Becoming Tech Wise in 2018

Commit to learning more about technology in the year ahead By Elliott Masie

Elliott Masie is chair of the Masie Center’s Learning Consortium, CEO of the Masie Center and host of Learning 2018. He can be reached at


hief learning officers and learning leaders must rapidly increase their technology wisdom to handle the significant shifts in technology innovation and deployment in our workplaces.

Most CLOs can navigate the current conversations about talent/learning databases and mobile devices and can decode many conversations as they delve into the inner workings of application programming interfaces, technology stacks and clouds. And, as good leaders should, they rely on their team members to support their tech-readiness along the way.

But it’s time for many learning leaders to build a deliberate learning program to become more tech wise and ready for technology conversations.

In recent months, I have seen the eyes of learning leaders glaze over when conversations dive into topics such as block chain technology, audio search and knowledge technology, machine learning, augmented reality context, automation process cycles and big data for talent analytics.

It is not the role of a learning leader to be an expert in any of these technologies but at the core we need to have a conceptual understanding and vocabulary to have a dialogue and test the reality of predictions, claims and product assertions.

Let’s build a learning pathway for learning leaders to get more tech wise in 2018:

Vocabulary time: We need to build a vocabulary of five to 15 phrases for each technology that will build our ability to have conversations about them. Ask a member of your team or in your IT department to build a vocabulary list with a one-paragraph definition for each term.

Example time: Learning leaders need concrete workplace examples of each technology. For example, you might hear the term block chain and think it is about geeks playing with bitcoins. In truth, it is a much wider, global exchange for financial transactions. Learn two to three examples outside your corporate setting.

Timeline time: Technologies lives on a predictive timeline from idea to productive implementation in the workplace. Or not. Technology suppliers often exaggerate how ripe and ready their tech truly is or predict they will change the world of learning in just three years. Build a timeline and plot where these technologies might fit into your workplace future.

Personal time: Some of the most provocative technologies now start in the home. Look at the role of Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri. They grow in the personal technology marketplace years before they are fully adopted into the corporate setting. A tech-wise learning leader has their own at-home lab to engage with emerging technologies, perhaps even observing family members as their test users.

Learning leaders must become more tech wise and ready for technology conversations.

Replacement time: Watch for the technologies, systems or platforms that are fading from use or even being eliminated in the workplace. Are new features in talent systems radically reducing the use of some learning technologies? Work to understand which technologies are shrinking in the workplace.

Evidence and data time: Learn what evidence and data are essential to track as new technologies are deployed in the marketplace. How will an organization know if these technologies are having an impact on the workplace and the workforce?

User experience (UX) time: The growing field of user experience is researching how emerging technologies are being accepted and embraced by users. The UX field is an ideal one for a learning leaders to follow as it is focused on the key question of how a technology will be experienced by real people in a real work setting.

Smart innovation time: Learning leaders should avoid being either the foremost advocate or leading cynic on technologies. Your role is not to push any specific technology but to be the leading facilitator of discussions about how to mix and match existing and emerging technologies and changing work processes. Benchmark fiercely in your field and beyond.

Learning leaders should be curious, open and willing to experiment with new technology. Their approach should be supported by technology. They should have the vocabulary to have meaningful conversations about it. Learning leaders should be tech wise.