Hello everyone! My name is Ladek and my guest for this episode is Jason Thai-Kennedy, a learning strategist who works with leaders in today’s age of continuous change. He is currently a Senior Learning and Communications Manager at Electronic Arts.
In this ‘continuously-changing’ conversation Jason and I talk about
00:00 › Start
5:27 › The Rapid Pace of Change, the feeling of overwhelm around that and then the complexity that is then layered on top of the rapid change. We also discuss whether complexity is increasing in the eLearning space and EdTech?
12:15 › Jason’s Design Approach to change that is non hierarchical, and the complexities involved with working with and through communities
23:37 › The Key Data Jason Collects to track their work and how that is used to develop your learning strategies that are aligned with EA’s business goals (and when things haven’t worked out)
36:25 › How Jason Communicates A Vision to reduce overwhelm around change complexity, and how he leverages company structure to ensure alignment across leaders and managers
44:50 › How Jason Sets Himself Apart as a learning professional within an organization in order to be most effective and assuage the complexities and the fear around change
Click to collapse\expand
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Learn more at OpenLMS .net Hello everyone, my name’s Ladic, and my guest for this episode is Jason Thai-Kennedy, a learning strategist who works with leaders in today’s age of continuous change.
He’s currently a senior learning and communications manager at Electronic Arts. In this change management conversation, Jason and I talk about the rapid pace of change, the feeling of overwhelm around that,
and then the complexity that is then layered on top of the rapid change. We also discuss whether complexity is increasing in the eLearning space and EdTech in general.
We then talk about how Jason is designing an approach to change that is non -hierarchical, and the complexities involved with working with and through communities. Next,
Jason and I discuss the data that he collects to track their work and how that’s used to develop learning strategies that are aligned with EA’s business goals, and we also talk about when these things haven’t worked out all that well.
We then move on to Jason’s approach to communicating a vision to reduce overwhelm around change and complexity and how he leverages company structure to ensure alignment across leaders and managers.
And then finally, we end our conversation around how Jason positions himself as a learning professional within an organization in order to be most effective and assuage the complexities and the fear around change.
Now remember, we record this podcast live so that we can interact with you, our listeners in real time. So if you’d like to join the fun every week on LinkedIn or Facebook or YouTube, just come over to elearnmagazine .com and subscribe.
Now I give you Jason Thai-Kennedy. Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Elearn podcast. My name is Ladik as you heard there, and I’m super excited today to have my guest, Jason Thai-Kennedy. How are you today, sir?
Doing very well. Also very excited to be here. So thank you for having me as a guest. I feel honored and blessed. Well, it’s, believe me, the pleasure is all ours. Just, you know,
really been all questioned. Where do we find you sitting in the world? Well, currently I’m on vacation. So I lugged along my little portable podcast studio here brought my gamer mic down.
But I’m in Kelowna, BC currently, but normally based out of Vancouver. Oh, okay. Cool. We’re, for those of us who are not Canada familiar, where is Kelowna? Yeah.
So it’s about middle into the mountains and it’s Lake country, lots of wineries. It’s much warmer here than it is in Vancouver.
So around 25 degrees today, the sun shines out. It was out playing basketball this morning. Nice. Yeah, now that sounds coming. I’m a Colorado boy myself coming from the mountains,
you know, like there’s nothing like a crisp mountain morning to just make your day. That’s so fantastic. You are what I like to describe, you are a learning strategist.
You work for electronic arts. But I, you know, rather than, as we always do here, rather than kind of reading out your bio, why don’t you give us the 60 seconds on, you know, where are you? Where do you sit at EA Sports and where do you focus your time and effort?
Yeah. And that’s a really good question. And EA Sports is a, lots of people get trapped into that. We make a lot more than sports. Sorry, electronic cards. I apologize. Electronic cards. Yeah, that’s all good. It’s all good.
But I come with about 15 years of learning and development experience. I’ve been with a bunch of different companies in my career and consulted. So coming to electronic cards,
I’ve been there now six years. I am directly embedded with an organization that’s responsible for the technology that goes into the games. There is also a centralized learning team.
But I am embedded with one of the organizations. I partner with other learning and development professionals at electronic cards. But I strategically align myself to the goals and the needs of the business that I support.
I sit within an operations team. So I sit beside a PMO, lots of program managers and change professionals. And I am very closely aligned with a communications team as well.
So we are the learning and communications team in my space. And yeah, you know that I consider myself a learning strategist. I’m highly inspired about wanting to inspire change within the practice of learning and development.
Hence why I’m very excited to have conversations like this. And I have a bit of a vision of the future, so to speak, for the learning and development space. So that’s why I’m excited to come and chat with you today.
