Shaking up L&D teams event


Business Breakfast Briefing

I was fortunate enough to receive an invitation to the latest in Reed Learning’s “Business Breakfast Briefing” series of event on 24/11.

This was the first one that I had attended, so I didn’t really know what to expect (although the offer of a complimentary Moleskine note book, and free bacon rolls did grab my attention!)

The event was, as usual, held in central London, and despite an 8am start, was pretty well supported, with around 40 attendees.

The agenda points for this meeting were:

  • an update from Laura Overton (Managing Director, Towards Maturity) on the current state of the L&D industry
  • a presentation from Sarah Lindsell of pwc on how she embraces Learning Technology within the business
  • a workshop session with Martyn Evans (Head of Product at Unboxed) on “MVP” and “customer experience mapping”

Laura kicked off the meeting with some great facts and figures, which prompted lots of discussion around the room.

She provided insight into how both learners and L&D team think and feel, as well as showing us how the ‘Top Deck’ companies differ in approach (and results) from the rest of the L&D industry.


A key take away for me was that workers don’t need motivating to complete learning… They are almost demanding input, to help them do their job faster and better.

The clear message for L&D teams is “If you don’t provide it, I will go and find it myself”.

This makes L&D teams nervous for a number of reasons;

  • How do they control the message?
  • How do they QA the answers that their learners are finding?
  • How do they stay on top of the most recent technical innovations?

If the teams listened to what the learners were asking them for, the message is actually a very positive one. The learners are telling the L&D function that they are;

  • Curious – Learners want learning
  • Connected – They are happy to search for it
  • Tech-Savvy – They have the skills to access it
  • Self-Directed – They know what training and development they need

Armed with this knowledge, all the L&D team need to provide is the right content, at the right time, using the most relevant media.

This can, in many cases, be summed-up by the phrase “Fewer course, more resources”. The elephant in the room still appears to be the L&D teams “requirement” to prove that everyone in the organisation has been trained, by creating endless, compulsory training programmes. The agreement in the room was that this needs to be challenged. 

Of course there is a place for a structured compliance programme, but I wonder if a 90 second video/animation or an infographic is any less beneficial to a learner than a two hour face-to-face workshop. If the short interaction manages to provide the information the learner needs, when they need it, and also motivates them to change behaviour once they have watched it, surely that is no bad thing.


This demand from learners to shift to short, on-demand, digital pieces can only be seen as putting Learning Tech companies in a strong position to continue to grow – Assuming that we continue to listen to our learners, and continue to innovate.

The issue is that we need to convince the L&D team to listen to their learners.

The Towards Maturity data backs up this theory too;

Data shows Top Deck organisations (those in the top 10% of the Towards Maturity Index are considered Top Deck), are nearly three times more likely to listen to their staff and understand how they want to learn than the other companies surveyed.

And others would do well to follow the Top Deck’s lead; Across the board, these organisations are more than twice as likely to achieve the benefits they seek from a modernised learning strategy and report 35% fewer barriers than their peers.


Not only do the Top Deck listen to their learners, but 76% of them say that they actively involve them in the design of learning (against a 35% average across other companies).

They also use learning communities to encourage idea generation, and to gather feedback from their staff…

Perhaps we should look into gathering ‘end user’ feedback for some of the projects we create, rather that just asking for the thoughts of the key project stakeholders?

Which brings us on to the next topic that we covered – Journey/Experience Mapping.

The concept here is to identify the journey that the user / customer will follow as they work through the process. This enables us to experience the journey through the eyes of the end user, as well as identify how they feel as they work through it.

But why is this important? Completing a user journey will enable you to…

  • Avoid the dangers of ‘Experience Rot’

Chances are all those features you’ve been adding to your design are not really adding anything to your user experience. Every feature that’s squeezed in, in the name of making your design “cool”, may have actually been making your design less attractive to the end user.

Welcome to the effects of Experience Rot. As you add features, you’re adding complexity to the design, and decreasing the quality of the experience.

When you complete the learner journey, if there are steps or stages that don’t have a specific requirement to be in the design, question why they are there… Are they just ‘fluff’ to make you feel better about what you are delivering?

  • Adding value where it didn’t exist

This is kind of the opposite to ‘Experience Rot’ – Is there something that you could add in that would make things simpler? Would adding in a link to a resource help to simplify the process for the user?

  • Fall in love with the problem, not the solution

This relies on you being honest with yourself – WHY are you doing the project in the first place? WHAT problem are you trying to solve? If you truly understand the issue at hand, the chances are your end solution will be focussed enough to meet the need.

Are you nearing that tipping point where-by your love of the solution that you are creating is outweighing the need to solve the original problem?

When you complete the experience mapping exercise, be sure to note down how you think the user may ‘feel’ at each stage. Remember, the goal is to transform Frustration to Delight for the learner.

  • Using post-it notes, plot your user’s journey through the service from initial engagement to completion.
  • Think about the tasks they need to achieve at each stage.
  • Also make a note of the pain points they encounter and their emotional state

We mentioned earlier that we should engage with our learners to get an understanding of what they actually want – But this approach is fraught with danger;

  • People don’t always know what they want
  • Is their opinion the consensus, or a single voice?

Prior to mass producing his first motor car, Henry Ford is quoted to have said that if he had listed to his customers’ needs, he would have built a faster horse. 

We need to remember that people have a preconceived idea of what is possible, so their ideas and opinions may not always be that useful – They don’t aways know what they want.

The idea of utilising an MVP is to use a starting point from which to grow;

What is a minimally viable product? 

  • The Smallest Possible Thing
  • That Delivers Value
  • And You Can Learn From

The concept here is to build the simplest thing we can to try to meet the need of the business. These are our initial ideas, from which we will get feedback from our users, which will, in turn, direct further development (if any is required.)

As an example, when Domino’s Pizza were looking to develop online ordering they did not invest a fortune in building an infrastructure for a system that was a total unproven idea. 

They set-up a simple web form that emailed an administrator, who then called a local restaurant to place the order for the customer. This was their MVP…

It allowed them to test the concept, added some value to the customer experience and added invaluable feedback in terms of number of orders placed using the new system.

But how can we work out what our customers actually need?


  • Interview

A simple call, or better still, face-to-face conversation with not just the project owner, but the end user will help to share our initial thoughts.

  • Sketch

A sketch, wireframe or 101 page

  • Ad

Posting an advert to gain feedback on the amount of interest there is around a topic prior to kicking off the full project

  • Fake door

Did you know that many Facebook Ads don’t actually go anywhere? They are banners that share an idea / design. They are simply used to track levels of interest.

  • Kickstarter

This is just a way of sharing an idea, again gauging the level of interest

  • Concierge

Exactly what Domino’s Pizza set-up for their online order test

  • Paper prototype
  • Design prototype
  • Code prototype

Overall, I found the meeting really useful, both the term of networking and new ideas.

Happy to discuss anything that other people may find useful.