What Is The Modern Learning Ecosystem? With JD Dillon

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Hello everyone! My name is Ladek and my guest for today is JD Dillon, an L&D expert who helps frontline employees do their best work every day. JD is currently the VP of Strategic Alignment at Axonify, founder of LearnGeek, and he’s recently published his second book: The Modern Learning Ecosystem

In this ‘very influential’ conversation JD and I talk about

00:00 › Start

01:45 › JD’s Current Endeavors, why he’s located close to Disney World, and how it influences his work

03:04 › Insights Into JD’s Background, where he sheds light on his passion for supporting frontline employees and his journey through the world of learning and development

05:57 › Why Influence — JD provides a compelling narrative on Why influence is considered the essential skill for L&D professionals today? And how he has seen its impact over the years

10:55 › Reevaluate The Way You Learn — JD then ponders whether the term “learning” needs reevaluation within the professional lexicon to better align with adult education and workplace training

17:55 › Integrals — We then shift gears to the challenges of integrating learning into the structured, scalable frameworks of large organizations, seeking a balance between systematic approaches and individual learning needs

25:17 › JD Offers Real-World Examples that highlight the discrepancies between problem-solving as a consumer, versus navigating the complexities within corporate settings

27:20 › Questioning? — We explore the art of questioning within the learning process, discussing the transition from identifying the right questions to applying AI in enhancing workplace performance

31:37 › Buy More Proactive — JD then discusses proactive strategies in L&D, emphasizing the significance of data-driven decision-making in shifting from reactive problem-solving to anticipatory learning initiatives

42:18 › Tactics  — JD shares his favorite creative problem-solving tactics, including the improv classic “yes, and” approach, and reveals how understanding the day-to-day reality of job roles can significantly enhance learning outcomes. 


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Learn more at Open LMS .net. Hi there, my name’s Ladek, and my guest for today is JD Dillon, an L &D expert who helps frontline employees do their best work every day.

JD is currently the Vice President of Strategic Alignment at Axonify, and he’s recently published his second book, The Modern Learning Ecosystem. In this very influential conversation,

JD and I talk about his current endeavors and why he’s located at Disney World and how it influences his work. JD then shares insights into his background, where he sheds light on his passion for supporting frontline employees and his journey through the world of learning and development.

JD then provides a compelling narrative on why influence is considered the essential skill for L &D professionals today and how he’s seen its impact. over the years. JD then ponders whether the term “learning” needs re -evaluation within the profession lexicon to better align with adult education and workplace training.

We then shift gears to the challenges of integrating learning into the structured, scalable frameworks of large organizations and seeing a balance between systematic approaches and individual learning needs.

to better align with adult education and workplace training. JD then ponders whether the term “learning” real world examples that highlight the discrepancies between problem solving as a consumer versus navigating the complexities within corporate settings. We then explore the art of questioning within the learning process,

discussing the transition from identifying the right questions to applying AI and enhancing workplace performance. JD then discusses proactive strategies in L &D, emphasizing the significance of data driven decision making and shifting from reactive problem -solving to anticipatory learning initiatives.

And then finally, JD shares his favorite creative problem -solving tactics, including the influential yes and approach. And he reveals how understanding the day -to -day reality of job roles can significantly enhance learning outcomes.

And remember, we record this podcast live so that we can interact with you, our listeners, in real time. So don’t be sad. But the show is not about me.

I’m super excited to have my guest today, JD Dylan. How are you today, sir? I’m all right. That was that was a very dramatic introduction. I feel like I need to I need to turn on the radio voice. I don’t know,

man. I’ve heard your podcast. I’ve seen you around the world. I think that you’ve done this more than a few times. So it’s pretty. It’s I feel like I’m I actually need to level up my game for you. So there you go.

I went to school for radio television production. So at some point you have to use that capability. And then over the years, I don’t know if anyone else was a communications oriented major, but you just kind of accumulate a pile of equipment over life because you’re like,

one day this cable will be useful. And then one day all of those cables are useful. And you end up using the big microphone for conversations. You know, I’m almost embarrassed at the size of the plastic bucket.

that has those cables in my house. It’s just absolutely fantastic. I was so prepared to take my entire house remote when remote work,

obviously, in the last couple of years became a requirement. So I, without having to go get anything, because I know there’s a big rush, right, for webcams and microphones and things like that.

But obviously, you’re going, “No, I’m good.” good. I can outfit multiple cubicles in my home with the stuff I’ve accumulated over the years.” Because, you know, why don’t throw electronics away?

Will you use that monitor one day? Maybe. Do you need that keyboard? Probably. Like you said, that plastic box of cables, I don’t know what they were for, but they’re coming in handy now. – That’s right.

Absolutely, 100%. On that note, where do I find you sitting, actually? – Absolutely. I mean, I know you’re in a room somewhere, but what part of the planet? I am in Orlando,

Florida. More accurately, I’m at Disney World. So I’m so close to Disney right now, I can hear the parade at the Magic Kingdom in about an hour when it kicks off.

So, yeah, when the parade steps off in Frontierland, I’ll be able to hear it. And is that where you work at? I mean, I know that I’ve read that that has been a large part of your past.

But so are you still connected to that at all as an annual pass holder? Yes. So I still, I still go to the parks on a relatively frequent basis is kind of just part of the lifestyle when one you worked there for 10 years.

And you just live here. So anyone that comes to town, guess where they’re going? So if you want to be part of part of the crew that rolls into the theme parks, you need to still engage. But yeah,

I’m still, I’m still very into the Disney thing. You know, it’s kind of strange that I live closer to Disney now than when I actually worked there But yeah, so I’m still in Orlando my company exon if I is located outside of Toronto So I’m I’m been a remote employee for both exon if I and and previous organizations So I’ve been a remote employee for most of the past 13 years at this point So I guess I’m an OG

remote employee at this point, but yeah, and then I travel it decent amount and you know, more so now than the last couple of years. But you know, depending on what I’m doing and going to events or supporting customers,

visiting the office, I find myself out about a decent amount. That is fantastic. I love seeing here in another OG. I mean, because I was a remote, I’ve been a remote worker since 2005.

