Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Proof of Disruptions - Tip #125

When you hear the word “disruption,” what do you think about? Most would probably equate it with something that temporarily derails from achieving an objective. For instance, a car breakdown on your way to work.

Disruption usually has a negative denotation. In this post I’ll share with you a more positive meaning of the word.

Disruptions in Learning

Disruption—as it applies to learning—has taken on a new meaning. Instead of distracting us from our goal, it now pertains to new and innovative technologies that propel learners to reach greater heights. In other words, disruptive innovation, or new technology disrupting the status quo in learning and development.

Leading this disruption are mobile and cloud technologies, which allow us to work collaboratively and deliver solutions in a matter of hours or minutes instead of months and years. Other technologies that are at our full disposal include video cameras, self-publishing platforms, social media, live streaming and many more.

As my friend and expert on learning and development Brent Schlenker, rightly puts it:
The way I see it, new technology disrupts learning in three ways: 
  1. Need-based content production. Electronic tools have made data collection faster, spurring production of content centered on learners’ needs.
  2. Reduction of content development costs. The shift in focus to micro-content that serves micro-actions, instead of overproducing content, has led to cost savings in the area of content development.
  3. Expanding ways to gain knowledge and experience. Disruptive technologies have expanded the avenues of learning from other people’s  knowledge and experience, which are difficult to gain from formal learning.
I talk more about these in my Microlearning workshops.

Examples and Case Studies

The effective use of new technologies in learning has led to these successful case studies:

General Motors (GM) Corporate University

General Motors developed internal training with the aim of producing world class engineering practices. General Motors University developed e-learning formats called Employee Performance Support System (EPSS) or “GM” assistant and e-Guides, which are 20-minute training bursts in slide format. While English is the language used for the slides, the voice track is translated into native languages for overseas audiences.

The training functions to provide workers with the skills necessary to perform routine jobs. The micro-training strategy puts the learner at the center of the training experience and provides high-result, training-on-demand capabilities. One GM engineering group that used the micro-training-enabled system reported that on-time performance improved and the need to re-work significantly reduced.

General Electric (GE) Training Center

GE established a training center for potential GE managers. The training program runs the gamut from corporate finance to emotional self-regulation. Their learning activities included one-on-one counseling sessions, team-building, group hiking, and group meals.

Our New Role in Learning

New technologies no doubt bring new opportunities and challenges. The opportunity is we now have the capability to develop and deliver content fast. But the challenge now becomes, how can we step up to the demands of learners in the 21st century?

Schlenker suggests trainers and designers to shift their approach from being creative to proactive. In the past, we get notified of problems after they have occurred. Now, it’s more practical to engage with employees and learn about problems as they happen or even discover opportunities before they become problems.

In addition, by putting the learners at the center of the learning experience, disruptive innovations recognize that:
  1. Talent is the building block of any organization.
  2. Values are more important than numbers.
  3. Solving problems proactively with the use of technology is one approach to engage with employees.
  4. Disruptions in learning are opening opportunities for more individuals to access quality and personalized education.


Arnett, Thomas. Why disruptive innovation matters to education. Claton Christensen Institute, January 6, 2014
Horn, Michael. Disruptive innovation and education. Forbes, July 2, 2014

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

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