When I was a middle school teacher, I spent an inordinate amount of time telling students to slow it down. Now, I find myself giving you the opposite advice: Speed it up!
Anyone who has raised, taught or simply sat nearby a middle schooler knows this immutable adolescent truth: They have no patience.
Every day, middle school teachers reprimand and remind hormone-fueled boys and girls to physically slow down as they streak through the halls and to take a mental chill pill. So much of teaching pre- and early teens is about getting them to stop and take time to think about their actions and assumptions.
It’s solid advice for adults, too. When it comes to developing the sophisticated skills required to succeed in today’s business environment, there’s no substitute for time. Consistent feedback and evaluation, time for reflection and real-world experience are the true teachers.
Yet, speeding learning up is just as important as slowing it down, if not more so.
A host of rapid-fire techniques and concepts inspired by the technology-driven economy are changing the learning industry. Traditional instructional design models are being turbo-charged or replaced entirely by agile development techniques. Learning designers are rapidly prototyping and revising content with the goal of delivering faster.
Hacking isn’t just something cyber criminals do. Learning professionals are pulling systems and content apart, disassembling components and re-assembling to create something new and different.
Fail fast is the mantra of the tech industry and its inspiring a shift in learning, too. I saw this firsthand on a recent visit to 1871, a nonprofit technology incubator in downtown Chicago. Taking its name from the year of the Great Chicago Fire, the incubator aims to emulate the monumental civic efforts that rebuilt the city after the fire swept through the city’s downtown and left a third of the city’s 300,000 residents homeless.
At 1871, digital designers and entrepreneurs work in close proximity as they launch new businesses. A vast majority of them will fail within a year. What is most important is what they learn along the way, from their failures but also from each other. Speed is what drives the digital economy, and learning is its fuel.
Look at Twitter. A recent management shake-up and a tumultuous few months on the stock market aside, this poster child of the tech economy is booming. The San Francisco-based company has become a global icon, with 316 million active users sending 500 million tweets a day. All that in the relatively short time since the company was first incorporated in 2007. Twitter’s growthis undoubtedly because of the company’s engineering talent and marketing savvy as well as its socially-driven business model. But it couldn’t have happened without a culture of learning.
Fast-paced, rapidly maturing technology businesses like Twitter need learning departments that quickly develop content that fuels the company’s talent. But they also need a center around which a culture of learning can develop and thrive. That’s the task facing this month’s profile subject, Melissa Daimler, Twitter’s head of corporate learning.
But it’s not just tech companies sprinting ahead. Every company is engaged in the same race, whether they know it or not, and the competition keeps getting faster. CLOs are central to success, collecting lessons learned and sharing them across the organization. The speed of business means that skill set and competency has never been more important.
This month, we launched a program aimed at giving learning professionals a boost in that direction. Developed by the magazine’s editors in collaboration with a faculty of current and former CLOs with a combined 100-plus years of experience, the two-day CLO Accelerator aims to put learning professionals on the fast track to becoming a CLO.
Being a CLO is a mix of work that is fast and slow, urgent and patient, strategic and tactical. Good luck explaining that to an eighth grader.