Awesome. I want to get to that vision for the future. Give us a sense before we sort of dive into a topic for today. What does your ecosystem look like in terms of numbers?
Are you touching like a team of like 10 people, 100 people? How large is EA in general? So when you’re making a shift in a learning strategy or you’re doing like,
what’s the ecosystem you’re affecting? And then how does that reverberate maybe? Yeah, absolutely. So electronic arts is call it around 15 ,000 employees globally. We have offices all over the world.
I think the last time we checked, it’s in the ballpark of 30 to 35 offices globally. So our teams are all over the place, both from time zones, but geographically.
And, and that organization that I support is also global space. The organization that I am in is it fluctuates given the needs of different studios and game teams.
But at any given time, we’re at about, say, 2000 to 2500 employees in the organization that I support. Okay, fantastic. The, you know,
the topic that you put on the table for me, and that we’ve really, you know, we’ve we’ve wrapped this this entire episode around is the rapid pace of change, the feeling of overwhelm around that,
and then the complexity that is then layered on top of the rapid change, right? It even just like articulating that in this conversation, like, I can already feel my chest getting a little tight,
you know, like, I’ve described it before, you know, it used to be a fire hose. Now it’s like, you know, we’re just actually at the fire hydrants, you know, at this stage with stuff coming at us. I’d love to just ask you first to characterize that problem.
Why is that something that you recognize focus on? Like, how does it appear in your practice? And we’re, you know, where do you want to jump off and,
you know, thinking about that? Yeah, and change is scary. Like, when we when we see the world rapidly evolving as quickly, I would say when 2020 came around,
and we all experienced COVID and coming out of that, and we’re seeing global changes now, both environmentally, politically, you know, different countries, not getting along,
all that sort of thing. Change comes about quite quickly. And I think artificial intelligence is a great example. I was thinking this morning about how quickly chat GPT came into the picture.
I mean, we go back, we’re in May of 2023. Now, we’re only five months into the year. I’m getting older. So years go by by faster. Maybe that’s Hey,
this is gray hair, my friend. This is gray hair. But yeah, chat GPT is a great example. In the last five months,
how disruptive it’s been, not only from the adoption of users. I mean, there are over 100 million users per month. It’s one of the fastest adopted pieces of technology that we’ve seen ever.
So it’s a great example for how quickly change comes about in our modern day. So one of the things that I’ve really focused my career in the direction that I’m going with electronic cards,
but just in the learning and development profession is that change is rampant. Change is the disruptor. And there’s been a lot of studies on the types of solutions that Fortune 500 companies and CEOs are focused on in today is being successful at change.
So I realized early on in my learning career that that change is inevitable, and that learning and development, the practices of that when we look at addy and traditional approaches,
usually take a waterfall approach, kind of like a project management waterfall approach where you’ll go and you’ll do analysis, you’ll design, you’ll implement,
you’ll measure success. I early in my career started integrating agile addy into my workflow and how I partnered with businesses.
So it was advantageous for me to do that because I was attaching myself to the needs of their business versus what the definition of the project was.
And it’s that close alignment, I feel that has been the success of my career. And it’s something that I’ve really leaned into and become passionate about, is to look at change is not a scary thing.
But as an opportunity to really deepen your relationship as a learning professional with the success criteria of the business and working very closely, just associating yourself to that.
And there’s lots of different things that we do at Electronic Arts to do that. And that’s what I’m excited to talk about here. Okay. Hi there. I’m sorry to break into the show right now. But if you’re enjoying this show, if you are challenged,
if you’re inspired, if you’re learning something, if you think that you’re going to be able to get something out of this to put into your practice, do me a quick favor. Pause right now and just hit subscribe on your podcast player right now. It doesn’t matter which one,
just hit subscribe, because that way it’ll make sure that you never miss an episode in the future. Thanks. Now, back to the show. So weave in complexity in that thought process there.
I agree. I don’t think there’s anybody who would disagree that, yeah, change is something that we all struggle with every day. And it’s something that you’re kind of confronted with a new piece of change,
it seems like almost every day. Something shifts, there’s a nudge or there’s a new something that shows up. What are your thoughts around, is there increasing complexity in that as well in the learning space?
We’ve already broached, you put it on the topic of AI entering the scene now. But we already had complexity as well beforehand in terms of how the pandemic disrupted learning and work in general and whatnot.
And so tease that out a little bit for me, like how do you approach and what is complexity mean to you? Yeah, that’s a really good question because,
and I’ll use the example of artificial intelligence and how that’s come about. If we look at the skills needed to produce tools that leverage AI to do work,
like say, for example, we’re developing a game. And to develop the game, there has to be a tool set employed for, I don’t know, artists to go and create a face.
