Elliott Masie came up with a great and very insightful wish list for LMS’s. Click here to access it. He even added a few suggestions in the past few days, probably based on feedback from his loyal audience.

I really like the richness that Elliott’s suggestions might create for a typical LMS. Most LMS implementations are just a list of course offerings.

On the other hand, I worry about overly complicating options for users. Most workers just don’t have extra time to waste. Maybe the suggestion to let users rate the courses comes into play here.

I also worry about user-generated content. It can be great, could be better than what the training folks can create, could engender more engagement, could be bottom line more effective. But we should all recognize that it is a double-edge sword. User generated content could be incorrect, could be a huge waste of time, could cause the organization to leave itself vulnerable to legal liability.

Doesn’t Fix the Biggest Problem with the LMS Mentality

The biggest problem with LMS’s can’t be fixed with Elliott’s suggestions. The biggest problem is that the whole LMS face sends a powerful hidden message that "learning" is about taking courses or accessing other learning events. This "Learning Means Sitting" LMS mentality infiltrates whole organizations.

I’ve seen this recently with one of my clients, a huge retailer, where their LMS has encouraged store managers and other store leaders to focus learning time on taking courses, in lieu of coaching, learning from each other, trying things out and getting feedback, encouraging store employees to take responsibility for particular areas, etc. It’s not that they completely ignore these other learning opportunities; it’s that the LMS focuses everyones’ time and attention on courses, creating a lot of wasted effort.

To get the most from an LMS, you ought to throw away your LMS and start over. People can learn somethingdevelop competencies/skills—from courses or from other means. A competency-management system that offers multiple means to develop oneself is ideal, where courses/events are just one option. I still haven’t seen a commercial system that does this though…Most are course first designs.

Maybe I’m too over-the-top recommending that we get rid of all LMS’s. I make the statement to highlight the humongous problems that the LMS mentality is causing.

Starbucks is shutting all its stores on February 26th for three hours to train or retrain its employees.

You can read related articles at the following links:

Seattle Times

Starbuck Gossip (Blog)

Marketplace (Audio, story starts at 19:42 mins:secs)

Street Insider

The question will be, is the training well-designed?

Wednesday morning February 27th will give only a partial answer. March, April, and May will be more important. And of course, maybe this has nothing to do with training at all. Maybe it’s a store management problem. Maybe the brand is too diluted, no longer special. Maybe competition from Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonalds is creating issues, especially as consumers try to save money in these uncertain economic times.

Will the training work? Stay tuned.

MIT researchers have developed a technology to track people’s social interactions, for example, at a conference. Check out this link to learn more.

Can we use such a technology for learning?

Certainly, we could use the technology to help people learn about their current networking tendencies and to give learners feedback as they attempt to change those tendencies. But, what other applications can we brainstorm? Let me give this a try.

  1. Leadership Simulations: Does the technology enable better in-basket simulations, or in-basket simulations that are more economical to deploy (because they don’t require the same high numbers of observer/consultants to observe interactions and provide feedback? Note: By in-basket simulations, I mean simulations in which many learner/players each play a different role, each have different in-basket tasks to accomplish, and the way they act in the simulation is by talking with other learner/players.
  2. On-the-job Leadership Activity Feedback: Imagine a retail store manager who is tasked (partially) with developing his or her people (those who work in the store). The system could track the number of interactions the store manager had with each employee, and the interactions the employees had with each other. This "intelligence" data could be used by a store manager to learn about the number of learning opportunities (i.e., coaching, providing feedback, observing, encouraging, sharing, etc.) that occur in a given period of time. Such data could be compared with "best-practice" store manager data, and store managers could use this information to change their behavior. Admittedly, quantity doesn’t equate to quality, but by tracking such social contact, managers might get a start in thinking about increasing the number of "learning opportunities."
  3. Organizational Learning. Organizations (or business units, teams, etc.) could track each other’s social networks to find out who the most networked folks are. Such information could be utilized to select for job assignments, project roles, etc., or to actively change the observed dynamics (for example, encouraging some people to spend more time in individual productive work while encouraging others to limit their isolation).

Anyway, these are some initial thoughts. I expect some enlightened simulation companies to begin brainstorming ways to use the technology to differentiate their offerings from the competition. In the meantime, can you think of any other learning opportunities inherent in the technology?