It’s the second day of the 2015 ATD, the Alliance for Talent Development’s annual International Conference and Exposition: “ICE, ICE”, baby. For the past five years the ATD CEO, Tony Bingham, has made a compelling case for mobile and social learning. His argument is compelling, his facts are straight, his delivery is exemplary. But, as the number of conferences that I’ve attended stack up, I get the feeling there’s an untold story behind the story we’re telling ourselves.

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In the Netherlands the commercial HRD industry, the companies that offer and deliver custom built learning solutions and training, have been getting smaller and smaller. In some cases they’ve halved in size and revenue over the past five years. What’s happening? My fondness of Clayton Christensen and his thinking about disruptive innovation is a public secret. Clayton defines disruption as the moment where something that’s expensive and complex, becomes both cheap and simple. Some experts see SMAC: Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud, as the major enablers of this disruptive innovation. The question then becomes: “when is our industry becoming SMACed?”. In my opinion our industry has been getting SMACed since 2009.

The wave of disruption inundating our field, is posing interesting challenges. The tools we’re all using to create all formal and informal forms of learning are becoming so cheap and simple, that my college degree is really no longer a requirement. We’re getting to the point where everybody can create learning. In our flipped class (and training)rooms even learners themselves are pitching in and experts are sharing all their expertise and content via MOOC’s for free. On the other hand, globalization, VUCA and our post-normal economies are forcing us to learn and unlearn at untold speeds. The metrics are simple and shocking. One Saturday New York Times contains more information than an average person in the 17th century absorbed in their entire lifetime. What we teach studentes in first grade is completely outdated by the time they leave college. 8 out of 10 jobs we prepare students for don’t exist when they start studying.


In short: we are seeing a massive disruption taking place in our industry and an unprecedented need for learning: in tandem! The real question is not how we’re embracing mobile or social learning. The real question is: “what role can we play as actors (not reactors) in these disruptive times?”. “How can we drive the case for learning for our planet, our people and our companies?”. “What role do we play, not only to become operationally excellent, but to help ourselves and our companies transform based on the increasing fluidity of our circumstances?”. Our field holds the keys to embrace the future: if we seize that opportunity and start telling ourselves HRD’s untold story!

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