The Future of Training Is Already Here

Ideas to redefine your Training department and your career.

By Daniel Burrus, Founder and CEO, Burrus Research

Over the next five years, training and education won’t just change; it’ll transform. What’s the difference? Changing means continuing to do essentially the same thing, only introducing some variation in degree. Transformation means doing something utterly and radically different. For example, moving our music from cassette tape to CD was simply a change. But going from a CD to having all your music in digital format on your smart phone and with you at all times was a transformation.

Exponential changes driven by processing power, storage, and bandwidth now are affecting how we train our workforce, and this transformation will accelerate. The only question is whether your organization will take advantage of it. We’re living and working in game-changing times, which means there’s huge opportunity for anyone in training and education to make a bigger difference both for their career and their organization.

So what’s the future of training look like? To get a clear picture, you first have to know a few facts:  

  • More than 75 percent of the phones sold globally in 2011 were smart phones. In other words, your employees’ phones are actually multimedia computers with Internet access. That alone has huge ramifications for training.  
  • One-third of all PCs sold globally were tablets, and most of them were iPads. So smart mobile devices such as phones and tablets are the new platforms for training and education.
  • These smart devices will get exponentially smarter every year, giving us new capabilities. It used to be only a university or major corporation could access a super computer. Today, even a small company with a small training department can access (from a phone) a super computer in the cloud and run advanced simulations.

Knowing these things, it’s time to rethink training. Here’s how to do it:

Implement Just-in-Time Training

All trainers know that the best way to learn something is by doing it. That’s what just-in-time training enables people to do. Rather than sit in a classroom and learn, people learn in real time. Remember, most employees have a multimedia computer with them at all times (their phone or tablet). With just-in-time training, they can access any element of what they need to know at the moment of need. If they have a question or need assistance, they simply touch an icon on their device’s screen and are connected to a live trainer who can help. If the trainer needs to see something to give assistance, the employee can aim the device’s built-in camera at the problem so the trainer can see it. This alone would cut training costs tremendously.

Does this mean we eliminate classroom training? No. There will still be classroom training, but less of it because now we can have distributed training in real time that is just in time. So this isn’t about getting rid of something; it’s about using a new tool for training and education.

Create Interactive Training Materials

We also now have the ability to create interactive training manuals and textbooks. In the past, e-books have been static, basically an electronic PDF of the book. Now they are becoming dynamic e-books where you have embedded audio, video, and links to other resources. And thanks to visual communications, you can even have a way for employees to tap a special button in the training manual and be connected to someone who can give more advanced training on a specific subject.

Additionally, employees can tap into a series of videos that allows them to personalize the training for their specific needs. Since the training manual is no longer static, employees can personalize the manual by plugging into a menu of more advanced training options embedded within.

Tap Into the Gamification of Training and Education

Gaming isn’t just for kids. Interactive gaming is a tool that can transform training and education. I’ve identified five core elements of gameification that, when applied together, can dramatically accelerate learning. They are:

  1. Self-diagnostic. Interactive, competitive, and immersed training modules can know each person’s skill or knowledge level and progress accordingly. It can know where someone left off and give next steps from that point when the person logs back in. This is the best way to allow for individual training and learning.
  2. Interactivity. Regardless of someone’s inherent learning style, learning is much more effective when you’re interacting with the material, not passively sitting there. When you learn by gaming, you’re interacting with the information and concepts and actually doing things. It’s no longer passive training.  
  3. Immersion. In the recent past to the present, video games use interspatial 3-D, where you go into worlds. So instead of images popping out at you, you go inside to them. That’s how games on the Xbox 360 and others have been working for years, by using a regular television set or flat panel display. This sort of technology gives an immersed effect, which engages people more.
  4. Competition. Humans are naturally competitive beings. When you’re sitting in class learning, there’s little competitive value. No one advances until the class is over. However, when you’re competing, as in a game, there’s an adrenaline rush that keeps you engaged and focused on the task at hand. In an effort to “win,” people master concepts faster.  
  5. Focus. When you’re playing a game, you’re forced to focus. You have to do A in order for B to occur. If you don’t do A, then you won’t get far in the game. Focus is the result of interactivity, competition, immersion, and self-diagnosis. When you can focus, you can learn virtually anything…fast.  

Embrace the New Era of Training

The ideas mentioned here are already possible. Use them to redefine not only your training department, but also your career. Since businesses spend large sums of money on training and education, anything that can accelerate or enhance learning will save both time and dollars. And always remember: If it can be done, it will be done; if you don’t do it, someone else will.

Technology forecaster and business strategist Daniel Burrus is the founder and CEO of Burrus Research, a researchand consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology-driven trends to help clients better understand how technological, social,and business forces are converging to create enormous, untapped opportunities. He is the author of six books, including The New York Timesand Wall Street Journalbestselling Flash Foresight: How to See the Invisible and Do the Impossible,as well as Technotrends” (Sydney, Australia’s most overdue library book).For more information, visit

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