So yeah, I can’t remote management. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. So I had to be there for that particular job. But yeah. And you mentioned, I think you’re in Mexico right now.

I am. I sit in Mexico. Yeah. So there you go. Mexico City to be exact. But this is our, you know, as people who’ve listened to this podcast for a while in my past guys in my former life,

this is our fifth country. So I’m married to another rock star who flies us around the world regular. We call ourselves turtle nomads Move every four or five years.

So that’s how it works for us I I’ve only lived in two places, but I’ve visited a decent amount to last nice No, then tell us a little bit more right yourself introduce yourself, you know,

you’ve already mentioned Axonify I love that you have learned geek that co You’ve also written a book called modern learning learning ecosystem. Give us the 60 seconds on who JD Dylan is So I am a musical theater enthusiast,

a back to the future fanatic who also is very into and focused on enabling frontline employees. So professionally, I’d say that’s where most of my effort goes.

You know, it happens to kind of channel through the learning and enablement side of the employee experience conversation, but I’ve spent the last 25 years at this point either working as a frontline employee. managing frontline employees from an operational perspective,

or in learning and enablement focus primarily on supporting frontline employees in different lines of business. But yeah, so I don’t have a ton of hobbies. A lot of what I do is what I do professionally.

But yeah, I’m big into the musical theater and I just saw Annie this past weekend. I haven’t seen that. I think that was my 40 second. show if I had to get a number of different musical performances I’ve seen.

I’ve seen a couple of different times. And then, yeah, big hockey person. So I live in the wrong state, but I work for the right company. I work for a Canadian company. So I have folks that I can talk hockey with. And I know literally everything about Back to the Future.

I challenge anyone to take me down in a Back to the Future trivia contest. As long as you’re talking about the first movie, don’t get on me about the second movie. I was just going to say, who is the actress that they rescued in number three?

That’s the question. Clara? We can talk about, I think three is a solid movie. I would love to geek out with you about Back to the Future because I love that movie as well.

I’m going to let that one sit right there, but I’m going to think of a great trivia question that to stump you with before the end of this conversation. But what we wanted to talk about today was why influence is,

in your opinion, the skill for L &D professionals. When did you stumble upon this? How did this revelation happen?

I mean, I’m assuming over the last decade or so of your work, and it’s something that, you know, I’m not sure do you have empirical work that you’ve done that says, oh, wow, here’s how influence works in here, or this is an inference into how you’ve been able to be successful,

etc. But why don’t you tell that story? I’d say it’s a situation just based on the number of times you hear the same conversation over and over again over the course of a decade. But most of what I’ve learned in this profession comes from practical experience,

right? I didn’t go to school for this. I went to school for radio television production, marketing, etc. and business. I ended up in the right place at the right time with a unique hybrid skill set that turned me into a learning professional.

I think a lot of people have a similar experience. When you hear us talk about this concept of “see at the table forever,” and you hear us talk about wanting to shift from order taker to business partner forever,

and just this idea that that we can do more, right? We can provide more value, we can be more impactful as a function within the organization, but we constantly struggle with that.

You start to wonder, well, why? It’s not for lack of trying, it’s not for lack of capability. What’s wrong when it comes to the relationship that the learning function has with the broader organizations that we support?

And through both personal experience and then conversations with the organizations that I’ve worked with over the years as a partner, as a technologist, and all the different roles that I’ve performed. For me, it comes back to this one interesting reality in that I think learning and development is the most interesting function in any organization because it’s the one place where everyone seems to have an opinion on how we

do what we do and seemingly an informed opinion. If you think about every business has accountants. accountants, do you care how they do their job? As long as they do it well and the money is accounted for,

you let them account. You don’t knock on the door and talk about, you know, accounting principles and which ones you prefer that they apply if you’re not in the finance department. Meanwhile, in learning and development,

people knock on our door and they say, “I need a 45 -minute training that covers the following material and I want it done this way and this is what we want to order for lunch.” Because everyone that we work with has an experience with learning,

the concept, not the function, right? They went to school, some of them for many years, or maybe they went to training in this current job and a past job. If they’ve been in the profession for an extended period of time,

they have decades worth of experience with this thing called corporate learning and education. And a lot of people still think that that’s supposed to look like school. Right.

So a lot of people come to us with traditional requests or a traditional mindset when it comes to the role that we’re supposed to play. And more importantly, where that concept of learning at work fits alongside the work itself.

And when I kind of distilled out all of these different challenges that we face in terms of objections and obstacles. that get in our way when people say to me over and over again,

well, we don’t have time for learning right now, right? Understanding what are they actually saying as opposed to the words that just came out of their mouth? And for me, it comes all the way back to that legacy perspective and legacy challenge and that we’re actually up against a belief structure and potentially decades of experience of what education has meant as opposed to the specific specific conversation that we’re

having right now. So that’s why I believe our ability to influence the change in that mindset, in that perspective of what learning is, because most people that we work with as stakeholders,

they’re not hanging out on the internet right now, talking about this stuff or listening to this podcast right now, they’re doing their job, they’re not spending a lot of time thinking about learning science and reinforcement and forgetting curves and all these different types of things.

They may have some– misconceived notions about what learning is, right? They might be big Myers -Briggs fans or think that they’re visual learners and all of those different types of things that are kind of pop culture learning ideas.

But they don’t think deeply about the experience of learning, how it relates to work and how we can effectively facilitate that as part of work. So that’s why I think we have to be capable of influencing that shift in mindset in order to get everyone in the same place so that we can then expose them to new ideas and new approaches And then break out of that silo that we often find ourselves in where people knock on

the door and say I need a 45 minute online course on this topic and we’re sitting there wondering where do you get 45 minutes? So that’s why I think influence is the essential skill that we need to then open the door to a lot of the other things that we can do As the learning function of a business.