There is that deeply technical skill set required from a software engineer to connect AI to a data lake and to do some cool stuff.
I’m not an AI scientist or anything like that, so I can’t get into the perfect detail around it, but there are all those highly technical skills required to use those types of platforms.
But there’s also, from a complexity standpoint, the effects of AI across an enterprise. AI is going to start to work itself into the way that all of us work.
And I think that even just for you and I, not being data scientists or engineers or anything like that, we’re going to start to implement AI into a workflow. I’ve started using ChatGPT when I want to draft a communication and bounce some ideas around and be creative.
But it’s going to be deeper than that. It’s going to be how our HRIS systems work. It’s going to be how our learning management systems work. It’s going to be how we author content. So when we talk about continuous change,
high complexity, high disruptiveness, I think that AI is a really good example to kind of paint the picture that it’s going to touch a lot of different aspects.
So when we approach learning solutions in this, say, given environment, it’s very important to be very close to the business and understanding their desires,
their needs, and their intended outcomes, and to be able to align very quickly to those changes that businesses are going through and will continue to be going through because change is so quick and so rampant today.
And that’s what I’m really passionate about. How has that started to play out in your own career? Before I kind of talk about your… I don’t know.
How long ago did you join EA? You recently made a move. You’ve taken choice or choices to realign your career and what you’re passionate about.
Why was that important when you think about, here’s how I’m gonna address this topic, or here’s I’m gonna work on this topic? – Yeah, it’s kind of multifaceted and I’ll rewind a bit like to when I was talking about implementing like an agile,
addy approach to my workflow. So when I worked in the energy sector, this is probably going back 10 years ago and starting to work in there, they were doing a lot of digital transformations.
They had, I was supporting supply chain organizations. So I worked with process improvement teams. I worked with change management leaders. I worked with a program management office and that was a really,
really unique opportunity because learning was very closely aligned with how the business was evolving. And it was moving from a very, not archaic,
but a very non -technical type environment and moving their warehouse systems and how they requisition, how they move materials through supply chain into a very digital system.
So there was SAP integrations and a lot of digital transformation happening in that space. And the traditional methods and that that I had learned through learning and development were hard to keep up with change.
So it was in aligning myself as a professional with change professionals and employing that agile, addy approach. I read an article online and got really passionate.
I started becoming more involved in the change initiatives and the change professionals. And then I started modifying how I was approaching learning in the past. And over my career,
I’ve really kind of developed that skill set. And when I came into Electronic Arts, one of the first things that I chatted about with actually a couple of leaders and they asked me was,
’cause I’m in a learning and communications role, they say that employees are inundated inundated with all kinds of messages, emails, system notifications, changes from the industry coming in,
new technology being adopted. How are you as a learning and development professional going to be able to, A, grab their attention, align closely with them and be able to affect change and be able to implement new skills,
be able to communicate to them what the most important thing they need to know today is. And that was my challenge coming into Electronic Arts six years ago. So it was through that kind of that challenge,
and having to be innovative and adopt new ideas and take a different approach to how we connected with employees that really started to spark my desire to lean into this learning strategist type role and think about how we could approach learning very differently to best align to employees and their desires.
So take me down that. I mean, we have a bunch of different directions that we can go. Talk to me about how maybe you approach a non -hierarchical or a different way of looking at the structure behind how I learn,
who I communicate with, how I anticipate or deal with complexity and this change coming at me through building communities. Yeah.
So that’s the key word there is the building of communities. The communities have been very rewarding for us to connect with employees and meet them with a value proposition.
So what I mean by that is, on the calm side of things and connecting with them on change that’s occurring, we found an opportunity to link our goals from a learning perspective with the calm’s efforts that we were taking and connecting with employees.
And it all started when I first joined Electronic Arts. There was a meeting that some of the top leaders would go and share on a monthly basis some of the new technology that was coming in,
having conversations about where they wanted to take the business and their goals for the year and what new tech they could implement, all that sort of thing. And I saw an opportunity to make that more of an inclusive event and start to engage those types of discussions with employees more broadly.
And the goal there really is to create an environment where anybody can share anything that they’re passionate about through a community. And that has really led us over the six years to building an organization -wide community where we share topics that,
you know, it could be a new team that’s formed, individuals have the opportunity to come forward and say why that team was formed and why they feel it’s important and impactful. They could come forward with a new piece of technology to say,
“Hey, I’ve built this tool. It’s going to affect the game development process in this way. I’m speaking today to share that in creating awareness so that other teams can adopt the tool.” It could be a town hall or a podcast where we’re just having discussions to get insights from leaders on how they’re thinking strategically about where the business is going or where their goals might be focused for the year.
