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The Critical Need for Digital Learning Innovation Centers
Wednesday, October 25, 2017
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The Fourth Industrial Revolution is upon us and is causing significant disruption to the learning and development community. According to Klaus Schwab and the World Economic Forum, there are three waves in the Fourth Revolution, each of which is characterized by an increasingly rapid pace of disruption.

We have already seen the first wave: the rise of the digital consumer, which is making the experience of the learner more personalized and pervasive through social, mobile, analytics, and cloud (SMAC) technologies. The second wave, which is now arriving, involves the rise of the digital enterprise, which focuses on optimized collaboration driving productivity through SMAC technologies. The third wave will be in digital operations, where the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, and robotics will revolutionize how work is actually executed.

As the Fourth Industrial Revolution hits learning and development organizations, many are faced with a serious challenge. How can historically unresponsive and slow organizations manage the disruptions, identify trends, sort through the shiny new objects, and turn critical, viable innovations into effective practices?

Enter Digital Learning Innovation Centers

Digital learning innovation centers can offer a way to manage the disruptions in the learning space. A well-designed digital learning innovation center can provide the following:

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  • a predictable and repeatable process to drive better learning experiences through innovation
  • an approach for supporting practitioners in innovative efforts in the field
  • an effective mechanism for tracking, documenting, and sharing innovations across the organization
  • a space to explore, innovate, and refine without disrupting critical day-to-day activities
  • an enabled learning organization that is capable of innovating continually.

Aligned with similar enterprise research and development investments, digital learning innovation centers can deliver:

  • effective responses to constant industry disruptions
  • shorter times between idea development and execution
  • cultivation of innovative solutions that will move the organization forward
  • an increase in an idea’s potential while simultaneously decreasing its risk
  • productive innovation with fewer negative disruptions.

Case in Point

One example of an innovation center success was with a major domestic auto manufacturer. The concept of geospatial technology has been around for some time; however, its implementation in the corporate learning and development space has been limited. Through a partnership with its training and development provider, members of the field innovation team began experimenting with applications of iBeacons and augmented reality.

First, the team explored viability of the concepts, designing test-and-learns and collecting data. Then the teams began collaboratively brainstorming applications to support a more personalized, immersive learning experience. The next step was to rapidly move from a test-and-learn to a pilot of augmented reality as an innovative way to drive engagement and discussion and facilitate peer-to-peer learning for in-dealer sales staff. The result was a successful exploration of an innovation that ensured evidence-based decisions without disrupting ongoing training activities.

Getting Started

Is your team or organization interested in creating a digital learning innovation center? Here are some tips to get started:

  • Gather and engage a cross-functional team, and provide them with resources and accountability for success.
  • Document current innovation activities and create a rolling learning innovation plan.
  • Implement a systematic process for prioritizing innovation activities, conducting experiments, and documenting results.
  • Publish and share the findings across the organization.
  • As potential innovations progress in viability, support operationalization of the innovation.

 W. Edwards Deming put it best when he said: “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” However, for those learning organizations who wish to remain relevant in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, I recommend investing in a digital learning Innovation center.

About the Author
Matt Donovan is vice president of learning solutions at GP Strategies. 
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