How to Harness the Power of Discovery


Here is a brief excerpt from an article by Randy Emelo for Chief Learning Officer magazine. He explains why learning should be more like how Amazon or Netflix treat their customers. Let learners have a say in what they learn, and then push out additional recommendations based on what skills and competencies they need and want. To read the complete article, check out all the resources, and sign up for a free subscription to Talent Management and/or CLO magazines published by MedfiaTec, please click here.

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People logged nearly 6 billion searches into Google each day in 2013. That adds up to more than 2.1 trillion Google searches that year. That’s the nature of the world today. There is an abundance of information available, and people search and look, and search and look some more.

When it happens on the job, sometimes they find the answers they need and move on with their work. But often they scour multiple resources for just the potential of unearthing that elusive nugget. Knowing what to search for, how to search for it, where to search for it and what search result is most relevant are questions today’s knowledge workers must tackle to find the knowledge, insight and learning they need to be productive.

Learning leaders cannot rely on the same search and look method for organizational learning today. People don’t always know what they need, and searching through a course catalog is not going to help.

Learners today need learning recommendations that are personalized and tied to something, such as skill development or a specific training track. Think of it like Amazon or Netflix.

For consumer products, these companies use software that learns about buyers based on activities or profile information, such as past purchases or past shows watched. The software then runs an algorithm that recommends other items to possibly purchase or other shows to watch based on that person’s activities. It even offers up recommendations based on what other people liked who also purchased that product or watched that show. This shift in how information is delivered allows people to engage in discovery rather than searching.

Seth Godin wrote about the difference between search and discovery in his April 2014 blog post: “Search is what we call the action of knowing what you want and questing until you ultimately find it… Discovery, on the other hand, is what happens when the universe (or an organization, or a friend) helps you encounter something you didn’t even know you were looking for.” It is harnessing the power of discovery that organizations should ultimately strive for.

David Wentworth, senior analyst at Brandon Hall Group, said this trend will affect corporate learning. “Learners respond much more to material that is contextual and relevant to them,” he said. “No one wants to wade through an endless array of content that may or may not be helpful to them.”

By helping to narrow the search through smart recommendations based on profiles, past actions, desired outcomes and the like, companies can provide more relevant learning opportunities to employees that feel personal and meaningful to the individuals.

Wentworth said Brandon Hall Group’s research shows higher performing organizations are 40 percent more likely to offer learning opportunities based on personal strengths, weaknesses, job roles or other criteria. Further, companies are experimenting more with this concept. He said there is a move to create more in-depth learner profiles that include more than just a name and a job role, but also interests, hobbies, additional skills and more.

“These learner profiles can then be used in combination with robust content profilesto create connections and relationships that may have always existed, but could never be optimized,” he said. “This creates a relationship-centered learning environment where learners are connected to content, subject matter experts, instructors and to one another.”

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Here is a direct link to the complete article.

EmeloRandy Emelo is president and CEO of Triple Creek Associates. He has authored articles, newsletters and research papers on topics related to mentoring, collaboration, innovation and creativity, management practices and leadership development. He can be reached at his firm.

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