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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Missed Opportunities?

I need your help.  I’m supposed to be preparing for a panel session at DevLearn 2009.  But instead, I’m finding myself wondering what I’m going to be discussing with people.

The panel description is:

From Learning to Performance — Using Technology to Make It Happen

Thursday November 12, 2009 01:15 PM

Tridib Roy Chowdhury, Adobe Systems, Inc.

Ruth Clark, Clark Training & Consulting
David Metcalf, University of Central Florida
Lance Dublin, Dublin Consulting
Joe Ganci, Dazzle Technologies Corp.
Tony Karrer, TechEmpower, Inc.

Historically, learning departments across organizations have followed the “shiny penny.”   This high-powered panel will discuss how can one overcome this barrier to learning. You’ll discuss the key trends in technology-enabled learning such as self-service (learning by search, mobility, syndication), collaboration, etc., and learn some frameworks for execution.
In this session, you will learn:

  • Why “shiny penny” is not the right approach to organizational learning
  • Key trends in technology-enabled learning
  • Picking the right learning strategy suited for your organization
  • How organizations can adapt a productivity-oriented approach to learning technologies

Intermediate and advanced participants should be associated with learning, training, or HR organizations at a strategic level.

Each of the panelists have been asked to prepare to lead small workgroups.  My workgroup will focus on the topic of “missed opportunities.”

So, my first question – what would you expect to discuss around the topic of missed opportunities?


I’m thinking that we are talking about how the ever increasing set of technologies and solutions causes us to have to continually adapt.  As soon as we feel good about our ability to build one kind of solution, we are expected to build the next.  We don’t want to just fall prey to shiny object syndrome, but at the same time, we need to be ready to deliver good solutions using appropriate technologies as they arise.

So, if that’s what I’m supposed to be talking about, then:

How do you avoid missed opportunities?  How do you stay prepared?  How are you ready when the opportunity arises?

Or at least, what might you discuss as part of this working group if you were there?


Please help.


Clark said...

Tony, funny,my missed opportunity really isn't about technology, it's not revisiting learning before we then go look at how technologies can support. We keep replicating the #$%^ classroom instead of thinking more broadly about natural learning.

If we do that, then we can open our mind to new ideas, like distributed learning.

Look forward to seeing you here at DevLearn!

Lisa R. said...

Hey Tony,

I'd expect some discussion of how learners with various disabilities fit in with emerging tools and instructional design strategies. One example: Jared Smith's review of Google Wave at
In a presentation I gave recently on designing for better accessibility using universal design, an IT department leader stated "Universal design went out with the 80s." I maintain that all of our innovation is for nothing if it cannot be used. That is a huge missed opportunity, IMO.

Harold Jarche said...

Many missed opportunities are where training alone won't address the problem. Some barriers to performance that are often overlooked when prescribing training include:

Unclear expectations (such as policies & guidelines);
Inadequate resources;
Unclear performance measures;
Rewards and consequences not aligned.

You avoid missed opportunities by 1) not assuming that training is the solution and 2) examining all other factors in a systemic & systematic manner. This requires a much broader focus.

Hope this helps.

Unknown said...

I wonder if the focus on using technology might distract us from providing the learner with a relevant training approach for her/him. Are we missing an opportunity to motivate learning by our concentration on the newest tools?

Ali said...

I'd expect some discussion on the need to focus on your particular business goals, strategies, and visions. As you mentioned in the blog that you can get caught up in going after the shiny penny that you can be chasing something that is not consistent or aligned with your particular business environment/culture, goal, etc. Being clear on what you are looking for will help you narrow down the different opportunities and hopefully alleviate missed opportunities.

Ellen said...

Tony -- What a great topic and panel!! Wish I could be there.

I completely agree with the other comments and would add a little different angle:

When my association leadership chased the shiny penny, my greatest frustration was the time it took away from essentials. Chasing any new idea or initiative or possibility meant precious time away from maintaining and upgrading core educational programming.

So the biggest opportunity we missed was actually continuous improvement of existing offerings.

No doubt about it, one shiny penny can end up costing an organization much more than one cent.

Tony Karrer said...

Good points being made. It all starts with the business needs and opportunities to help with those needs. And we shouldn't assume that any learning solution (or broader type of change/solution) is going to be the right way to go.

But also great point that the breadth of offerings may distract from being able to improve or go deeper with existing.

This is helpful. Hope people will continue to contribute thoughts.

Paul Angileri said...

I must say I've never heard of the "shiny penny" syndrome, but I understand what the metaphor is supposed to represent. I have yet to find myself in a situation where leadership is chasing the penny. In one case the business itself was making the penny, so immediacy wasn't the issue (unless you were in the Software Development dept. ;) )In another case the company had more than enough money to throw their lot in with the latest everything but because of a very good sense of prudence made very measured choices based in part on some of my FE analysis and influencing.

I would agree about missed opportunities being tied to incomplete or inappropriate solutions being delivered for specific performance problems. As for technology, other than perhaps missing an annual opportunity to work the need for a new tool or technology into the budget, I'm not sure how a technological opportunity could be missed. Granted, certain decisions have long-term effects on a business, but I could give you examples of highly competitive, performing companies that internally could be said to have missed many an elearning boat, that are just now adopting technologies I was using daily several years ago. We must also that consider that even as more and more technologies become pay-for, so many that are out there are still largely free to adopt and use, making the adoption question merely one of suitability to the problem. So I don't think technology would be the right context for the question, especially since technology (like money, or in our case, training) is not always the solution. Looking at the question from a professional practice POV is IMO about the only way to answer the question properly unless you drill down into more detailed weekly, monthly, quarterly, or yearly activities that WLP pros perform.

Kathreen said...

Sounds like missed opportunities are the inevitable consequence of persistently implementing innovative projects. How about discussing the process for identifying valuing, and articulating missed opportunities and using them to guide the next shiny new penny pursuit? Or can missed opportunities be the best shiny new penny?

V Yonkers said...

I think you also need to define "missed opportunity for whom?" Are there departments, individuals, or groups within the organization that are "creating the penny" while the people on top are spending time chasing the penny, unaware of the goldmine they have? How do you communicate the opportunities and give individuals and decisions makers the ability to take advantage of the opportunities that might be there?

How many times have you seen a great system implemented but it becomes worthless because there is no employee buy-in or it takes the organization into an area they aren't really prepared for? When discussing the "missed opportunities", I think, as everyone else has already mentioned, you need to include setting goals, most importantly, having relevant measures, and an effective means of communication within the organization in order to identify opportunities.

Andrzej said...

For me missed opportunities are about learning not about technology. Missed learning opportunities are the ones that could at any given moment have high impact on business performance. By this same token “not missed opportunity” is most impactful on recall because it is delivered in the context of current need. If we agree with that assertion then we can discuss technologies that enable us identify the opportunities.

I think a discussion on how to not miss learning opportunities and learning from others about their practices and technologies facilitating it could be of great benefit.

Tony Karrer said...

Great points that we need to define what is a missed opportunity and for whom.

The missed opportunity in my mind is for the learner/worker to be given the best possible solution.

As you've commented that can be because of lack of consideration for what would work best or inability to provide that.

This is providing some really amazing focus to the discussion. Thanks so much!