So through this community, we’ve been given an opportunity to have a narrative with everyone. They understand where we’re taking them and some of the directions that our organization is going.
And when people talk about the goals of the business, they understand through the community what those goals are and how they’re going to impact. The benefit always is there’s a benefit for somebody coming forward to share a topic.
So we focus on that. Everyone has their why when they come into these community discussions. But there’s also value there for the audience. It’s something that they can take away. They can go back into their world and they can start integrating a new tool.
They understand why a team exists. So their workflow is more connected with them or they have something that they can go and learn and start to lean into a new direction. So in our job,
it’s as communicators and learning professionals, it’s our job to create an easy mechanism for that, remove the barriers for the presenters. And in addition to that,
this engagement we have with them is all non -hierarchial. So businesses get business done based on how they structure teams and how they drive different professions and individuals and technology and all that.
But humans work better when there is strong sense of community and they have an opportunity to connect with each other. And that has nothing to do with hierarchy. I might be a software engineer on an artist team whereas another software engineer on a data team is going to be able to learn things from me or we can connect with each other and build our profession together if there is that sense of community where we
can go and share ideas and be able to network. So that’s been really powerful for us to connect with the employees. – So managing a community is a,
it’s a strength, it’s a skill in itself. How do you weave in, how do you make sure that the conversation kind of doesn’t spin out to a place where you don’t want it,
maybe it’s unproductive or unhelpful? And sort of a second part of that question would be, how do you make sure to be able to like, let’s just take it one particular type,
introduce like, here’s our learning goals for 2023. you know, 2023. Like, how do you, how do you introduce like a really solid topic that you’re going to socialize while making sure that you’re,
you’re also allowing people to express their opinion, but maybe not spin out of control? Does that, is that, is that a reasonable question? Well, yeah, I mean, that’s fair. Yeah,
absolutely. With our communities, I guess to help paint the pictures is how these go about. I mean, we have anywhere from two, two events per month, to, I mean,
we’re in the last few years, we’ve done north of 25 events. We do everything from podcasts, like I said, to learning events,
to town halls, to Slack engagements. A lot of them are Zoom events where people get the chance to listen to somebody present a new tool or a team or what have you,
like I was giving examples of, but they’re also there to be able to ask questions. And, you know, if they’re wanting to grow towards, you know,
I present a lot throughout the year on the learning strategy. And I think that whole term learning strategy is a great topic we can get into, you know, what are the components of our learning strategy and what’s important about that?
But when we have those types of discussions, we share as much as we discuss. So I may come as a presenter with 20 to 30 minutes of information that I want to share with the audience,
but we always leave the floor open for people to ask questions, to connect with, you know, with different polls and engagements activity -wise so that it’s a two -way conversation.
So I think the best way to answer that is, you know, how do we keep it from becoming disruptive is that community space is an opportunity for people to connect, learn,
and be, you know, aligned with how the leadership is thinking, but on their side as an employee coming into that discussion, they have unique opportunities to be able to share their ideas,
to ask questions, and to be able to grow from those experiences. So it’s kind of that benefit going both ways from whoever’s there to share, but also for the employee being there.
And we have a myriad of different activities that we do. We talk about learning strategy. We talk about new tech and tools. We talk about strategy. So it’s really coming forward with those different types of topics that if an employee went to every single one of our events,
that’s a lot of time to commit. I mean, you’re looking at an organization of around 3 ,000 employees. We do at least two months of two events per month.
That’s two hours of– – A lot of person hours, yeah. – That’s a lot of person hours. It’s a big cost of the business. So I mean, it has to be, we started off where we were sensitive to that, but later on, because there were so many topics and everyone wanted to share,
people show up to the things that align closely to their worlds. Some events will have 80 people because it’s highly technical and they’re software engineers that need to learn something. Other events will have like 300 people because it’s more strategically focused and people more generally are interested.
So it kind of depends on the topic that helps kind of guide folks there. – Tell me how do you weave in something like, the data that you get from learning surveys or feedback that you get from a direction in the past saying,
“Hey, here’s where we were going. “Here’s what we learned from it. “We’d like to get your opinion on it.” Or, “Here’s what we tried to achieve. “Here’s what went right and here’s what went wrong. “Here’s how we’re adapting.” Talk to me about that process.
– Yeah, so I’m deeply passionate that to really connect with a business and be able to bring solutions to this disruptive change that we see and kind of help build learning of the future and really instill learning culture that the whole community in that discussion is what we use as an anchor point.
