionality, we don’t really put ourselves in either of those brackets as a product, as a category. So I think what you saw is with people being dissatisfied, I think around the LMS, I think it was a port in the storm and I think the concept of LXPs of curating courses and personalizing the right courses, the right people, there was a need. But I think people also are hoping that would be the only thing that was sold. You know the big problems they have around measuring impacts of learning around engagement, around the genuine challenges they had with people kind of explain it as an investment they make wasn’t really working for them.
And I think we come along and it could be different angles. You know we didn’t, we need to label ourselves. We actually started initially as a social learning and early content management system in my vision of engagement to create that engagement part. It was kind of bringing together YouTube and LinkedIn. That was about eight you know, eight, nine years ago. And we played, we’d go off on our power in a much richer fashion. But our goal, if you like, they probably were trying to solve in the world would, how do you create an experience that is really gonna create engagement and solve peoples problems? And that’s a very different, I think problem with the LMS comes from which was how do we track it, which was maybe a different challenge that the LXP came from, which was how do we create all this content, these courses for you and make them slightly more relevant. So it’s ultimately I think the client and the customer could say, Whoa, what’s the business challenge we’re trying to filter and what blend of these different worlds do we need together?
Yeah, I think that’s super insightful and as I think about it, just to add onto what you said, I think so many learning groups were as they should have been 10-s15 years ago. We’re looking for a way to track that and LMSs became quite popular for storing and scoring and then curated content. You know there’s a world of content out there, but again, it came back to that bias of scoring and storage and how do they access it. Yeah, and I do think that one thing that’s quite interesting, we hear a lot of our learners comment on this and we’re not there yet because I think it may take a generation as we say sometime before it happens, and that is we’ve always seen the learning function as being the creator of content and the learner being the consumer, and ultimately now we’re seeing, well the learning function is saying why not third party content that could also be content to use and the learner being the consumer.
Integrated Learning Platforms
I think ultimately with integrated learning platforms and other things that are coming about, the concept and the idea we used to call it knowledge sharing, but maybe it evolves more into the learning category, is the learner’s ability actually share content and what that looks like. I think for most of our listeners, sometimes that throws them into a tailspin because you know, it’s hard to comprehend how that works. But I think the integrated learning platform may be the beginnings of not only serving up organizationally created content or curated third party content, but many other things that open the door in terms of a more full-functioning learning opportunity within the organization. So there’s a lot of great opportunities there. Great point.
There’s a couple of points in that, right? And I think an integrated learning platform is really thinking about kind of what’s all the different core technologies you need to provide the end to end learning experience. So how do we move beyond the course being the answer to everything, right? So I have a learning challenge. I have a performance challenge. The answer is always a course. And what we know is that’s got us down to a road and I think, I saw a quote recently from an IBM survey which said CEOs rank people was the number one way to drive performance, but 92% of them say that there L&D programs have had little to zero impact.
So we know that the world is changing. Right. And we know that the amount of knowledge now is, I think for organizations is, is now at a level where an organization manages is doubling every 12 months. Now you see industry by industry being disrupted and therefore the amount of knowledge and the amount of skills that people need to have. It doesn’t fit, right. It’s like trying to fit the ocean in the bucket. You know you’ve got a beauty manufacturer, one of our clients are Avon to release these products every three weeks. You’ve got Tesla doing, updates to his cars every six weeks. Service now doing pretty much major upgrades to its software every three months. So you put that type of challenge in the frequency of change that’s happening. The new knowledge is needed. The new skill sets, I mean you look at manufacturers, even construction machine manufacturers, he just used to sell physical products to build a building. Now they’re connected to the internet, you know, self-sensing, bull bearing pump manufacturer that’s selling actually the end service or how your house is actually going to be regulated. So the skill sets of those organizations that moved from, you know, maybe more traditional skills now to be everyone’s connected to tech and therefore the speed of tech innovation means that pretty much the, you know, the ocean doesn’t fit in the bucket.
So now I think what we’re seeing is how do we move beyond the course and actually what are the different types of components that allow us to answer that CEO challenge and that people actually were seeing integrated learning platforms think about it in a different way.