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 gonna 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.

– Does it behoove us to eliminate or eliminate, or eliminate or eliminate, or eliminate, or eliminate, or eliminate, or eliminate, or. word “learning” from the profession?

Only because, and this is something I’ve struggled with over the last, let’s say, six years since I’ve been in this, where I still struggle with,

you know, “Hey, there’s traditional education, then there’s the learning and development world,” and I’m like, “Wait, aren’t those both learning places? You know, why is there this divide between how we learn?” coming up and how we learn suddenly when we turn into adults,

we change our brain’s change or something like that and then how we deliver it. And then as you were just describing, in the workplace, holy smokes,

I don’t know a professional in another field that doesn’t learn probably at least one or two things a day in a way to either interact with other people or a way to,

you know, some skill in their job or even it’s, you know, like going back to the accountant, you know, oh, wow, I didn’t know you could do that with Excel. You know, that kind of thing. Does it,

but who wants to remove learning from the conversation? – For a person who wrote a book called the Modern Learning Ecosystem, I find myself using the word learning suspiciously little in my day -to -day experience.

It’s because like I said I if you walk into an executive meeting and The goal there is to pitch a new idea a new approach new framework new technology Whatever it is before you’re trying to do to help people do their jobs better and and if you say Let’s talk about learning Rarely do I see eyes not start to glaze over because again people have a certain idea of what this is who who’s it’s not my job,

I’m the operations team, I’m lost prevention, learning is the HR people over there. You know, it hasn’t worked for us before, we tried that out and people aren’t doing the job, well is it a learning problem or is your function doing it right?

So it brings baggage with it. I’ve never had people’s eyes glaze over when I talk about the importance of having a competent and capable workforce. Everyone agrees with that.

right? It’s the connection point between that goal and that being an important part of our ability to execute as an operation, and then how we’re gonna get there that I think is a challenge for us to effectively articulate without getting kind of bogged down by legacy or without people misconstruing what we’re capable of doing.

And the reality, like I said, is people that we work with, whether it be frontline employees, whether it be subject… matter experts, whether it be executive team members, they don’t live in this stuff, right? So they’re not sitting there thinking about all these different tools and tactics and new technologies that are coming out in different ways.

We can support people and make it easier in the flow of work. So we don’t have to do all the course stuff all the time, right? They just know what they know. So if we walk through door and say the word learning, they might immediately be jumping to that program from before,

the disruption that’s gonna take place because we got to pull people out of the way. out of the operation all of This baggage that comes with it and they’re balancing that against the priorities that they have and what they’re out Accountable to and we’re kind of starting the race from behind in a lot of cases and as a former operations manager I was one of those people.

Mm -hmm. So I could distinctly remember pre my L &D time Days as as an ops manager in a very busy hectic environment where I look at my workload graph for the day right?

The number of people I have throughout the day and I see a dip in that graph that’s like two hours long and I know that I’m going to have a really hard time managing my operation for those two hours because the training department is pulling half my staff for something.

I don’t know what because no one told me or involved me in the process and then I just see half of my staff vanish. I have a really hard time for two hours, here they come back. And I remember thinking to myself, why didn’t get better at the job?

What happened? I don’t know what just took place. I just know I had a harder time doing what I’m held accountable to because the learning development function got in my way. It’s unfortunate.

But as someone who’s now part of the conversation, I know what it feels like when I’m not included and it’s not the idea of learning and support at work. work wasn’t built around the reality of what I had to deal with.

It was a disruption to what I was trying to deal with as an operations manager. Frankly, I was one of the most important people in the equation of learning at work because as the operations manager,

I had direct influence over the employee’s day -to -day experience. Who got scheduled for what? Who worked in what position? Who was assigned what tasks? Who was afforded what opportunities?

And that’s why to this day, I see believe frontline managers are the most important people that we have to influence, because if you get senior stakeholder buy -in, executive buy -in, legal departments on your side,

IT is part of the story, that’s all great. Something breaks, though, in the middle of the organization somewhere as that kind of buy -in flows down to the people who then have to face the day -to -day reality of doing the job,

and they get to determine what’s most important and what’s not. Those priorities often not align with what we’re trying to do to support long -term knowledge and skill development.

That’s why I often say, “Hot take.” The skills gap isn’t a problem. We talk ad nauseum about skills gaps and how we don’t have enough people who are trained in certain areas in order to continue to do what we need to do as an industry or as a business.

I completely agree. There are a variety of places where we just don’t have enough people with the right capabilities. But I don’t think the skills gap is the problem. I think the skills gap is an outcome. I think the real problem is the fact that there’s this persistent opportunity gap because we fail to meaningfully prioritize and align learning and development alongside work,

and we’ve done that for so long that now we find ourselves in a place where we haven’t been building the bench, right? We haven’t been building the talent that we need, and now knowledge and skills that we need to be able to take that next step as an organization.

And we don’t have the mechanisms in place to facilitate that growth. So now we’re kind of stuck saying, well, there’s a skills gap now. It’s like, yeah, there’s always gonna be a skills gap because skill requirements change,

it’s a moving target. But we need to make sure that the infrastructure is in place that we can deal with whatever the next skill gap may be and do it in a way that… is supportive of the operation,

not disruptive to, unless we need to be disruptive to. Because, you know, structured training is still a thing. It’s still an important part of the story. But it shouldn’t be the default. Disrupting people doing their job shouldn’t be the only way we can help people.

So that’s what the story of my book is about. But it begins with that idea of we need to get people thinking differently about where learning and development support support fits as part of the job and how it’s prioritized as not just available in the flow of work,

but it’s part of the work. And then from there, we can open the door to a lot of new ideas, new approaches and things like that. – So as someone who has been the head of ops and correct me if I’m wrong,

you were the head of ops at Disney, right? You had– – That’s a way overstatement of mine. my importance in that organization. I was an operations manager. Sorry. Thank you for the correction.

