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LEARN| Spring/Summer 2022
By: D.C. Alves M.Ed., Chief Leadership Officer, ExuLAB
Being singularly obsessed with the optimization of human learner performance, what I have found to be the foundational cause of ultimate learner success lies in something so often overlooked and embarrassingly dismissed by enterprise learning and development: conditions. Conditions are the environment, the atmosphere, the "feel"- the full emotive and affective experience of learning that takes place in an organization. The conditions that learning leaders and strategists thoughtfully and intentionally create will determine the caliber and success of human performance, outcomes, results and return.
So, let’s dive deeper into this critical concept of “conditions”. I love metaphors in learning so let’s think of conditions in terms of the concept of a biome. Ok, so let’s first define biome! Sciencing.com provides one of my favorite definitions- “a biome is a large area of land that is classified based on the climate, plants and animals that make their homes there.” And also Britannica’s where they define a biome as “a major life zone”- (with) “similar environmental conditions.” I like these definitions best because they capture the nature of what a biome really means- a biome is a home, a biome is a major life zone, a biome is an environment. We as learning leaders are responsible for that biome and we have a mission to create the optimal conditions that provide the best shot at success for our organizations and the human learners that make their homes with us there.
Have you ever thought of your learning biome as a home? Let that sink in for a moment…
Today we hear a lot of talk about “learning ecosystems”. But an ecosystem is really the activity or interactions that exist in a biome. As learning leaders, we should be repositioning our thinking from learning as an ecosystem to that of the broader context of the “learning biome” and look first to building out those successful conditions that will enable our human learners to thrive. Think of it as envisioning the most optimal conditions for those learning interactions to take place. In other words, prioritize the needs of the biome before the ecosystem and place the learner as the focus of it all whether in-person or meta.
Human Learner as Supreme End-User
Emphasizing a human-centered approach to the creation of the learning biome will put the creation of such optimal conditions for learning first and it will also prioritize the human learner’s needs as supreme end user- again whether enterprise learning is experienced in-person (physical) or meta. The human-centered learning biome is the new frontier. It is also a challenge. To excel in this challenge, the human learner must be put first in every facet of the enterprise learning strategy with the caliber of learning leaders who can rise to create a strategy and execute its vision. Human-centered design is a mindset that focuses on epitomizing the user experience. Extending this approach to learning and development means that this human learner centered mindset be embedded in the learning strategy and through-lined across all organizational learning programs, products services. A human-centered learning biome will see everything and every touch point through the eyes of the human learner. When designing your enterprise-wide (physical and meta) learning strategy, consider the optimal conditions you want to create for your human learners and be bold about this expectation. What is your ultimate learning Utopia?
10 Questions For CLOs and Learning Leaders
I invite learning leaders to think about and leverage the following jump point questions with their teams to stimulate what's next for the build-out of the evolution of their enterprise-level learning biome strategy.
I'd also like to hear about your comments on these questions with your answers and what new discussion came up for you and your teams- email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
1. What environment is most conducive for your human learners to thrive in? Is it the same for every learner? Why? How do you find out what is best for each one? How do you create conditions (both physical and meta) that flex with learner need?
2. What kind of conditions do you desire to create for your learner onboarding, performance evals, coaching, global and remote team training etc.?
3. Did you consider creating optimal conditions at every learner touch point? Do you know what every learner touchpoint is?
4. Are your meta conditions optimal? What would you change or re-envision considering the learning biome concept? Does it complement your overall learning strategy?
5. What atmosphere do you want to create for your human learning experience? What is that learning Utopia?
6. What conditions would make for the most memorable “sticky” learning to take place and be applied?
7. What would the learning environment feel like? Will you need to "measure" this?
8. What is the first impression you want to leave with your human learners so that you build immediate credibility?
9. How do conditions yield a strong return on investment?
10. Is your human learner put first in every single consideration of your learning biome?
Return on Investment
So much time is currently spent on metric obsession, ROI (return on learning investment) and reporting. While important (and sometimes mandated), none of this will be successful without putting the learner first, front, center in your learning strategy and your learning design and this begins by paying meticulous attention to the conditions and environment you create for your learners. When you get the conditions right, you position yourself and your organization for strong human performance, and, therefore, better results and return.
A Call to Action
I encourage learning leaders to posit the concept of conditions before their boards, extended leadership and teams and push for robust discussion about what this means for the evolution of their learning biome strategy, the human learners as supreme end-users and the ultimate success of the enterprise.
What action can you take right after reading this article to begin to advance the improvement and development of your learning environment to make it the optimal biome for human performance- that amazing “major life zone” for the human learners who make their homes with us there?
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