Nigel Paine on L&D challenges for 2016

Nigel Paine is the former boss of the BBC’s training and development operation and headed up the broadcaster’s award-winning leadership programme.

Now, a thought leader, speaker and author on learning technologies, organisational development and leadership, he’s making a significant contribution to helping L&D achieve its full potential.

In this exclusive interview, he sets out a challenging change agenda for 2016.

What change would you like to see happen in L&D in 2016?

Globally, I want L&D to get its act together as a serious big player in change and helping organisations fulfil their potential. I want L&D to be upfront players, not the department that you bring in when you’ve made all the decisions that mops up and does a few tactical things on the margins. I want them to play a much more critical role.

“I really want L&D to start to live technology and not see it as an afterthought.”

Focusing on the UK, where I can be a bit more specific, there are a number of things. I really want L&D to start to live technology and not see it as an afterthought. I know it sounds pathetic to say this in 2016, but I still don’t get the feeling that there’s technology running through learning in a way that isn’t just elearning. We need to see technology that empowers knowledge transfer and acquisition, that is focused on the user and that is about performance enhancement at the moment of need.

If Amazon has been able to tell me for 10 years that if I like that, I might like this, why can’t we have some sort of rudimentary AI environment in L&D? I’m talking about technology that allows targeted, focused, thoughtful and contextual learning, rather than here’s a directory, go for it!

Video: Nigel on another big challenge for L&D.

You write and talk a great deal about leadership. What is the biggest mistake we make when training our leaders?

The biggest mistake, without any shadow of a doubt, is that we see leadership development as an event not a process. We put people through events, but the impact and the behaviour change is minimal because there’s no follow through or commitment.

“The biggest mistake, without any shadow of a doubt, is that we see leadership development as an event not a process.”

Leadership training has to be seen as a process that involves not just the individual leader but their manager and the people they lead. So I think we are light on commitment and heavy on structure. We design pretty good interventions, but without any kind of commitment to back them up.

In your book The Learning Challenge you highlight big data and learning analytics as game changers. What is the value of both for L&D professionals?

“L&D has to wake up and realise that the richness of the data that surrounds organisations is valuable for learning.”

The crucial point is that every organisation is drowning in data and trying to work out how they can use it to understand their customers, market, production, development and service. The notion that L&D somehow shrugs that off and declares that the LMS doesn’t really deliver much data, is utter nonsense! L&D has to wake up and realise that the richness of the data that surrounds organisations is valuable for learning.

How deeply should L&D professionals understand neuroscience to be effective?

If they make no effort to understand what is happening or distinguish between the utter rubbish that is pedalled in the name of neuroscience and the bona fide university-based research then they are being very naïve. They could end up wasting a lot of money on junk and miss simple ways of making learning effective. The point about neuroscience is that even though we are just at the beginning of this journey we’re already getting some clarity from research about the way people learn and how you can make learning effective. If you are in the learning business and there are people out there willing to tell you, pretty much for nothing, how you can make learning more effective, but you pay no attention, then you are abnegating your responsibilities.

Video: Nigel expands his view on neuroscience in L&D.

What’s your final piece of advice for L&D professionals?

“I would make a plea to L&D: you are entitled to development, don’t be embarrassed about doing it!”

I want the L&D community see their own development as being as important as the development of everyone else in their organisation, but there’s not a lot of evidence that this is happening. People find it very hard to spend some of the learning resources on themselves and that means they won’t improve or challenge each other, and they will find it more difficult to innovate and transform their operation. So I would make a plea to L&D: you are entitled to development, don’t be embarrassed about doing it!

To find out more about Nigel Paine’s work and views visit: www.nigelpaine.com

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