Examples of Integrated Learning Platforms
Yeah, and I actually think among the organizations we work with, the clients we serve and what they do for their clients, it may be the biggest change for learning that we’ve ever seen. Because when we hear about digital transformation, every time I pull back the covers on digital transformation among many of our clients, what they’re really talking about is digital upskilling. You know? Yes. Using new technology, implementing them into the process, but making their learners or employees more tech-savvy to be able to innovate and automate themselves and I’m not sure we’ve ever had anything that’s forced that on this scale or magnitude in quite some time. You did mention something that I wanted to touch upon. You mentioned Avon a little bit earlier in some of what they’re doing. It would be great if you could share maybe a recent example of an organization that’s using an integrated learning platform as you mentioned, and specifically what are they doing and what seems to be working for them in that space?
Yeah, I mean there’s, there’s a couple I mean Avons a good example. It’s, it’s both using our platform internally for their 16 to 17,000 people, but also excitingly, it’s being used for their 5 million entrepreneurs, [inaudible] entrepreneurs externally across the world. So if you mentioned now you’ve got 5 million people that are, have, may been developed to sell products in a certain way, then now obviously want to evolve the skills of those people. So they are using social tools and digital tools that the reach is obviously crazy and the campaigns are every couple of weeks. So again, the old, tall, let’s go to course for 12 weeks roll outside there and get people ready is it just doesn’t fit. So, what they have been doing is recognizing that the same as any of our clients is probably between 60 to 90% of what used to be in a course is now being designed as just in time information.
So everything’s been built in bite-sized content, other bite-size videos, articles, infographics and social. And then on top of that, they are recognizing that how do we, this is one of the things they’re doing now, it’s really exciting that many of our clients have done every year. You’re trying to understand what is the best person that like, so what does great look like in a high performance? How do we codify that? How do we bottle that and how do we accelerate everyone to get to that level? But also what’s really interesting is the ability to measure that. So you take someone like a Hilton, I think you know that 18 months they looked at their top performers in realizing that they could probably get people to payback time in six months rather than 18 months they’d been taken. You know, if they started bottling the crane with the best people and codify things in a different way, but by thinking about that problem as it’s not, they want to put 10,000 people through a course or they’re thinking I want to get paid back from 18 months to six months.
It completely frames everything differently and it’s why that they then got to a place where, Hilton is a great example, where every program that they do between 60 to 90% of walking in the course is designed for search at the moment of need. Either that’s been surfaced inside the application, if it’s like what date fuse content is surface inside base, always accessible in the flow of work, or it’s just people that are on the mobile phone and searching. Knowing this, the way to get it. I had an email from Charles Jennings, very famous for many things and especially in 2010 and he sent me a message you want to use one of our clients do Vodafone school. And he knew that we use Fuse. So he asked the guy and said, you know are you aware if he’s using it and it was 10:30 yeah I’ve used it three times this morning already.
And it’s that type of habit, right? That is this new world, which we’re trying to create. So when designing for the outcome with the intent upon the learning and knowledge in a different way, and we’re thinking about what does the performance look like and what sorts of tasks and activities we can do to drive that. And that’s a really different way to think about designing learning experiences when you’re thinking, I’m designing it for search as my number one thing. I’m searching it to create habits where you’re going to go and browse on the way home. But also I can accelerate your capability performance cause I’m thinking upon, I’m thinking upon the journey as a task.
New Things Coming to Learning Technology
That’s great. Exciting stuff. Like I had mentioned at the top of the show, for our listeners, Steve’s been in this space for a while, so Steve, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you this question. Knowing you’ve been in the space for quite some time, what do you see on the horizon? I’m going to show my age and say for the next five to 10 years, but that’s old school thinking in the next two to three years, two to four years. What do you envision might be some of the new things that we see coming in the learning technology space that are going to force Fuse, your platform, and other things too, to really keep up with kind of where we’re going in the digital space?
Yeah, I think there’s, I mean there’s some table stakes stuff, right? So the data piece, the analytics piece is absolutely crucial to allow that level of information, not just the admin, look at every single stakeholder to understand what’s happening and to make a predictive choices with the insights we’re getting from those dashboards. Because that’s the kind of a table stake type part. I think the skill sets we’re going to see of L&D we’re going to see it transformed just as we saw that transformation happened in marketing. I think in terms of technology, I think we have to see that search probably becomes the number one way that people consume content. We always say that in our most progressive clients that it’s been going through a course and go through it linear, but it’s actually, I’ve forgotten that thing. So therefore, what is your search go? So for us the big investment is around, you know, getting close to a D. who is that?
