Open Source

I just re-read Walter Isaacson’s “The Innovators”, a wonderful history of the people and events that made the digital age possible. In it he describes the creation of the software industry and the early formation of two camps. One thought that software should be free, describing the hobbyists that openly shared code between another. He even noted that that Wozniack’s early schematics for what would become the core of the Apple 1 computer were given away free by Woz at community meetings. The second camp, characterized best by Bill Gates, saw the protection of intellectual property as key to supporting future innovation.

For the open community, allowing innovations to be shared allowed for rapid adoption and accelerated advancement. Innovators didn’t need to recreate a solution that had already been found and could instead focus on building upon it. Also, by adopting an open approach an entire community became an extension to the development team. The opposing camp felt that without compensation innovation could not be supported. I see both sides and as a former interim-CEO for a music technology company, an industry where rights are front and center, feel strongly that the creator has the right to choose, and that choice must be respected.

As I came to complete the book Running Training Like a Startup I realized that I now had to make this choice. I could publish the book, thereby monetizing my efforts or I could give it away. When I work with startups I often refer back to a presentation on startup success that I saw during the first dotcom run that simply stated CFIMITYM. Cash flow is more important than your mother. Without cash flow, a startups life is on the clock. Many startups, even those so-called “unicorns” that are now going public, often chose another path. Monetization slows growth and adoption. “We can always monetize once we have a million users,” they say. And so, the freemium model, where there is a free tier of services available, was born. Once a user has seen the value of the product, they can upgrade to a paid tier later. When I was at Forum we called this “earning the right” in our sales training.

I believe strongly in the value that Running Training Like a Startup can contribute to the industry. I think that upskilling is the number one challenges facing the world. I believe that more minds, not a select few, will accelerate our industry’s ability to overcome this challenge. I also know that at the pace of business today reinventing the wheel will not cut it. For this reason, I have decided to open source the book. Feel free to download it, share it, discuss it, build on and improve its concepts with your own. I will be doing the same. This blog will continue to document my evolving thoughts on the concepts presented in v1 and I am committed to sharing my learnings with our community. All I ask is that you do the same.

Open source book here

Pull Versus Push

In order to deliver more value, Learning & Development organizations should adapt from supporting learning in a “push” environment to supporting learning in a “pull” environment.  For our book we are exploring what we can learn from successful startups.  This includes some of the new competencies required of a L&D team in order to deliver unmistakable value.  One of these new competencies is marketing.  In a world where learners are often pulling support from sources like YouTube or other resources on the web, L&D needs to ensure that its solutions have the attention of its learners too.

Historically, organizational learning was pushed to learners via compliance requirements, development plans and corporate-wide initiatives. Today’s environment requires L&D to make its solutions desirable for learners to pull.  This means more than having another table in the cafeteria or sending out another email.  For learners to want to pull L&D’s solutions they, like any consumer, must see that the value outweighs the cost. Time is money to employees, managers and executives alike.  They will decide where to spend it.

This shift requires L&D to look at all aspects of its solutions and the tools they use to ensure that they are both relevant to the business and appealing to learners. Everything from the descriptions in the LMS to the structure of the solutions themselves will need to be reconsidered. The low utilization rates for elearning catalogs, frequently available to all employees on demand, are a solid proof point that more than access is needed for learning solutions to to be “pulled” by the learners that need it.

We do not see marketing as a necessary evil.  Rather we see it as a required value creator. L&D is doing a disservice to its customers if the higher quality learning solution does not win the battle for the learner’s investment. Salespeople are known to say that you do not sell something.  Rather, you help the customer buy the right solution.  L&D has to get better at helping its learners buy smarter. Today L&D is trying to come up to speed on new technologies, data and more.  As learning professionals, we are being asked to learn a lot of new tricks.  But learning is what we do best, right?