But anyway, I mean, but there, that’s a, that the cast of a day, the daily cast at Disney, I mean, that’s huge, right? Um, but forget, forget about that. What I’m trying to, that the question I’m trying to ask is.

I see a, I’m interested to see where you go with this is that. the idea of having within a larger organization is that you create structure,

you create systems, you create functions, because that’s how you not only create consistency in service and product delivery, but that’s also how you supposedly create scale, the opportunity for scale, right?

We know how to do this one thing over and over again really fast or big or we can scale and those kinds of things. And yet then the situation that you described, especially, you know, like, like, but we essentially what we present to the world is,

hey, here’s our square, you know, that we want you to fit in in either in terms of our service delivery or our product, but we’re presented with a lot of circles all day long, right? You know, here’s the family that comes that has,

oh, five kids instead of four, and I need a five package instead of a four, you know, here’s the whatever it is. So we’re constantly being, you know, we’re constantly that frontline worker is faced with.

Very. all of the time. Right there, I feel like that’s the intersection for learning in the flow of work. How do we fit that into the systematic structure that is required for an organization that wants to grow,

be big, scale, etc.? The framework that I put forth in the book is wrapped around that reality, that if we can’t scale. the basic problems,

if we can’t remove those key points of friction related to performance from the day to day, how are we ever going to get to the more progressive long -term skill development ideas,

upskilling and re -skilling and these types of things? I think it starts from there and then using the same type of infrastructure to facilitate both the immediate and the long -term. But that’s why the foundation of the framework that I put forth is knowledge.

sharing. It’s the ability to access reliable information quickly as part of your job in the flow of work, which is one of our favorite buzzwords. And typically,

that’s not even learning purview. It’s not a learning concept. And I’m talking about learning anything you might learn through the experience of accessing and sharing information, of course. But a lot of times,

it’s not even our department’s responsibility. You might have a knowledge knowledge management team, or it might be the operations team, or it might be spread in a lot of cases across different functions, and functional owners and subject matter experts have different information living in different places,

and now the individual employee is stuck either trying to figure out where to go for information, or in a lot of cases, especially in the case of frontline employees, just ask the person next to them. Because I don’t know where the information is,

or it’s housed in a place that’s hard to get to, or I might have to physically leave my position and go to a place to access a computer, to access SharePoint, to find the document.

And then 20 minutes later, we’ve moved on from that particular challenge, right? So that’s why I think we need to start at the basis of the experience of learning and support and build up from there because I still have not met the person who’s ever gone.

into the eLearning module six months after they took it to look up that one thing that they forgot. And in a lot of cases your learning management system may not even let you go back into something that you’ve experienced in the past.

So we have to look differently at the ways information is used and information flows throughout the organization because even if it’s not currently learnings responsibility to curate knowledge across the business it It directly impacts our ability to help people solve problems,

especially as they do their job. When we can’t fix that problem, that facilitates a lot of those asks to say, “Well, people don’t know how to solve these problems.

They need training on how to solve these problems. Build a course.” You’re sitting there saying, “This isn’t really something that maybe everyone needs to remember. This isn’t the most important information.” Or coming through the door as a new one.

hire You’re not gonna know all of your company’s products Right if you’re a brand new hire to Walt Disney World, you’re not gonna know literally everything about that property It’s a size of San Francisco So if a guest walks up to you and has a question about the resort and you work in a park and You just started you’re not gonna know they answer to that question unless you’ve been around a long time as a customer,

right? So you you have to rely on the people around you if you’re not given the ability to access that information. And I think, you know, inclusive of our entire conversation, but especially this layer of the conversation,

that’s where I think AI is having immediate impact on our ability to solve these different types of problems. Because we’re going from a world where in order to access information, you need to know where it was,

and you need to kind of navigate the And that’s where AI is having immediate impact on our ability to solve these problems. of organizational complexity to do very basic things and solve basic problems. And now we’re entering a world where it doesn’t really matter where the information is,

how it was constructed, what it was originally built for. AI’s ability to parse that information and be able to, instead of just reply with a resource, reply with an answer, that has a meaningful impact on this conversation about kind of removing these key points of friction in the flow of work,

especially for a workforce workforce where maybe traditionally, and this is half of my background is working with people who don’t speak English as a first language or as their preferred language. But in a lot of cases,

as an organization, you’ve got to make a decision around how you author content in what languages, what languages do you translate it into? Do you have the resources and the time to translate into a variety of different languages?

A lot of times you write that information in a way that the legal team wants it, as opposed to… a human being who has to use that information, right? We’re able to parse through these challenges now, leveraging AI,

it still requires human input and the ability to curate the right information, make it available in a way that systems can use it. But from there, it’s amazing to see us go from a place where you can take this very complicated standard operating procedure that’s been reviewed and reviewed and reviewed,

but then deliver an answer from that information in a way that that this person right here who has different requirements can use that information then answer the question and do it on the device they’re holding as part of their job without stepping away from the customer or the guest and change the experience of what it’s like to get support on the job when it’s not something you necessarily needed to “learn” or

“memorize” or maybe it’s just you’re too new, you’re going to eventually figure it out but you need that crutch to rely on and instead of it being Bob the guy who’s working next to you who may not know anything Now you have the tools where you can use a lot of the behaviors you’re using in your everyday life because I often say you know You know just day to day We’re able to solve amazingly complex problems because

we have access to that kind of information But then at work all of that falls apart and I think AI is facilitating those types of behaviors now because we’re able to handle the complexity of organizational information differently.

– Give me an example of how that all falls apart. Like, what’s an example of a problem you could solve as a person, you know, just sort of Joe Public, that you think falls apart in the corporate setting?