It’s kind of like the foundations of a strong house. house, you know, your foundation is going to help, you know, hold up the house type thing. So for our learning strategy, that community is really important.
We learned through creating it over the years and having that connection with the employee helped us implement the learning strategy. So when we talk about,
you know, the outputs of a learning survey, that’s something that is another really strong engagement point. I will go on a annual basis and report the results of our learning survey that we conduct with employees.
And the intent of the learning survey is to capture their learning desires through a given year. And because we do that annually, we have a history of where the business was or where they were focused in previous years and where they are today.
So that’s very helpful. We have different learning categories that exist within the learning survey because our organization is very technology focused, we’ll have data professionals,
software engineers, business leaders, all that sort of thing. And they all have different learning desires. And because technology is changing so fast, or because their careers are changing and the business is evolving and maturing,
they’re focusing on different areas of their career, both professionally minded, how to lead teams, but also technically on the tools that they use. So when we go back on an annual basis and report the findings from our learning survey,
this is a really important discussion with the community at large to identify what are going to be the target skill areas that we’re going to focus on in the next fiscal year going forward.
So that community is a lever or mechanism that we’re able to pull that helps us be successful with our learning strategy. We are closely and deeply connected with the business and the employees because I’m the host of a lot of these discussions and they’re used to seeing me.
So when I come forward, you know, sharing the results of the learning survey and saying, because we care about a culture of learning, learning and on the backs of this data, we’re going to take these actions throughout the year and that’s going to shape our discussions that we have,
the experiences that we have together and you’re going to not just see us taking a certain direction. You’re going to feel it and you’re going to be able to involve yourself in the process and learn with us and go on a journey together because of that tight line of community.
So the learning strategy would not be successful without that foundation of community. So how does that then, the use of this data,
I’m sort of kind of trying to build a picture for it because it sounds like you have a kind of an ongoing conversation. You’re definitely bringing in data from past efforts. How does this shape how you develop your learning strategies in terms of business goals in terms of breaking the mold and taking a chance in terms of,
you know, what are you going to do to target essentially your content strategies for the different aspects of VA? Yeah, so great question and in equal importance of identifying those learning desires is aligning your learning strategy with the strategic needs of the business.
So I kind of look at it as two things. There’s the learning desire that employees communicate to us and when I say employee, I don’t just mean individual contributors.
A director is an employee, you know, middle management leaders are employees as well. So when we collect those learning desires,
we’re collecting it for the whole business. So we’re very data rich there to understand different teams, different studios, different levels of leaders,
where learning desires are, that’s all very insightful. But then we align what we’re going forward in the next fiscal year with the strategic needs of the business.
So they identify goals on a yearly basis, and we will have conversations with them multiple times per year, divided out by the different business units that we have within the organization that I support.
And I identify, say, three to five key goals that link with their strategic direction. And we align the learning needs with those goals.
And you either have three situations. You have one situation where the learning desires are disconnected from strategy of the business and their goals and where they want to go.
So you have to kind of figure out from a learning strategy perspective, okay, what are the gaps to try to bring that a little bit closer? The second situation is you have perfect alignment, where the learning needs of the organization and the strategic priorities of the business are a one -to -one match.
Well, learning strategy is pretty easy in that situation. But what you find is scenario three, where you’ll have learning desires that are somewhat closely aligned with strategy,
but a software engineer might be very technically focused on, I need to develop these skills in Python, where the business goals might be, we need to integrate more effectively AI in how we develop games or how we’re going to create faces in games in the future.
So there is a bit of work that needs to occur there to clearly align where that technical skill might come in with that goal that you’re working on.
And that’s the work that we do when we look at the output, the data set from the learning survey and start to develop the content strategies. It’s understanding the strategic priorities of the business and where the gaps are in the middle and trying to connect things to develop a content strategy going forward for the next year.
Without putting you on the spot, is there a moment in recent history or during your tenure there you made a choice for a direction or you looked at the days that we want to build out this content or whatever and it was a flop.
It’s one of the things that we like to talk about our successes, but I’m always interested in those failures as well. How did you bring that back to the community where you was the transparent was like, “Hey, look, we thought we were going to be doing AI integration to create better avatars,” but that actually didn’t work out because of X.
What’s that situation like? I think that’s very cultural based and without getting into any privacy concerns for electronic cars to be like, “Hey,
this is where we failed.” I think just that word failure for a majority of the population out there is a negative word.
That word fail just has a heaviness and it just doesn’t feel good for most people, but I am one truly just myself and I don’t know just the way that I am.
I really enjoy a challenge. I really enjoy learning and that’s why I got so passionate about the learning profession early on in my career. Early my career as a training facilitator had just as much fun learning from the audience regardless of the topic that we were talking about during the day.
