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Remember the days when you went away for two days to some half-decent conference facility in the middle of nowhere? You got a sweaty cheese sandwich, and a guy (always a guy!) told you exactly how things are, with the latest trend as a backdrop.
And at best you remembered 2% of it when you got back in the office.
Those were the days. Or were they?
Not really. And here I could say something cheesy about how a world that's spinning ever faster needs learning to happen more quickly than ever before. Even though that might be true, it's even more cheesy than the sandwich mentioned above.
Enough with cheese references. Let's acknowledge the fact that learning happens everywhere and nowhere these days. And in this piece, I'll make my case why I think the teams of today need to pick up the pace on how they learn. Pretty meta.
There's an insane amount of learning providers out there. Last year when I helped one of Sweden's most influential brands with a large re-skilling and up-skilling initiative, I met well over 60 learning providers. And I barely scratched the learning providers surface.
In 2019, the learning market was estimated to be $90-110 billion dollars. It's estimated to be a $319 billion market in 2025. That's a 254% growth in six years. And speaking of change, during 2020 and the COVID-19 crisis, EdTech companies saw average revenue growth of 335%.
And yes, this also takes into consideration, for example, platforms for schools and universities. But still, the underlying growth in this segment is insane and now's it's rocket-fueled by COVID-19 and by the fact that work now happens remotely. And because we need to learn even faster than ever these days.
We can say with certainty that the supply side is fully covered. But what about demand?
How do you learn?
Let's say you want to learn something new; where do you start?
I would bet my right thumb that you begin by searching for it online. Even though you may end up attending a physical class, you start by searching the internet.
And when you search, you find a blog post. You see a YouTube video. You find a forum. You listen to a podcast. And then you attend the class.
When you start your learning journey, the main problem you face is that there's an abundance of material connected to the topic you want to know about. Information is no longer scarce. There are 300 hours of videos uploaded to YouTube every minute. And even though some of those hours are cat videos or famous internet stuff, there's also a good amount of material created to teach someone something. The same goes for blogs and podcasts.
Connecting it to what we talked about above, the main moat for companies creating online education has been that they make engaging, valuable, and reliable courses. They put their stamp on the course and say, "This is good, watch this to learn." And then they put some wrapping around it and sell it to us. Easy peasy.
But the main problem these companies face is speed.
Even if they are ever so agile and fast, they cannot update their content fast enough. And faced with an ever-growing army of online creators whose sole passion is to create updated and relevant content, they are doomed to lose the battle.
Future of L&D
All great L&D-people I know have been great curators to some extent already. Being able to connect people and support learning that happens within the workplace has always been a valued skill, but in the future, it will be the most critical skill for an L&D-person.
Helping people find the right content at the right time will be crucial.
Even more importantly, our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. This means we will have a more challenging time sitting through the complete Excel-sheet education with Bob from finance and an easier time watching the three-minute sped-up YouTube video addressing the exact problem we're having.
The L&D people of tomorrow will be less about setting up leadership programs and more about being in tune with the organization they support. And yes, sometimes they will need to create a leadership program, but they often will not.
L&D will need to have a holistic view of the organization. Working together with the rest of the people in the organization to know what's in demand and what's not. A great L&D function will work hand in hand with the talent acquisition team and, for that matter, the rest of the team as well. Working together on defining skills both for the here and now and for the long-term. Mixing hiring extraordinary talent, helping teach others, and curating content for people who need answers right now.
I believe the ultimate L&D persona to be someone who can work hand in hand with the organization, curating content and making it easily accessible.