– I have never purchased a product and not known more about that product than the person trying to sell me that product. Right, because I am, I’m that person. kind of buyer. So as a customer,

I’m the person who has done an inordinate amount of research on that television or that car or what have you. So if I come in, we’re now playing at a level where I require an expert on the other side to answer any question I may have or make comparisons with your products.

And I may run into the associate who’s worked here for several years and is an expert in these products and can go toe to toe with me. me and the research that I’ve done, or I may run into someone that got hired yesterday.

– Sure. – Right, so there’s a leveling of a playing field that happens in certain regards. And sometimes you do need someone to have an expert level and that’s a combination of training and resources because they need to have an informed conversation.

Let’s take someone who’s working in the medical device field, right? And they’re going into a doctor’s office and having a conversation with a very educated and experienced individual about this difference. piece of equipment, well,

you can’t just look up everything in that case. You’re going to need to be able to access information because you’re not a doctor in that case. So you’re not going to know as much as about the person on the other side of the table. But you do need to have certain information top of mind to be able to break through certain things and then be able to reference certain material.

But in some cases, you know, if I’m in the grocery store and I’m walking up to the cheese case, I don’t sent me to get cheese. So I don’t know what I’m doing.

And the person next to me who works here is stocking the cheese case. This is a 17 -year -old kid, doesn’t know anything about cheese, but he can actually help me figure out which cheese that I got to get for the dinner that we’re having because he has access to tools that can help him do that.

Instead of just say, I don’t know the answer to that question, he might be able to upsell me on a good cheese in that particular situation. I know it’s a kind of, fun example, but it’s a meaningful example because cheese is a high -margin product.

It’s huge. Yeah, it’s a huge example. And I’m just wondering, where does the line of, I don’t know what question to ask come in? And how does that fit into the learning mindset framework that you’ve put together?

So the 17 -year -old on the cheese, it’s like, we’re also making an assumption there that that particular person would even be able to ask the right question.

In this case, okay, maybe that maybe it’s reasonable to think, okay, I could, I could type into a system and say, you know, what cheese works best with a red wine, you know, for, you know, you know,

a dinner that would include salmon, you know. Okay, so that works. But then I was thinking about your medical device example, And I’m like, “Wow, I can see a place where very quickly it’s like,

I’m not really sure what question to ask in order to get that answer.” And that’s why it’s critical to understand that any technology, but inclusive of gen AI and AI more broadly,

it’s a tool, it’s not the answer to the problem. So we have to understand, we can’t just throw AI at people and say, “Now you can do it.” Right now we can’t do it. all the issues.

We have to understand the use cases, right? What challenges are we going to be trying to solve for with these tools? And how do we construct the tools themselves as well as the information and the data that’s feeding the tools be able to do that?

Because it’s using the cheese example. AI doesn’t know, right? It’s pulling on resources that need to make those connections possible.

for it to then return the appropriate recommendation. That means we have to curate that information and understand that this is how this tool is going to be used and construct that tool in that particular way versus a lot of the conversation on GenAI and ChatGPT and whatnot is loosely formed because it’s a catch -all tool.

I think I’m much more interested in when the tools get very specific and very application oriented. -oriented. So we take all of that capability and we point it in the direction of the types of problems people face on the job versus providing people a general tool that can do a decent job,

but it’s really more effective. You ever notice every chat GPT demo ends up writing poems? Everyone goes to that. Even the most serious conversation it gets into,

and then we can write a poem. And then we can write a haiku. There you go. In what universe? Are we doing that? as part of our day -to -day job? But that that’s where I think it gets really fun is from a performance perspective Understanding the challenges people face how they can use these tools to support their performance and then making sure we’re Architecting the tool and the data that’s feeding the tool to be

able to help them do that because if you if you don’t plan on the fact That someone’s gonna walk up to a less experienced employee and ask for a recommendation on the product product, you’re not going to have provided the right tool to help them overcome that.

It may help them get there. It may accidentally trip over that, but I think it’s a much better situation when we’re setting people up and educating people on how to use the tools. Like you said,

what question am I supposed to ask? How do I effectively prompt this type of technology? While I don’t think everyone on the planet needs to become a prompt engineer, no. I think that’s an example of how the tool…

haven’t gotten specific and kind of user -friendly and consumer grade to this point where you don’t need to be an expert. Some people are going to make it, make technology do amazing things because they do have a level of expertise.

But for an employee who’s trying to solve a problem, we need to make sure that we’ve built the tool that allows them to do it in a way that makes sense as part of the day -to -day job. And that same would be true of using different types of tools to construct instructional programs.

that my question writer knows how many distractors you need in a multiple choice question and that all of the above is a trick question. True and false should not be something that you use. So we’ve trained our tools with specific principles in mind that general technology wouldn’t know because it is general technology.

So that’s where I think this gets really interesting and enables us to tackle performance related problems in different ways through technology. Mm, I want to,

I want to, a way back to this mindset that you proposed in your book. Say it again, sir. Chapter 14. So how do we– first of all,

who do we need to influence? Right, because our whole thing is about influence here that we’ve been talking about. Who do we need to influence and– And do we need to start at the front line and work our way backwards? Because if you– it’s sort of the Gandhian principle of bring the masses,

and if the masses are creating the demand, it will– it shall happen? Or is the other way around? Or what’s your proposition there? The unfortunate answer is everybody.

And I don’t think there is one correct answer based on the nature of different organisms. organizations and kind of influence within different businesses. So I think first we have to understand the landscape of your organization,

right? Where does influence live? And whose mind do you have to change in order to facilitate additional mindset shifts within your organization? So in a past example,

one of the examples in the book, all names have been changed to protect the innocent. But there was that one. I was trying to get people to think differently about learning, adopt these ideas like knowledge sharing and prioritize those types of things over more traditional learning when it wasn’t the right fit,

traditional learning, traditional courses and training. So I was trying to figure out, how do I do that? And I identified this one particular executive who had a kind of direct line to a lot of different players within the organization.

