The Alligator Trap

Sometimes we need training to be functional rather than cool.

During our TechLearn Conference in September, keynoter Lou Tedrick, VP of Global Learning & Development at Verizon, related a story that resonated with me. Her son plays simulation video game Zoo Tycoon and was saving money to buy an alligator to draw people to the zoo. But it turns out people weren’t going to his zoo because there weren’t enough bathrooms. So Tedrick asked her son, “Why don’t you put the money toward more bathrooms?” Her son replied, “But, Mom, the alligator is so cool…”

That seems to be a familiar trap organizations fall into with training. Sometimes we need training to be functional rather than cool. That’s why our TechLearn Conference and co-located Innovations in Training (IIT) and GamiCon events in New Orleans weren’t just about the newest, coolest technology, they were also about how to use the technology we have now in the most effective and innovative ways. “It’s about learning what makes you creative, being intentional about how you can apply that creativity to adapt seemingly irrelevant innovations, and knowing what causes awe and delight—for both you and your learners,” notes IIT attendee Alaine Carrello, manager of Culture and Communications at Verizon.

Adds Tedrick, “You have to ask if augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR), for example, is the right solution. Don’t be pressured to use AR or VR. You have to have the business case.” For organizations looking into these technologies, Tedrick recommends taking an agile approach and “starting small to go big.”

I was curious to see whether organizations are starting to adopt emerging technologies such as virtual and augmented reality and artificial intelligence for training. So for the first time, we included those options in our Annual Training Industry Report. Some 23 percent of large companies currently are using virtual reality, 11 percent are using augmented reality, and 9 percent are using artificial intelligence, our report found, while 5 percent or less of small and midsize companies are using any of these technologies. Some 15 percent of respondents indicated they intend to purchase augmented or virtual reality technology next year. 

This year’s Training Industry Report and Salary Survey showed a decline in both overall training expenditures (down 5.3 percent) and salaries (down 3-plus percent), so it will be interesting to see whether organizations do, in fact, invest in these and other new training technologies and the personnel to implement them in the coming year.

Speaking of 2020, please keep an eye out for the winners of our Training Magazine Network Choice Awards—a new vendor awards program that puts the voting in the hands of TMN members—who will be recognized in our January/February 2020 issue and at our Training 2020 Conference in Orlando February 24-26, 2020. I hope to see you there—register today at

In the meantime, my best wishes for a joyous holiday season and a Happy New Year!

Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.