I was just as passionate about learning from them as the stuff that I had to talk about for the day and that really led me to becoming a business partner in how I grew through my career moving from training facilitator to instructional design to align with change professionals and that sort of thing is because I had this passion to continue learning about the business and how we can make more positive impacts that I
kind of started to lean into challenges and looking at those as opportunities and you know, anyone who’s a change professional, you know, thinks about failure as,
you know, experimentation and innovation is really important to be able to grow and to learn. So when I came into Electronic Arts, what I was really blessed by is that, you know,
Electronic Arts has created its complexity that it lives in since day one. They started making games, you know, in the late 80s into the early 90s and innovating and creating technology to be able to produce bigger and better games and we’ve created this complexity monster that we live in today ourselves,
but it’s created that culture of innovation experimentation and not looking at failure as a negative, but as something you can lean into and,
you know, failure is only a negative thing if you don’t learn anything from that failure. So I always look to learn something from the things that we do. And although I have a very structured approach to how I manage a learning strategy in my day to day,
I never assume that I have it right. We’re always growing, we’re always learning something. And it could just be a comment that we see in chat when we’re talking about the learning strategy.
It could be an MPS score that we get from a recent training event that teaches us something. A great example is we did a Scrum course recently where the North American crowd,
when we did certified Scrum master training, we got 10 out of 10 on the MPS and we’re like, great, great course, facilitated well. People got value.
Wonderful. We did the exact same course based out of Romania, and we were getting really low NPS scores, and we’re confused. We said it was the same instructor. They adjusted their time zone to go and teach the European crowd,
and we’re getting low NPS, and we started reaching out to participants based on that, being curious about why that had failed. We learned that with their culture and how they work with their teams in that region,
they don’t care about getting that check mark for certification. They want to know what are the methodologies of Scrum that I can apply in my day -to -day.
The North American crowd wanted the certification so that they can then go, “Okay, I’m certified. Now, I can start to think about how I can apply it day -to -day,” whereas the European crowd wanted to cut that and say,
“No, no. We kind of understand Scrum. Let’s start with how I can start to integrate that into my workflow day -to -day.” Now, we’ve created two Scrum courses. One of them is focused on,
okay, if you want certification, and that’s your more logical approach to learning that. There is that option, but we also now have a new Scrum course where it’s more day -to -day applicable.
The whole purpose of that training is to get that out of it. That’s a good example of how we’re always listening, and data is really important to that.
We’ve got polls, we have chat engagements, we’ve got all kinds of different ways in which employees can communicate with us. Again, that community is really foundational to that, but it’s always being open to…
I wasn’t sad that we failed with that course. I was really curious as to what didn’t work and what we could do to change it. It just left my mind,
of course, as you’re saying it. This is one of those great ways of helping to deal with that pace of change, that complexity. I want to tie this in.
We talked about community. We’ve talked about some of the data that you bring into community to guide some of those conversations. One of the things that fascinates me, and I’d love to hear your, your perspective on this,
is then I know, we all know that one of the ways to reduce overwhelm around on change and complexity is to give yourself a target, right? Like have have a vision that you want to achieve,
right? Because then that should be a north star guiding light into decision making around, are we going to adopt this technology, are we going to go that development path, or, you know, we’re going to create this next,
you know, game. How does that work at EA in terms of, you know, your building, you know, being the learning or the learning strategists, articulating a vision,
but then taking these pieces, which 15 ,000 people, there’s all these moving parts, like, and making sure that those all of those data points are aligning towards that. Well,
I think it’s, it’s that it’s, it’s our team very early on started leading into the importance of a learning strategy.
And we, we defined what that long term vision was. And then we made everything that we did in contribution to that. So that’s something that,
you know, regardless of the employer that I have today, I mean, electronic, electronic arts is a place where I get to pursue my passions, I get to experiment,
I get to try new ideas out. You know, I’m very autonomous in the way that I work. You know, we were talking before the podcast started about asking for forgiveness, not for permission.
If you’re ruining my strategy, man, and, and, and that’s really, I mean, that’s, that’s one of the aspects of how I work as a professional is I will set a long term vision,
whether it’s professionally, you know, in with my team, we set out long term visions or just just myself and my career. I really believe in a future of of learning and evolving the learning and development profession to be able to meet the needs of business in this ever changing rapidly,
you know, disruptive environment. But it’s it’s it’s leaning in with that kind of energy and that mindset to say we’re willing to get scrappy, we’re willing to try different things with that long term vision in mind.
So AI is a perfect example of that and how we are going to start to integrate different tools into our workflow. And that’s really going to help us be better equipped to do our jobs.