I like to call it a game to make it fun, the game of influence. And in this case, this gentleman liked to send out these emails every week, just to kind of recognize the team. It was not really substantial content in the emails.

It was more of a great job, everybody. We really did great work this week. And I noticed it turned into a kind of reply all nightmare land, because everyone wanted to reply back and be like,

you know, be seen by the boss, right? Be seen by the executive, like, great message. And those types of things. So I realized this person has not just the title, but they have an influence point across these key players in the organization.

So how do I get them to recognize the importance of the types of things that we’re doing? And in that case, I simply went to the individual and said, “Instead of sending the email, because it clogs up the inbox, all these reply calls, what if I gave you space in this knowledge sharing platform?” platform that I’m starting to use,

I’m trying out, in different teams? And it’s kind of like a blog. So you have your own area and you can write these messages, people can subscribe, there’s commenting, right? So people come in and share their messages with you.

It’s more two -way, everyone can see it. So it’s not just one person replying to one person, more conversational. It’s like, yeah, let’s do that. And we facilitated that form. Did I necessarily value the particular messages that he was sharing?

sharing? Honestly, no. What did it do? It got him on my side because I helped him solve a problem, do something that he was really into using the tools that I was trying to influence other people to use.

But it also got other people looking in the direction of that tool as well to say, well, that’s where I’m going to go. And for lack of better terms, suck up to the boss and say, great message, great post this week, doing great stuff.

Not a lot of substance in the conversation, but people were looking in that direction. and suddenly people started asking questions like well, could we use it for something like this? Hey, so suddenly people are thinking about different ways of communicating different ways of moving information around That’s what that’s a conversation.

I wanted to start But I was struggling to get a kind of top -down version of that conversation going because it just wasn’t a priority Like people knew things were broken But they weren’t willing to prioritize this over the other things they had going on until I started to show people that there was a different way.

There was value to get out. And I had to go through different tactics and different exercises with different influencers until, you know, the kind of snowball started to roll downhill and pick up steam faster and faster and people started suddenly started to identify things that they thought were their idea.

It was actually the idea I was trying to get across the whole time because there’s a really thin line between influence and manipulation. Yeah. Yeah, okay. But that’s why in the book I talk about the game of influence and all these different players that are involved.

So it could be, like I said, executive team, IT, HR, legal, employees, managers, all these different players. And it’s really about matching up the players with all the different moves we can make.

So a different strategy may influence members of your executive team to buy into a new idea, whereas the same tactic may may bounce right off of the frontline employees because they’re not thinking about the same things,

not held accountable to the same things, not having the same experience as the executive team. So getting them to adopt the same new idea may require a different approach. So for me, it’s putting those pieces together and figuring out the right moves to make in the right sequence,

to get people to open up to, “Oh, there’s a different way we can solve this problem.” And then. ultimately we got to prove that it works, demonstrate over and over again.

I’m a fan of organic approaches to solving problems, getting people to look in your direction and solve another problem, solve another problem, and suddenly influence starts to grow because people are less looking at us as,

“Oh, they’re the training team,” and more looking at us as, “Oh, they’re the people that really help us solve these complex.” operational problems related to performance.” We’ve got a much bigger tool set than they necessarily knew,

but we have to expose them to those tools and show them different ways that we can do things and then try to accelerate our influencing capability as quickly as we can to get that broader mindset shift in play.

>> Push me forward in that conversation and a little bit to move from reaction reactive as a team that helps solve problems.

In my mind, that sounds like, “Hey, we discovered there is a chink in the work, or there’s something we need to solve that we’ve discovered,” to forward -thinking, to we want to bend the business in this way,

or we want to take our product offering this way, or the service should evolve in this way in an anticipatory way. Like, does that change? the role or does that change how you influence?

This is why data is a critical part. When I talk about a modern learning mindset, one of the principles of that is how we apply data to accelerate decision -making so that we go from reactive to proactive where we can.

Again, a simple example wrapped around that same knowledge sharing story is I was looking for ways to identify their gaps in our ability to support people.

before that gap became a problem That would cause people to knock on our door because there’s a negative business result and now we’re playing from behind so One of the simplest things I did was I started using Google Analytics I didn’t have any money at the time or any prioritization or any IT support But I had a way to leverage kind of a free analytical tools I was approved within the organization with this

knowledge sharing platform that I was experimenting with And I plugged Google Analytics in. And what it allowed me to do was it started, I was just looking at different types of data through a different lens to start to figure out where were their problems.

And one of the most important piece of data early on was search results. So I could see what people were looking for and what they were and were not finding. And it allowed me to ask the question to say,

why? Why is such a large group of people inside the organization across different functions searching for that particular topic?” And does it mean that there’s a deficiency in the training related to that topic?

Does it mean that there’s a support tool missing for that topic? What’s going on that’s causing that behavior? Or is that something that should be happening, right? Is it just a tool they need to be using and maybe they should know how to bookmark that particular tool instead of having to search for it more effectively?

So it got us asking different types of questions in a more proactive stance using this different set of data that was frankly just more impactful to us than course completions and test squares were,

right? It was very reactive data in that case. We were still collecting that data, it was still an important part of our story, but it changed the lens through which we were kind of doing our work. And that just expanded over the years as we look at different types of data.

And then now we’ll talk about it. about things like AI, we’re able to identify patterns and nudge managers in different directions so that instead of L and D having to be the one who asks the questions,

we can just point people in the right direction and say, hey, based on the data patterns we’re picking up in various parts of the employee experience, manager, you may want to have a conversation with this member of your team because it looks like they’re struggling.

in this area, or maybe it looks like their confidence is wavering in this particular topic, or it looks like they’re starting to forget something that’s important related to their job. So instead of assuming, well, it’s a training problem,

we can nudge people to have the right conversation to say, “You know, what’s going on?” And it may be a tool problem, an environment problem, motivation problem, all the things that influence performance. And there’s only so much I can identify from my side of the story,

but I can identify there’s potentially a problem. And before that problem manifests itself with a negative outcome, we’re able to use data to proactively nudge employees to potentially resources,

nudge managers to have different conversations, nudge people who are running strategy to consider different types of things. So I think the key to stepping away from the order taker model of learning and development is fixing our problems when it comes to data and insights and then powering our kind of operation through those data and insights.

