2012: A time for highly connected learning specialists

I’m finding it hard to regain my focus after the holidays. It only takes a couple of weeks for me to shift my attention almost entirely to matters other than learning technology, so I shouldn’t have much trouble retiring when the time comes. So, this post acts as a way for me to re-focus on the issues that need addressing in 2012.

In the Western world at least, we will continue to feel the effects of the worst squeeze in my lifetime. That means lots more job losses, constrained budgets and a lot of defensive decision-making. I don’t think I’m being negative in saying this, just realistic. This comes at a time when the nature of work itself is changing, as Lynda Gratton describes in her book The shift: the future of work is already here. I will return to this book in future posts, but for now here are two short extracts:

Our assumptions that general skills will be valuable has to be questioned. It seems clear to me that in a joined-up world where potentially 5 billion people have access to the worldwide Cloud, the age of the generalist is over. Instead, my prediction for the future is that you will need what I call ‘serial mastery’ to add real value. 

Our assumptions about the role of individualism and competitiveness as a foundation for creating great working lives and careers have to be questioned. In a world that could become increasingly fragmented and isolated, I believe that connectivity, collaboration and networks will be central.

I believe that there are serious implications in what Lynda has to say for those working in learning and development:
  1. You will not be sufficiently marketable if you do a bit of everything in much the same way as everyone else. True we need some managers to pull everything together, but working for these people will be specialists, whether that’s in highly-technical subject areas or in new, more scalable approaches to learning, i.e. those that make use of technology. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that when there are less jobs available overall in l&d at the same time as a critical skills gap in learning technologies, there’s an opportunity there just waiting to be taken.
  2. Teaching and training has historically been a rather isolated profession, particularly for those spending their lives in classrooms. To keep up-to-date and search out opportunities, l&d professionals need to be more connected than ever before. To some degree that can happen in traditional ways, but more than likely it will mean networking online.
I’ll leave you with those thoughts. The new year is under way. Let’s make it a good one.

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