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A Human-Centred Design Approach Can Redefine How We Learn In The Future

A Human-Centred Design Approach

It is a given that the environments in which we live, the lifestyles we lead, and work that we do will be radically different in the not too distant future. It is therefore likely that we will no longer live in traditional homes, no longer travel to an office to work, no longer go to school to study, no longer drive our own cars…and many of our everyday activities will be aided by a digital application or robotic device.

Our worlds and lives will be irrevocably changed. The everyday challenges we encounter today like finding a parking space, shopping for groceries getting to work on time, sourcing information, will become insignificant, replaced by bigger issues and problems…sometimes those we create. Our societies will become more competitive with more people seeking accessible, affordable, secure housing, food, transport, healthcare, education, finance, insurance. We will have to evolve if we are to survive in a constantly changing world.

Yet, how can we keep up when what we know today, will not prepare us for tomorrow?

The critical success factor to our success will be our ability to adapt and apply our knowledge and skills in new ways, by constantly learning. However, if we are to achieve this, what we learn and the way we acquire knowledge and skills needs to fundamentally change.

“We are at a critical point where rapid change is forcing us to look not just to new ways of solving problems but to new problems to solve.” – Tim Brown (CEO and president, IDEO)

Traditional methods of learning: in the classroom, reading text books, completing assignments, writing exams and even practical assessments will not support us in our future lives and work. Just in time learning will become the new approach to education. Many institutions of higher learning are already catering to this through MOOCs and customised online platforms, organisations through e-learning and virtual classrooms. People of any age can now access best in class education on almost any subject, at a price.

In the new global world of work, where automation, Artificial Intelligence and part-time or contingent work comprise a large part of how businesses will operate, the statement “up to 50% of the jobs that we do today will not exist tomorrow – at least by 2025 – and many of the jobs in the future have not been created yet” resounds clearly. With younger generations already learning exponentially, it goes without saying, that those of us who want to compete in business and advance our careers should adopt a continous learning strategy if we want to remain employable in the future.

However, it is not the lack of access to information or unaffordability or the inability of employees to learn that presents the most concern for organisations. Learning and Development professionals are under increasing pressure to ensure employees are enabled to support businesses to perform and deliver, while giving attention to job satisfaction and supporting their career growth. Professional development and career progression are among the top three factors that drive employee engagement and talent retention. According to recent studies by Berson Deloitte and jobs and recruiting company Glassdoor, 84% of business leaders cite the “need for improved organisational learning” as a top priority, and 44% say it is urgent.

At the same time, employees want more control over their personal and professional development, and many cite they don’t get this from in-company programmes… typically because the training doesn’t relate to their work context.

Corporate L&D needs to take a new approach to learning at work, where the employee experience drives the learning intervention (and not the other way around!)

A design thinking approach to the learning experience offers L & D the opportunity to develop learner centred solutions through empathising, analysing and understanding the learner’s requirements on multiple levels, and then developing a calendar aligned “journey map” presenting what the employee needs to know to apply themselves in their jobs progressively from their very first day on the job and right through their first year.

Gamification nicely compliments the design thinking approach. Through breaking the learning into short experiences which employees can easily access from their mobile devices, and then, through social collaboration, they are able to compete with each other, share their learning with their peers, and then record their own achievements on their scoreboards which their line manager would have access to. This makes the learning experience more interactive, engaging and iterative.

In today’s busy, deadline driven work environment where business priorities take precedence, employees have little time to invest in learning unless they can see the direct benefits in their jobs. However, as new business models evolve, efficient operating systems and leaner, younger organisations emerge as the norm, the world of work is changing all around us. Professionals who want to survive and thrive in their careers need to look ahead as to what the job market will demand in two, three and even five years, can no longer afford to ignore the need invest in learning new knowledge and skills in order to remain relevant and competitive.

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