• Christoph Burkhardt

It's time to rethink Learning & Development

Updated: Sep 2, 2019

Emerging technologies dramatically shift the skill requirements of employees who need to get ready to tackle business problems too complex for #AI to solve.


At one of the major industry events of the L&D world in Europe, the Learntec conference in Germany this weekend, I came across some major technological developments and some major non technological challenges that have to be addressed in the following years with certainty.


AI is here to enter the L&D environment


#Artificial Intelligence is everywhere and nowhere. While many companies have started the conversation around this emerging technology hardly any businesses have developed strategies to implement it in any meaningful way. Yet, AI is here and it is here to stay. It is not a trend that will fade. It is a revolution that can only be compared to the paradigm shift that emerged throughout the early days of the world wide web.


#Learning is not only at the core of #AI systems in all shapes and sizes. Learning is also at the core of what this technology will challenge when it comes to human skills in the workplace. Already, AI outperforms humans in many tasks that have routine patterns and regular feedback loops like accounting, marketing and many legal processes. But more than that learning is being challenged as a concept that describes what humans do to run their businesses. The executives I talk to regularly confuse expertise as the amount of knowledge someone brings to a task with the adaptive ability to reconfigure existing knowledge in a way that turns past experiences into valuable insights for #innovation. Only the latter form of expertise is based on constant learning. This type of learning will grow in relevance as more and more smart machines enter the domain of knowledge acquisition and situational recall.



Excel is not a job


If your job requires you to use tools like excel or any data entry system to organize highly standardized information you will be challenged. For HR and L&D this means a challenge to what employees need to bring to their desks. While data processing used to be a highly sought after skill set it more and more becomes obsolete. Machines are simply much better at using Excel than we are. #excelisnotajob


Any #repetitive task calms the human mind because we fall into a routine and most of the steps taken are being taken automatically. So if we spend 50-60% of our time today on tasks of this nature, tasks that do not require our full attention and absolute focus this number will undoubtedly go down within the next decade. My estimate is that we will spend less than 20% of our time on tasks and projects that require less than absolute focus. Our work environments will shift to very demanding and highly exhausting cognitive problem solving environments. We will look back thinking that entering data in Excel was the good old times.


People strategies need to cope with these changes today. We need to prepare people to survive in a much more demanding environment as all the simple tasks are being taken over by machines.


What they will need


Preparing a workforce for this next level means to provide them with learning tools and experiences that prepare them for a world full of #uncertainty and tough #decision making. We all need to function under less certainty. Machines are great at assessing risks which used to provide us with a framework for decisions about business #strategy. As these assessments are now being made by machines the decisions about the future of a company are no longer tasks of corporate decision makers alone. Their tasks shift towards decisions that have no or hardly any informational basis. The question whether something will work or not will be impossible to answer. And yet decisions will have to be made. Paradoxically we will need more risk taking as #risk is taken away from us. We will be left with decisions machines can not assess. Those are the ones we need to prepare people for today.


"How do you teach someone to make an important decision under complete uncertainty? Train them to think in consequences rather than results."

L&D and corporate people strategy has to shift it's models from training people to think in results, in terms of success or failure. Rather we need to shift to mental models of the best possible decision to be made given current knowledge with a learning strategy that triggers maximum growth based on whatever result a decision leads to. This will require to take the blame for the result away from the decision maker and onto the situational boundaries while at the same time to shift the responsibility for maximum learning to the decision maker rather than L&D.


Read more about the rise of smart machines and how they fundamentally change how we live and work. To get ready for the Age of AI check out Christoph Burkhardt’s new book “Don’t Be a Robot - Seven Survival Strategies in the Age of Artificial Intelligence”.

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© 2019 by Christoph Burkhardt | Burkhardt Group LLC