I recently had the privilege of speaking and participating at the ATD International Conference and Expo in Orlando, Florida. The Association of Talent Development (ATD) started in the USA, over 70 years ago and has developed into an annual international gathering of over 10000 talent and learning specialists from all over the globe, sharing their expertise, case studies, innovations and debating possible future trends and responses.

Imagine over 10000 enthusiastic learners, 400 speakers (20 simultaneous sessions) and 400 exhibitors, over 4 days – the opportunities for personal insights, fast-tracked experience, new tools and techniques and networking are just phenomenal.

Recent research in Neuroscience shows how important reflection time is for insight and fresh innovative ideas. So this was the ideal time to step out of the busy-ness of day to day projects, to dream of the future, to figure out the real issues in the present and to shift mind-sets from the past that may be holding us back.

Some of the nuggets I returned with from the various sessions I attended are outlined in the 6Rs below:

The learning industry has been disrupted by globalisation, social and mobile technology and the way new generations prefer to interact and learn. There is an urgent transition or rather transformation required from trainer to community facilitator, to guide the process and access to resources for self-directed, just-in-time learning and support. This requires a whole new set of skills.
Andrea Jung (one of the guest speakers), says: “Fire yourself on a Friday and re-employ yourself on a Monday.” i.e. continually reinvent yourself, respond to daily changes and adjust the role that is required for success in the VUCA world.
Sugata Mitra (another of the guest speakers), says: “Education as we know it is obsolete”. New studies have proven that children left to their own devices, with technology and in collaboration with other children (and with encouragement) can learn just about anything in a fraction of the time it would take with a teacher-led process. Must watch Sugata Mitra: Build a School in the Cloud (winner of 2013 TED prize)

Neuroscientist, David Rock, shows how we cannot change our biases (i.e. biased beliefs around diversity and inclusion) no matter how much we awareness we have or training we do. He says we are “blind” in the moment to our automatic programming. It takes enormous awareness and conscious effort to catch and avoid inherent and unconscious biases. To REFRAME, we need to create new experiences, to create new insights and then practice and reinforce these new neural paths in order for any sustainable shifts in behaviour to occur.

3. RULE OF 3
Britt Andreatta talked about using neuroscience principles to optimise learning experiences using the Rule of 3, blended learning and “flipping” the classroom.


  • 3 levels of learning – before (learn the content on-line), during (application and discussion using multiple methods), after (extend the learning through various spaced events and tools)
  • 3 connections to remember (getting the brain to make connections through word play, insight, social connection, music, feeling, metacognition, etc)
  • 3 retrievals through doing (significant increase in learning retention if a minimum of 3 retrieval events spaced with sleep)

If we really want to engage our people, we need to reach out and work with our teams through high touch, regular communication, realistic quarterly goals (aligned to strategy), developmental coaching and constructive feedback and recognition. Traditional performance management systems DO NOT add value to organisations – they in fact waste huge time and resources and erode value and talent.
Latest research highlights the top causes of disengagement:
• Feeling invisible because efforts are not measured or recognised
• The job or workplace is not as expected
• Little or no feedback or coaching and no access to professional development
• Over-worked and stressed out
• Lack of trust or confidence in the senior leaders

Reasons employees leave early:
• Company strategy/vision is unclear
• Key role expectations or role usefulness is not clearly communicated
• Coaching, counselling and/or support from co-workers and/or management is lacking
• Socialization and/or integration into the existing culture is difficult
• Opportunities for advancement are unclear

If we really want to MOTIVATE people to perform, we need to ensure they have a sense of autonomy, mastery and purpose (Dan Pink). Read Drive by Dan Pink

We need to start understanding the new generations entering the workforce and the new skills and habits required to connect with them effectively. Email is so old school and even Facebook has become “old-fashioned”. We must make an effort to stay relevant with interests, preferences, tools and lingo and learn to share and connect on-line. We must bring learning to life with gamification methods and immediate engagement and feedback tools to make learning social, fast and fun. Learning management systems (LMS) are a crucial component to manage a new learner directed process, assess progress and allocate points and rewards along the journey. We cannot truly prove our value without big data analytics, tracking and measuring ROI or at least return on expectations.

To survive and thrive in this new world of work, Erik Wahl, graffiti artist, motivational speaker and author of “Unthink” says: “we need to get out of our box, lift limitations, confront our fears, take risks, connect with our soul, throw out the rule book and be at the convergence for magic to happen. Delight in experimentation and imagination and treat people as if they are born with potential.” Read the book: Unthink by Erik Wahl.

So in summary, we are returning refreshed, invigorated, with fresh thinking and new tools ready to add even more value to our clients and communities in the pursuit of high engagement, high performance organisations and empowered people.