Developing Learning in an Adaptive Business Model
By David Grebow, Principal Learning Analyst, Brandon Hall Group
The widespread adoption of Learning Content Management Systems (LCMS) to author learning content is changing the way companies operate by changing the cost structure, speed of development, management, and communication of content.
Perhaps even more profound is the change in the relationship between the content creator and consumer. The once-dependent connection between author and reader, in which the author published content and the reader consumed the content, has changed dramatically. Today, the LCMS has enabled the readers to easily publish and, in turn, become the co-contributors and writers.
LCMS software collapses authoring, publishing, and using content into one activity. In addition, it has enabled the creation and dissemination of content to be easily accomplished on a variety of devices, quickly switching from desktop to laptop to tablet in mid-sentence.
This process of disintermediation has enormously increased how fast and accurately content is used, and has resulted in dramatic increases in performance and productivity. The key difference is that the pre-LCMS environment was focused exclusively on the content. In the LCMS world, the learner is the focus.
Content is driven by an anytime/anywhere need to access content. It is defined by what end-users of the content need in real time to perform their work. It is no longer as useful or valuable to provide content focused on a process or procedure with a short shelf life, or knowledge or know-how that does not help users do their jobs.
The LCMS can provide all or any specific part of a course that the learner needs. Relevancy and immediacy are the new bars that need to be cleared for the authoring and delivery of content. The impact on the L&D departments and their training programs has been most powerful. The system brings the people who have the knowledge and know-how into direct contact with the people who need their knowledge.
The result is a company that is more agile, adaptive, and able to change and adjust to market conditions—using content that is as current as possible; content that can be delivered in a variety of formats, from formal to informal, classroom to e-learning or performance support; able to be more productive, innovative, and responsive.
The Adaptive Business Model Defined
The traditional business model developed predetermined content that demanded consensus, often by committee, and absolute compliance. The model was created during an era when the business environment was more stable, and the products and services, and resulting skills and knowledge, often had a shelf life of up to several years. The new, more flexible adaptive business model requires communication and collaboration, which creates new content on an as-needed basis. New businesses operate in a flat, hypercompetitive world market and experience a more rapid pace of change. Even the characteristics of change are dramatically different. Change today is dynamic and discontinuous. Change happens with greater frequency and is unpredictable based on real-time events within the company and with its customers, vendors, and suppliers.
Organizations need to adapt quickly and correctly to these changes. For example:
- A software company needs to provide customized upgrades to its clients, who are adapting to rapidly changing market conditions.
- A health-care organization is constantly updating its policies and procedures based on rapidly changing guidelines and regulations.
- Two companies are merging and need to quickly rationalize the different ways of doing business in order to keep moving forward.
- A multinational fast-food company is constantly bringing in new products to different markets and regions and must provide information and directions about food safety, preparation, and marketing.
All of these examples result in changes in learning content and in the training based on that content. The adaptive business model means that the company has the tools and culture to be able to quickly adapt to changes in its marketplace.
Most organizations today have been built upon a traditional corporate culture with several well-known and accepted corporate procedures regarding content and content-sharing. The adaptive business requires new ways of communicating and collaborating. Transitioning into an adaptive business model requires the right tools, a supportive culture, a new mindset, good strategy, and high-level commitment. The goal is to find the intersections where the traditional model no longer produces the optimum results, and can be improved using an adaptive model that views content and content-sharing.
The adaptive business model is based on the capability to share content instantly, and work collaboratively across the enterprise regardless of the department or division in which you are working.
Progressive organizations utilize a content creation and management tool that has the capability of developing content using subject matter experts from across the company and often with the input of customers, suppliers, and vendors, as well.
The Value of an Adaptive Business Model Using an LCMS
There are several ways the LCMS develops a new mindset that supports an adaptive business model. That new LCMS-based adaptive model produces a number of benefits for the organization:
- Contextual learning. No two learners are alike, nor do they usually need the same information at the same time. The content needs to adapt to their needs in order to be most usable and useful. The LCMS takes knowledge objects and places them into a learning path that is proscribed by what the learner needs to know. These learning paths not only provide the learning that is most relevant; it also captures the learning objectives determined by the organization. This approach means learners will find what they need when they need it instead of waiting for that piece of knowledge to be shared as they patiently wade through lots of content they do not need.
- Core and custom knowledge. In addition to tacit and explicit knowledge, the adaptive organization using an LCMS recognizes there is core and custom knowledge. Core knowledge tends to have a longer shelf life and can be used by many people. Custom knowledge often has a limited shelf life and focuses on a specific audience.
- Knowledge objects are adaptable. The adaptive organization needs to keep up with the way technology affects the delivery of content. Mobile is a great example of an emerging technology that once delivered only telephone calls, but today, with smart phones, can provide content through a variety of networks and apps. Content developed as an object can be reused and delivered on a mobile device without having to redevelop the content from scratch. As content delivery technology changes, the adaptive organization can change without the time-consuming and expensive effort of re-developing content for mobile.
- Faster time to performance. One key goal of any learning content is to speed up the time to performance. This is especially true for new employees. In organizations that need to adapt to high turnover or frequently changing rules and regulations, even the core content that previously was developed can be more readily revised and repurposed than creating new content from scratch. Core legacy content, which might have become obsolete, still can be converted and becomes an asset that reduces the cost of new content development.
- Self-paced, anytime and anywhere. Another advantage the LCMS affords the adaptive organization is to enable employees to also be as adaptive as possible. This means employees have the capability to choose small units of content from which to learn. This is useful for new employees who learn what they need to perform a new job and then go back and learn more advanced skills, as well as more experienced employees who simply need a refresher on a single subject.
Finally, there is another benefit that using an LCMS in an adaptive business environment can produce. Delivering a high-performance learning culture begins by understanding that smart and agile employees, with the tools they need to succeed, are also the most engaged employees. Numerous studies show that providing up-to-date performance support content and learning programs will have a dramatic effect on a company’s customer service and satisfaction, productivity, and, ultimately, profitability. The LCMS enables a learning culture that can produce these benefits.
David Grebow is principal learning analyst for Brandon Hall Group, a leading research/analyst firm covering learning and development, talent management, executive management, and sales and marketing effectiveness.