We’re going to get more effective in how we do things like the cool things with chat GPT is watching software engineers reduce their their time in coding and be able to improve their their check in through some of the tools that they’re integrating into the workflows where an AI agent can help them with their coding practices and that sort of thing.
But, you know, for for for us laymen like me, that, you know, it’s not a software engineer, I have started using chat GPT to be more creative. And to start leveraging those types of tools.
So I’m really excited to start leaning into what automated tools and that sort of thing that we can start to use as learning professionals. I’m really interested in, you know,
the outputs of our learning survey, can we start to leverage AI in defining what course recommendations that we could use. So if we look at learning platforms like Coursera or Riley,
Udemy, LinkedIn learning, all that, there’s libraries of content out there, that’s, we’re faced with kind of this chaos of all this content that exists overwhelmed with choice in that particular case,
right? It’s a cool place to be in. I mean, I remember in my profession, we had to create everything ourselves or go like purchase these that at exorbitant rates. And they were outdated. And they weren’t a lot of fun.
I remember the videos that used to play, they were like from 1994 around ad car and change management. They were painful. But thankfully today, we’re blessed with all of this choice.
But the challenge that comes I think today is, you know, we’re lucky to have that that data set of learning desires. But is there a tool in the future where we don’t manually have to go into the sea of content and try to map the learnings or the courses to all of that data?
Can we leverage artificial intelligence to start to make those matches for us? And then we’re there to kind of curate how those outputs are starting to look.
I think future opportunities in that space is going to be really exciting to help us define content strategies faster and more effectively, because a software engineer might not need to take a whole Python course to understand the specific tasks they’re trying to get done.
They might be able to describe their workflow a little bit with some key words. And I might be able to leverage that as a learning professional to make a recommendation that you don’t need to take 18 hours of training.
You just need to go watch this one hour video. That’s chapter 4 .3 of the Python course on Udemy. So I’m going to go, you know, I myself, not being a professional in that space,
it’s hard for me to go seek that out, make those recommendations, but I think AI is going to be able to help us out in a cool way with that. As someone, I think that you’ve really kind of teased out another question here is that as the learning strategist,
it’s by definition, a bigger picture role, right? And while you’re curating the community, working with leadership, etc. to kind of move that vision forward. What do you,
where do you look at in terms of multiplying your efforts or maybe bolstering your efforts through division heads, director heads?
I mean, for lack of a better term, you know, somebody who can champion whatever is necessary in different parts of the business to feed, you know, bubble up to you so that it, you know, again,
getting those data points to align. Yeah, and that’s that’s great question. It’s part of how we approach when we have a base of data. We’re starting to define the goals and align with those with our content strategy.
We then start to partner with the business and make those connections where those subject matter experts can help guide us to the priorities. I’m not going to pretend to be the professional of what a data team needs for their learning strategy in the next year.
I’m not going to assume what the software engineers need or the program managers in that space. I have to start to partner and create relationships with individuals in those different business units to help guide me as a learning professional.
And then I’m there to help remove barriers for those type of subject matter experts to be able to implement learning solutions very quickly. That’s what I’m good at is learning professional. So throughout the year,
I call them learning champions. They’re not necessarily the top leader in that space, but it’s someone who may have been a software engineer that’s now leading a team,
is closely aligned to the strategy. They’re passionate themselves about creating some learning solutions. Each year, we get a nomination of different learning champions from the different BUs that then I partner with.
And we have either it’s monthly one -on -one check -ins or at least quarterly. We’re working together to identify, say, three to five key learning areas that we can start to implement some solutions on.
Low -hanging fruit is a keyword that I like using with those learning champions to say, “What is the low -hanging fruit in your organization, this fiscal? What training can we implement?
What event can we help facilitate that would really make an impact in your strategic priorities for the year?” year. So the learning champions are key for us to be able to go and implement strategy over the year.
Cool. I want to kind of round out our conversation here with the last question that we’ve talked about the communities, we’ve talked about using data to feed into those communities and those conversations,
we talked about aligning them towards a vision. You were putting on the table of being able to multiply yourself in order to have those champions within it. So then where do you position yourself as a learning professional within an organization like this,
fairly large, global, everything, in order to be most effective and assuage that, again, the complexities and the pace and that fear around change.
What’s your recommendation for where should you be? Well, I’ll start with, I have a mentor at Electronic Arts and she’s been really impactful in helping guide my career and really helped,
she’s really helped provide some clarity about the things that I’m passionate about. So, you know, I’ll bring problems and opportunities and share with her how I’m thinking about learning strategy and that sort of thing.
