selling up, selling down

Sick and Tired of Trends

Five goals for L&D this year By Bob Mosher

Chief Learning Officer author, Bob Mosher's headshot.

Bob Mosher is a senior partner and chief learning evangelist for APPLY Synergies, a strategic consulting firm.
He can be reached at


rend articles, blogs and columns are like New Year’s resolutions. They come and go every January through April, approximately. I recently Googled “learning trends in 2019” and was met with 466,000 hits. I’m not faulting the effort or sincerity of the intent of these articles. I’m just sick of trends in general. That’s no one’s fault. It’s a fault in our industry.

Here’s my issue with our industry and trends. They rarely truly change, and if they do, it’s way too slowly. So in the spirit of bucking the trends (sorry for that), I’m simply going to offer five things I wish we’d take a leadership position on and actually do.

Stop overusing the term “blended learning.” Blended learning has been around for a long time. It started out as a way to augment classroom instruction with online materials and frankly hasn’t changed a lot since. Shortening a five-day class to two days and using e-learning to supplement the missing three days is not blended learning. The word that I take issue with is “learning,” which encompasses a lot more than just the content covered in training. For a learner, it includes the entire journey of being trained, transferring what was learned to the workplace, and then sustaining the information over time as it changes and the learner matures in their ability to perform. Designing deliverables that encompass the entire journey is truly blended learning and often well beyond where our current efforts end. Let’s redefine the discipline and add a host of tools and approaches that go way beyond what we offer today.

Get out of the training business and into the performance improvement business. I had a colleague recently share with me that he wanted to get his L&D department out of the “order taking” business and be allowed to do more. If you want to take different orders, you have to change the menu. One of the drawbacks of our success over the years is that it’s painted us into a corner when it comes to how our deliverables are perceived. L&D has a long history of delivering great training. Who remembers brick-and-mortar corporate universities? Some still exist and do amazing things. The problem with that success is that we have positioned ourselves as something removed from the business, offering deliverables that don’t map to the day-to-day workflow. Let’s keep offering training, but as a last resort. That doesn’t mean training will or should go away. It just means that our focus and engagement with the business should be dramatically different. What if we build workflow performance-based deliverables first and supplement with as little training as possible?
Let’s throw down the gauntlet in 2019.
Let’s standardize terminology. This one drives me crazy! We’re in the education business. Our job is to unclutter the cluttered, simplify the complicated and bring structure to chaos. So can we please stop renaming things and inventing terms before we understand what they truly mean or how they’re best built and delivered? If we can’t clearly explain it, how can we build it? Case in point — I’m going to get hate mail for this one — can someone explain to me what microlearning really is? Not your definition, but our industry’s? If you visited 100 different L&D departments across the world and asked them to define microlearning, I’m afraid of what you might hear. Our inability to standardize terminology across our field is causing some serious confusion.
Put methodology ahead of technology. Learning technologies are growing at a rate that has surpassed our ability to keep up. On one hand, it’s the most exciting time to do what we do. On the other hand, we’re spending millions, if not billions, on platforms we have no idea how to use. This is where the vendor community could really step up and help. We’re not in the technology business — we’re in the instructional methodology business. These tools are enablers, not ends in and of themselves. We need to take a breath and better understand how to use the array of tools that exist and are coming at us at a record pace.

Research and understand how to analyze data to defend what we do. We have tons of data. Do we really know where it’s coming from, what it represents and what to do with it? I’m the first to admit that this is my blind spot. Analytics, and the constructive use of them, are key to our ability to get our arms around all I’ve described and to quantifying what we do.

Let’s throw down the gauntlet in 2019. Let’s move into a revolutionary time when we buck the trends and truly redefine what we do and how we do it. The time is now and well overdue.