So adding in things like natural language processing and Tenpay search and the ability not to find the content that has the answer but as Google is doing now, and actually to find the answer, sorry, that’s a big critical thing, but to get that people have to make a big step change in how they think about content. So the old world are building these bulky courses is not going to live with the organizations who are already transformed into this new world. So making the content so that it’s search friendly, that is bite-size, that you can build multiple learning paths and learning pathways from that, which is going to be a big challenge, right, for many people to move away from. I’m using ganja and bloom and all these methodologies so radically think differently that I’m building for search first because most of what I’m going to teach you, you’re going to forget and some of them I’m never going to teach.
So that content strategy piece, I think we’ll see people now building a lot more content and a lot more agile way. The central team’s done in the skill sets that allow them to be, let me go and record an expert visualizing and a couple of hours and get out to the audience that needs it. But, also being a partner in the business that’s going to say, let me help you do that. Let me provide some content that allows you expert to create it. And when you’ve got something, you know it’s coming to share. I’m going to partner with you to go do that.
Well, I think you’ve got, you’ve got a range of things, right? The skill sets. I think the content piece and then the technology piece, but all three for us, I think we’re going to see radical changes.
I think that’s well said. I think the other thing that we see in terms of modalities, you know, we’re looking at curated content, but just recently writing about the voice and audio, different ways to use that because you can capture it so quickly and submit content. Uh, things are changing so quickly. One nugget that stood out to me of what you just said is that potentially the biggest barrier to this is not can the technology be created, but probably more so the mindset of those responsible for promoting learning in the organization and rethinking what a course curriculum or learning path, obviously evolutions being made and it’s hard to move quickly, but I think the mindset of what this looks like and compliance and some of the things that constrain many of the organizations we work with. What is it that they should be thinking about from a soft skills, technical skills, or even regulatory? How does that work? And I think even some of the measurement and the regulatory pieces, how does learning occur? What’s required for continuing professional education? I think it’s just going to take a little bit of time, probably less so for the technology and more so for the mindset and the execution of that.
I think that’s absolutely right. I can even look two clients in the same industry. One is living in the new world and that covers everything I’ve talked about there delivering upon that and seeing the results and another client has a desire, but maybe it doesn’t quite have the path and skillset to get in that we obviously, which is part of our responsibility now to help those organizations. So I think he’s absolutely right that the technology is no longer the barrier to live in the new world, but the skill sets and knowhow and then for some the desire, right? Some people are, yeah, you’ve got the people out there, you’ve got the people in the middle of that want to be there. They just need some guidance to get there. And then you’ve probably got some people that just want to retire. Right. And it’s going to take a little bit of time for that to flush out.
Yeah. All great insights. And I agree with you. I think as I said earlier in the podcast, sometimes it takes a generation, not because it takes that long to build it, but because those who grew up with it don’t just want to see, I mean, their expectations are that it’s there. And so I think very quickly the younger generation will expect this in the workplace and that may be the catalyst and the driver.
I was going to say to that point, I do think you’re right there, right? I think if you ask the users and people do the surveys, you’d recognize you want to make the change straight away because every user and every learner is saying look, the stuff we’re talking about, I’m already doing that in my consumer life, so I’m bought in, so I think it does come down to learning leadership that is a person who’s been doing it the same way for 30 years. Are they brave enough and courageous enough to say, I’m going to challenge myself. I’m going to be respectfully challenging, not just on the people but to myself and say, you know, just because I’ll be doing this for 30 years. Does that mean it’s the right way to continue or should it be open-minded to look at ways of succeeding elsewhere?
Yeah, great insight. Well Steve as expected, all good points. Excited to continue to work with your platform and see what you guys do with the Fuse platform. One thing we’ll do for our listeners, we’ll put Steve’s contact info as well as a link to Fuse Universal website in the podcast notes. If you’ve got any questions, I’m sure Steve would be happy to hear from you through that link or contacting through Fuse Universal website and that does it for this time. Thanks to our listeners for your time and forward to seeing you next time. Thanks, Steve for your insights and thanks for being a guest on the podcast.
Thanks so much for the opportunity.
All right. Until next time.
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