But, you know, that’s another one of those topics we’ve been talking about for a long time. I was just going to say, yeah, that’s not an unusual topic. And I’m wondering at what point people will start to zip on the data analytics suit as just sort of,

it’s a must, it has to be, right? Throughout this conversation, it’s it’s apparent and very obvious that you’re able to approach situations with a creative problem -solving mindset.

What are some of your favorite– and you’ve mentioned a couple of tactics along the way. Is there a certain tactic toolbox that you bring to the table or are there favorites that you have that when you’re either working with new clients or you’re working in Axonify to say,

“Hey, look, here’s a couple tried and tried and tried and tried and tried and tried and tried and tried and tried and tried that we know kind of fit the bill nine out of 10 times,” or something like that. A couple different things come to mind. One,

I need to understand the reality of what it’s like for the person doing their job outside of the context of this particular conversation or challenge we’re trying to solve. Because if I don’t understand what it’s like to do the job every day,

I’m going to have a really hard time positioning a way to help them solve the problem and do their job every day. And that’s why back in my manager days and my corporate learning and development roles, the smartest thing I ever did was I put the costume back on on a regular basis,

and sometimes I got in trouble for that. There’s a show about that, right? The CEO like those undercover boss kind of stuff, but I always find that those shows are mildly ridiculous.

The concept of site visits tends to be a little bit interesting. interesting because a lot of times people know you’re coming. Yeah. And when I worked in movie theaters, we had literally a telephone chain where if regional management showed up,

you called the next year. Sally is coming. Sally is coming. We know. So are you actually getting a realistic reflection of what your operation looks like every day? Probably not. But in my case,

when I was learning and development at Disney, I went back into operational operational roles on a regular base, not just as manager, but as a frontline cast member because it just connected me to what it was like to do the job.

I heard the conversations and it helped build trust with the people that I was trying to help. I think the key part of the story, even as a technology provider now, is understanding what’s it like in this store?

What’s it like in this logistics facility to do the job every day? And that’s inclusive of what tools do people use, what does the the environment look like? I can’t walk into a frontline workplace without scanning for devices.

So I’m just looking at where the terminals are in the operation, ’cause that’s an access point that I’m gonna need to understand if we’re gonna talk about providing digital anything in this experience.

So understanding what the reality of the day -to -day looks like. I default to my own framework when it comes to problem solving. So the modern learning ecosystem framework is outlined in my book, but it has… kind of a, the idea is to make sure we install the right tools,

tactics, and technologies, and then facilitate a consistent problem -solving process, because the goal is to make our processes more scalable and accelerated, but also make it easier for the employee to understand,

how do I get help here? What does learning and development look like here? ‘Cause in a lot of cases, that experience varies wildly based on the project, the state, and the environment. the designer,

right? So I’m doing something today, and it’s an instructor led training and a job aid. And I do something three months from now, and it’s an eLearning and an online forum. And I’m just like, what is happening in terms of my experience of work?

Why doesn’t this match up consistently? So the framework that I provide there walks through that experience. And then when we’re talking about influence on my favorite tactic, overall, the one I think I’ve had most success with is an improv comedy tactic It’s called the yes,

and so anyone who does improv comedy yes, and basically never say no when you’re improving a scene with someone else you want to build onto their suggestions as opposed to Distracting from or disrupting the flow of information.

So yes, and I I find is a successful or effective way to show shift people’s mindsets because it doesn’t get us into a Philosophical debate or a power struggle right off the bat in terms of what people are asking for because in a lot of cases Every job I ever had When a subject matter expert came to me and said I need a 45 minute course on I never had the political capitals say no Right because one way or

another this was going to become a problematic conversation for me or at least in the early days I didn’t have the ability to outright say no. I needed to get them thinking differently so that we could have a collaborative conversation not a combative conversation because they have a certain perspective and certain priorities and it may not match how learning works but they’re not they don’t want to have that conversation

right now. So I would more and more yes and people so I would say yes we shall build the 45 minute course. Even though I know this is not the best way to solve this particular problem.

I would also like to include this shared knowledge resource, and I would like to have this place people can go to ask questions when they’re working on the course, or did I want the course to make sure that they can get that support,

and I would like to, so whatever else I would like to augment. And as long as it didn’t inflate the budget, or cause a delay in implementation, right? People tend not to say no to more things as long as they get the thing that they want and it doesn’t come with a higher price tag.

So I was able to basically sneak in these other concepts or these other tactics that were the things I wanted to be doing, but we just weren’t in a place yet from a mindset perspective to do those things.

So I needed to prove that they were gonna work. (audio cuts out) So I would implement these other ideas and then I started to collect feedback on those ideas. I’d ask employees what they thought, what was useful?

What was helping them do the job? Surprisingly, a lot of times they were reflecting very positively on the end side of the story, right? How this job was really useful. Or look at the volume of questions we’re getting.

Remember at one point my Wiki almost exploded because I had a kind of dedicated place. There’s this big process. change and I installed this place where everyone could come and ask questions and they’d all be in one place instead of in emails and on teams and all this kind of stuff happening.

We had one spot and it almost blew up the technology because I had so much volume moving through this place, but it proved the point. We were struggling to keep up because so many people had questions.

So it showed that there are gaps in the information, the communications and the training and whatnot. We were able to fix that. on the fly. And then you come back around, you talk in the after action review about what worked and what didn’t work.

And the trick was always to show data and show evidence and use the voice of the customer, voice of employees about what was really working and what people found to be very helpful and then have your stakeholders reflect on that.