And she’s helped provide clarity on kind of how she sees me going forward and really defining for me what I’m passionate about and where I want to set my North Star.
So that’s really helpful. And the key that came out of the conversation recently was performance consultant. So I see myself as a learning strategist.
I’m inspired by, you know, helping create a culture of learning in an organization and leveraging community and all that sort of thing. But when it comes to to the outcomes and helping the business realize strategy,
you are a performance consultant. And it’s from that that I think has helped define for me where I fit in the organization and how it’s important to be strategically positioned.
And I do feel I’m very strategically positioned in my role as a performance consultant contributing in the role of learning and communications.
Through communications, we’ve been able to build this community. And through the skills that I bring, I’m bringing learning solutions for the specific business that I support. We’re aligned with the program management office and we sit within an operations team.
So we’re in the right places at the right time to have conversations about where the business is going and to be able to align with those needs. And I think it’s really important as a learning professional in today’s market to be strategically positioned,
to act as a performance consultant and being strategically positioned in the business is very key. This is something that, if you’re a learning professional listening to this podcast,
it’s important to have those types of conversations with the leaders that you work with to be able to create opportunities for you to make the biggest impact. And that performance consultant is that that approach,
that mindset is really important, I think to get yourself closer to that. We have, like I said, a centralized learning team at Electronic Arts. They do all kinds of amazing work as a learning team to build talent development solutions enterprise -wide to focus our DEI efforts,
diversity and inclusion, to help align to the security needs, informing individuals of how we should be working and how we shouldn’t to keep things security.
There’s lots of learning involved in that. There’s a learning management system that we have. They have their own data that they look at on a day -to -day basis. So there’s a lot of services that they provide enterprise -wide.
I’m strategically positioned with the business that I support, the technology group, to be able to focus on the needs of my BU, but I’m also very closely tied with them to be a better performance consultant for my organization.
So there’s things that we leverage from each other. And through my career, I’ve really enjoyed, this is why I consulted a lot for many years as being an embedded partner. So not necessarily working in the human resources organization,
but I really enjoy getting my hands dirty and working with the business on rolling out that new SAP training, or when I worked for the government implementing the new health and safety procedures and training officers to go out and do inspections and that sort of thing,
because I felt way more impactful working with prevention officers than I did for the government at large. Fantastic. It’s that kind of approach,
I guess, getting your hands dirty. As I always find with these conversations, an hour has almost passed and I feel like we’re just getting started, but I have to tie us in a bow here,
unfortunately. One final question, if somebody wants to continue the conversation with you about any of these topics, creating, aligning a vision,
creating a strategy, being embedded as you were just talking about, creating community, learning communities within your organization, what’s the best way for them to reach out and get in contact with you? Yeah. So, as I said earlier,
I am wildly passionate about this, how to effectively implement a learning strategy. I don’t feel like I’ve got it all figured out. We have five things that we do today with the learning survey,
learning report, we develop content strategies, we have a training fund that we leverage, and we identify skills of the future. But if there’s anything else that people are working with, I love having these types of discussions to hear what people are implementing.
I try to do as much externally as I do internally. So I try to connect with people on LinkedIn. I’m always open to having these types of conversations.
I presented at DevLearn last year and met a whole bunch of amazing learning professionals thinking really differently about learning. I often go on calls with solution providers just talking about some of the challenges that we have at EA and how new technology or new tool sets can help bring about solutions that maybe I wasn’t thinking about.
You know, this journey that I was talking about before about what kinds of AI tools that we can start to leverage in learning. I’m having conversations with different companies that are bringing about new solutions because I want to start thinking differently about the learning space.
So I’m always open to connecting with individuals. It’s written into my LinkedIn profile. If you’re somebody that would like to chat. -Come back with me, yeah. -Exactly. So,
yeah, I’m always open for discussion and whether it’s mentoring that people are looking for, I’m always down for that, whether it’s consulting and just having a conversation with an organization that wants to think about learning differently or it’s a company that wants to introduce a new tool or a podcaster like yourself that wants to have a discussion around e -learning and that I really enjoy these opportunities and it’s
what I’m wildly passionate about. So, I mean, it’s no sweat off my back to have conversation with pretty much anybody. Fantastic. So, hit Jason up. We will put your LinkedIn in our show notes as well,
but for anybody watching on Facebook or YouTube or LinkedIn right now, here’s your opportunity. Jason, thank you so much for taking time out of your vacation. -Of course. -To have this conversation. I’m glad that you’re wildly passionate about it.
It was super valuable and I look forward to another opportunity in the future. Absolutely. As do I and thank you. you. – Thank you again for listening to the E -Learn podcast here from OpenLMS.
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