What would you do if you were ten times bolder?

by | Jan 11, 2018 | Articles, Featured

2018 is another year of opportunity for L&D leaders. The fearless will use it to set a new direction that will impact their organisation’s growth, transformation, productivity and performance.

Our resolve to change direction is strengthened by a number of factors: a moment in time; a significant opportunity; the desire to relieve pain. January 2018 combines all three for L&D professionals who at the start of the year are faced with a year of potential and challenge.

The opportunity is clear. Year on year, L&D leaders increasingly see the potential that technology-enabled learning innovation can bring. New pressures on organisations are creating uncertainty. The demands on the individuals that work in them to adapt and change provide an opportunity for L&D to add real value.  This constant change fuels our desire to shift from delivering courses to delivering real value by using technology to integrate learning and work. It’s no wonder that this year’s top priorities for L&D are to improve organisational performance (98%) and increase productivity (97%)[i].

At the same time, we are challenged by the same individuals that we serve. They do not appreciate or support our learning vision for the future. Many of us are smarting from the fact that our IT teams, our managers, our learners and yes, even our own L&D colleagues are holding us back, reluctant to take responsibility to change.


‘Fortune favours the bold’

We’re at a pinch point once again. Doing what we’ve always done may feel like the safe thing to do but it won’t help us sieze opportunities or challenge our pain points. It takes courage to step out of the safe zone.

One definition of courage is the ‘choice and willingness to act in the face of danger or uncertainty’. At the beginning of 2018, there is a certain amount of danger for L&D leaders looking to do things differently– challenging the status quo and sticking our heads above the parapet is a risky business.

There is also a fair level of uncertainty and risk in business and in our own jobs. Will new models of learning work? Will investing innew tools and technologies make a return? After all no L&D professional got fired for building a catalogue of courses or a suite of online compliance eLearning!

Since 2004, our research has shown that stepping out of the L&D comfort zone pays off.

Top Deck teams are delivering more, consistently more, year on year. Compared with those in the bottom quartile of the Towards Maturity index[ii] , this year the Top Deck are nine times as likely to report that they are influencing learning culture and seven times as likely to agree that their approach is improving organisational agility.

Top Deck learning teams in our research are large organisations, small organisations, all sectors (yes – even charities), teams with big budgets, teams with no budget. They are people like you!

What the leaders of these teams have in common is a certain amount of courage. They take risks, try new things and prepare their organisations to do the same. And their approach works. Fortune favours the bold!

Aristotle called courage the first virtue, because it makes all the other virtues possible – our Top Deck leaders show that courage really does unlock potential.

We have been running ‘Art of the Possible’ workshops around the globe and a question we regularly discuss is:

What would you do if you were 10x bolder?

The ideas that emerge are consistently simple – if we were 10x bolder, we would be willing to:

  • start new things, to innovate and take risk
  • speak up, to challenge opinion or champion new causes
  • trust more, to have confidence in others and to let go of the familiar

At the start of the year, we need to think where we can apply courage to ensure we add maximum value in the year ahead.

Using our courage to start new things

L&D love to talk about new things – we love a good trend at new year!

So, what is ‘trending’ right now? What is the industry passionate about right now? What is at the heart of their conversations? A quick analysis of some of the 2018 ‘Trends lists’[iii] show that microlearning, augmented and virtual reality, video and artificial intelligence are all hot topics of conversation. Our research shows that whilst actual use is on the increase, fewer than 10 – 15% of us use these. So what are the real technology trends – what is popular with most L&D leaders right now? It is still eLearning, LMS, virtual classroom that are used by 9 out of 10 L&D leaders with video and mobile being used by 7 out of 10.  There is safety in the familiar.

The new year trend lists feed FOMO – fear of missing out. It takes courage to think independently – to buck the trends and to totally rethink your approach to what’s needed in your organisation right now. We talk about new things, but we don’t try new things.

That said, courage is not throwing yourself, overconfidently, into the unknown territory of the latest ideas about social learning, 70:20:10, experiential learning or AI! Overcoming fear involves taking calculated risks. Decisions informed by evidence and backed by instinct will ensure that you can bravely experiment with the previously unknown.

Our research shows that learning innovation works – it delivers business impact and improves staff engagement. Learning innovation is not a tool, a technology or a new trend. What makes a difference are smart tactics used to apply the right tools to solve real business challenges.

Build your courage to try new things by bringing the outside into your team. Use research, data, analytics and  combine them with the experience of your peers and competitors to establish the new tactics and tools most likely to work for you.


Using our courage to speak up

Challenging the status quo takes courage and the first stakeholders we need to challenge are ourselves! Our learning teams should be the first place to explore our opportunities, our challenges and our fears. Three quarters of the Top Deck report that their L&D teams have personal skills such as creative thinking and critical analysis.

The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud. – Coco Chanel

The Towards Maturity team’s new analysis over the past few months has shown that L&D can be lulled into a false sense of security. We need to be willing to speak up and challenge the weight of our historic successes,and recognise past wins for what they are. To let go to move to the next stage of your transformation journey takes guts.[iv]

We also need to break through the familiar for our stakeholders. The business leader’s belief that L&D is a coursegenerating cost center will not go away unless we challenge them to think differently about the impact that we can have on what matters to them: growth, profitability, productivity and transformation.

This demands a new conversation and a level of credibility. Our opinions will not shift the opinions of our business leaders, but data will!

Black and white evidence from over 450 organisations around the globe has shown that learning innovation can deliver

  • 19% improvements in satisfaction of your organisations customers
  • 13% improvements in productivity
  • 34% improvement in ability to introduce change

It takes boldness to bring this to the attention of business leaders, to ask the question ‘If this is possible for organisations who could be our customers or in our supply chain, would you be willing for us to try something new?’


Using our courage to trust more

One of the big challenges that most L&D leaders have is a lack of trust.

We do not trust our organisations to learn. Two thirds of us do not believe that our colleagues can manage their own learning. And yet, when we genuinely listen to staff, involve them in decisions, we see that they are more self-directed than we give them credit for.

Michelle Ockers recently shared experiences of working directly with Qantas to understand how their staff learned what they needed to do their job. The learning landscape study showed that staff are motivated to learn, are willing to share and are comfortable in using technology. The evidence shows that the organisations can be trusted with the new!

Evidence helps us to build our confidence and put trust in our organisation to be willing and able to try the new – IF it can help them to do their job better and faster. Evidence about how our staff learn not only helps us build trust it helps us to build courage!

L&D also lack trust in the unfamiliar. Our progress in improving efficiency, process, agility and culture is at best limited. Occasionally it’s in reverse. We talk about the trends, but we trust in the familiar.

American novelist William Faulkner once wrote’ You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.’


Letting go and stepping up in 2018

2018 provides a year of challenge for L&D but it also provides an unparalleled opportunity to let go, step up and move on. Our new report – The Transformation Curve, due out on the 31st of January- will provide evidence-based pathways to help inform your decisions but to be honest, your courage to apply the evidence will determine your success.

So, what will you do now you are 10x bolder?




[i] Data from 700 global L&D leaders in the Towards Maturity Benchmark Report L&D:Where are we now

[ii] The Towards Maturity Index is a quantitative measure of learning innovation maturity, established from research with over 6,500 L&D leaders, Top Deck organisations are defined as those in the top 10% of the Towards Maturity Index.

[iii] Elearninglearning curate a neat 2018 Trends round-up

[iv] The Transformation Curve – The L&D journey to deliver lasting business impact is due for release at the end of this January 2018, pre-order your copy: www.towardsmaturity.org/transformation2018



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