And the trick is to get them to suddenly say, “Well, you know what?” Next time, we should really think about doing more of that because we see how many questions people got answered. People really seem to like that.

We should do more of that, like performance support -y type stuff.” And I’m sitting on the other side of the table going, “We should do that. That is a good… We definitely do more of that.” Not the thing, not the court,

right? Do you more of this? Yeah, we have. So let’s put that on the back burner for a second. And we had a… I just had my company event last week in Nashville, and one of our speakers on stage was the former CEO of a very large multi -billion -dollar retailer.

They talked about the importance of influence, and that question that we often talk about around the seat of the table, and it was great to hear someone who’s literally at the head of the table reflect on that because we tend to talk to ourselves a lot about how do we get a seat of the table?

How often do we ask the people at the table? Right. And his answer was, one, you’re already at the table ’cause the CHRO was at the table. But what they did in this organization, they did,

he admitted this, they did a great job of making me feel like this was my idea because I as the head of the business prioritized the importance of our staff being able to do a great job for our customers.

And the way the learning and development team came to me with this idea of how to enable the team members that got me involved in the conversation. I understood it. This gentleman actually completed training every day on his mobile device as a CEO of this major business.

So he was that invested in the experience of daily training and reinforcement and these different ideas they were using. But like he said, he was so involved and so bought in. He got to the point where he was like, “This is my idea.” Right?

Because he and he did it. Like they influenced me effectively. to understand why we had to change the approach that we were taking. So I think it was a great example of hearing from outside the bubble of learning and development what it takes to influence people to think differently and to align what we know we can do to help people make organizations more effective and the way that our stakeholders think about that

and what they’re held accountable to and what they know is important. And like what I said in the very beginning, I have never run into maybe maybe someone out there has, but I’ve never run into any stakeholder who disagrees with the statement that having a confident workforce is important.

Everyone agrees. How we get there and how we influence people to change the way they think about getting there, that’s the important part. And when we connect those dots, suddenly we’re able to do a lot more things and pull a lot more tools out of our toolkit.

On that note, thank you very much. On that note, it’s been a fantastic conversation. I just looked at the clock we’re 52 minutes in. That’s amazing. I can’t believe you gave me so much of your day. But I do have the final question is make and model of the van that Marty and Doc have.

Not the DeLorean of the van that they carry the plutonium. I don’t know that. I don’t know. I don’t know. on, man. Is that actually revealed in the movie? Do I have to freeze frame the movie to get that?

I know that Einstein is wearing a radiation suit when things go wrong for them. And he’s sitting in that van. And I also know here’s just here’s the only thing you need to know about that van. It would be functionally stupid for the DeLorean to come out of the van the way it does in the movie,

because you think about– the first time We see the DeLorean in the movie Marty pulls into the Twin Pines Mall parking lot got the camera He’s on the skateboard Einstein sitting there the back of the van opens and The car pulls out of the van the dock gets out of the van.

How did he get in the car? I? Said it so much. I slammed my camera shut so how so doc would have had to pull the car out of the van using the remote control get in the car drive drive the DeLorean back into the van.

I don’t know how he closed the van. He’s a scientist, he probably has ways. Close the van, sit there and wait for Marty to show up at the mall, and then very dramatically open the van,

back himself out of the, for the dramatic reveal of here’s the car, right? So it looks great on camera. It’s really fun. But if you just think logistically about it, and we’re talking about a movie about time travel.

So, you know, there’s you know, all bets are off in terms of what’s real and what’s not But it’s one of those moments that makes you sit there after you watch the movie a couple hundred times And you go wait a minute wait a second doesn’t work But I dig so perfect movie perfect.

It’s an absolutely perfect movie You know, and I love it back because you know, it’s one of those movies as well that stands the test of time You know, I as everyone on the show knows I’ve got three kids and it was one of those ones where I’m like Hey good,

we’re gonna watch watch this great movie.” And they’re like, “Oh, really? It’s one of those old movies, Dad.” And then, you know, at the end, they couldn’t get enough of that. Like, “What’s the sequel? How do we see that as the other second one?” It’s a map,

absolutely. They were wildly disappointed. But as long as they like the first one, that’s all that matters. We’ll have to talk to Steven Spielberg about the whole DeLorean thing,

anyway. Yeah. JD, thank you so much for being on the DeLorean party. today really appreciate your book is called The modern learning ecosystem available now at JD wrote a book calm.

No, that’s not a joke That is the actual book website JD wrote a book calm. Yes. I do own JD wrote another book calm To be determined if someone let me use that website at some point But yeah,

you can find all the links to where you can pick up the web the book at various online retailers including this Association for Talent Development, who published the book. If you’re an ATD member, you can get a discount on the book at the ATD website. So check that out.

And then I have other resources at the website. I have a whole watch along. So seriously, I love the read along thing that you had on there. I saw that where you, yeah, you actually can play along and go through the book with you.

That is absolutely fantastic. I was very jealous of the fact that people are doing book clubs with the book and I’m not invited to all the book clubs. So you can watch videos as I introduce different segments of the book. and then I have questions that you can use in discussion or just self -reflection about the different things I explore in the book.

So I just wanted to say very appreciative of everyone who’s supported the book, everyone who’s taken time out to read the book, signing a book that you wrote for someone is still a mind -boggling experience that I will never get over,

but it’s a super cool thing. So I greatly appreciate everyone who’s been supportive of the book for the past year or so, almost a year since it came out. Super cool. Thank you very much. much and have a wonderful day. Thank you again for listening to the eLearn podcast here from Open LMS.

I just wanted to ask one more time. If you enjoyed this show, if you learned something, if you were inspired, if you were challenged, if you feel like this is something you can take into your practice, please do me a favor.

And right now on your podcast player, hit subscribe. That way you’re never going to miss a future episode. Also, come over to elearnmagazine .com (upbeat music) subscribe there as well because we have tons of great information about how to create killer online learning outcomes.


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