Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ecosystem 2014 - General Impressions

I'll admit - I came to Ecosystem 2014 more out of morbid curiosity.

I've been actively working on our own Learning Ecosystem for the past year.
Been talking about it for a bit longer than that.
And even earlier than that....
And recruiting and talking to really smart people even before that....
Even wondering what would happen if I trashed everything and started over....

So this is a conversation I've been having with myself and some understanding confederates for quite some time.

I wanted to see where the rest of the world was.

Conclusion:  There is still quite a bit of thrashing to be done.
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Many of the presentations hinted at including things in the ecosystem outside of items under immediate Learning and Development / HR control and/or understanding.  Things like business intelligence, enterprise business systems....   I'm glad they at least hinted at it.   And hinted at really looking at your ENTIRE environment, not just the tiny "Learning and Development" corner many of us have boxed ourselves into.

I was hoping someone would stand up and say "You need to make friends with your Data Whisperer, your Enterprise SWAT operatives, your Identity and Mobility gurus! Your Document Wranglers and Web Masters!  Your Collaboration Experts and Video Folks!  Rich, mutually-beneficial relationships are had here!  A true Learning Ecosystem built around THEIR tools (vs. "learning specific" tools) will help EVERYONE!!!!"

"The entire workplace is your playground!!!!"  There are flowers to pick everywhere!!!"

Many of the presenters beat a hasty retreat back to the familiar LMS, LCMS, Video Classroom, and (maybe) Talent Management systems.  I suspect so as to not scare people.  Also - to allow folks to focus on the small wins with the things under their immediate control.

Next year - I would love to hear the conversation shift towards leveraging what is already IN the business environment vs. creating a parallel environment.

I know we have created a parallel environment for years.  And I know that if we, as an industry, actually used what we and everyone else have at our disposal (vs. reinvent the wheel) - a lot of the Learning Solutions Expo vendors will be out of business.  Something to keep in mind when listening to these conversations....
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Some of the technologies we need to include in our environment are pretty complex - particularly around identity (access and assignments) and analytics (that pesky "So how are we impacting business?" question).  And, I will admit, I am still wrapping my mind around a lot of these technologies and ideas + trying to figure out how it fits.

That's OK.

Because a Learning Ecosystem is an evolving thing. Like a forest or any other organic system.

This is NOT a "build once, maintain for eternity" thing.  (Another issue many of the presenters didn't care to address).

I'm learning this is a build gradually, shift and move as needed and as the environment changes sort of thing.  In my case - developed with two guiding principles:
:
- Can people find stuff easily? (because people learn when they look for information they need and use it themselves)
- Can people talk to each other and collaborate easily? (because people learn when they talk to each other and work together)

I figure if the ecosystem can answer these questions - and continuously improve on the answers - I'll have the vast majority of my "learning objectives" for particular projects taken care of.
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A couple bright bits of news:

- We are having these conversations in the first place.  This felt like the first time in a long time that we've started chewing on some new questions as a broader discipline.  Not just a few folks in the woods.  I was thrilled to see this.

- I am not entirely alone.  Gary Wise is making a large-scale Learning Ecosystem real at Xerox.  There is a DoD initiative as well (though not entirely certain which corner or who is involved.  Models with smart people and more resources.  I will be watching these as closely as possible.

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Separating out the Ecosystem 2014 from the rest of the conference was a really good idea.

I'll be curious to see how these conversations evolve over the next couple of years and what folks do with them.





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