Locus of the Revolution?

If we’re talking about beginning to use IT in alignment with how we think, work, and learn, a question arises about who should be in the lead?  It could be HR, it could be L&D, it could be IT, or it could even be the business units that are taking advantage of the opportunity.  What makes sense?

In one sense, it’s about using IT well, and that theoretically is IT’s job.  They’re supposed to provide an infrastructure that supports the business. They typically have not only the back end engineers, but the front end designers for any custom applications, and should be evaluating any off-the-shelf solution for viability as well.  Of course, this typically isn’t the case, as an eminent IT guru opined to me that IT doesn’t understand people.  In general, IT folks are highly selected to be able to do things most people can’t, and they’re not necessarily valuable when they can think like other people.

Well, then, maybe it’s HR; the whole talent development perspective should include considering the tools to hand.  Unfortunately, HR isn’t particularly astute about people nor technology. They are more about administration and control than about empowerment and success.  The HR policies we  tend to see are almost antithetical to the culture that most promotes innovation.

It could also be the business units themselves; they are being seen to create solutions to self-learning and collaboration rather than wait for them to emerge from other environments.  And they certainly (should) understand their own needs.  Unfortunately, they’re not likely to really understand people or IT either.  Too often they don’t realize what is effective.

Let’s be clear, there are successes in all the categories above, but they’re typically more from an astute leader rather than a systematic organizational strategy.  And that’s not a repeatable approach. We need better.

Ideally, L&D should own it.  They (should) understand people, and be able to work with IT in a product relationship to develop a full performance ecosystem that integrates learning, performance support, and social into a coherent whole.  Where the environment is optimized for an organization to not just survive, but thrive. This comes from the people, but it requires knowing how to help people perform and deliver.

It requires new skill sets for sure, including working with IT, culture and change, facilitating innovation, performance consulting, and more (organizations like ATD & LPI are updating their competency definitions in these directions).  It requires getting strategic about metrics, impact, and business goals.  The vision of L&D being the critical core to organizational success through delivery of optimal execution and facilitation of continual innovation is what the Revolution is trying to achieve. This is a chance for L&D to move from the periphery to the center.  It’s worthwhile, but there isn’t infinite time; organizations need solutions, and they’ll get them wherever anyone can seize the opportunity to make a productive improvement. L&D has the opportunity, and here’s to hoping they don’t squander it.

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