Guerilla Learning!

This weeks post was written by Adam Weisblatt, a Learning Technologist focused on creating environments for great learning experiences. A specialist in the selection, deployment and optimization of learning infrastructure and tool sets that support the delivery of online and in person training, Adam is a creative problem solver with an in-depth understanding of the workflow and business drivers that Learning Professionals grapple with every day. He has over 20 years of experience in all aspects of corporate learning, and he has a proven track record of implementing the infrastructure required to consolidate training efforts across business units and country offices. Adam learned about business from his father’s electrical contracting company. He expressed his creativity and leadership by running a Performance Art Troupe while at art school and he fueled his passion for learning by being an instructor, an eLearning designer, and a blogger. Adam writes about the intersection of technology and learning and how it is reshaping business. He promotes a business-driven learner-centric approach to using learning technology. He believes in opening up the definition of what learning can be.  Reach Adam at: Twitter  @weisblatt or    Email

I was on #chat2lrn a while back and we were talking again about how difficult it is to get buy in from our organizations on all the innovative things we learn from our online community and the conferences we go to. A phrase popped into my head and I typed it into the Tweet Chat window: Guerrilla Learning. Suddenly there were a ton of retweets with people saying, “What a great idea.” But it wasn’t an idea. It was just a clever phrase. I had no idea what Guerrilla Learning was.

Later on I thought about the problem. Why is it so hard to implement new ideas in an L&D environment? After all, as learning professionals, we are expected to find out about the latest innovations. That’s why we go online and attend conferences. We get all revved up on the possibilities of transforming learning. We see the future impact of technology on work. But when we come back to our teams and share our enthusiasm with them, we get nothing. “Oh that sounds great, but it won’t work for my program.” You know how learning people are. The project they are working on today is the most important thing to ever happen in this company. They don’t want their high priority, high visibility, high stakes project to be your guinea pig.

The problem is that without a guinea pig, your new ideas are not going anywhere. I thought more about what Guerrilla Learning would look like and how it might solve the problem. What if I became a rebel? What if I created learning programs under the radar? What if I asked for forgiveness rather than permission? I could create programs, deploy them without anyone knowing and then declare success.

Of course, I would have no content, no resources, no audience and no budget.


  • Think small. If you run a small program, you don’t need much content.
  • Be a junk collector. Dig deep into the bottom of your LMS and pull out some old content that’s been sitting there for a while. No one will mind you using that.
  • Curate content instead of creating it. Use content that already exists. But don’t just make a link farm. Put some context around the content to give it relevance to the learner.
  • Let the learners create the content. Set up a place where they can contribute their own ideas and resources.
  • Create experiences instead of content. Give instructions for learners to go out on their own or in a cohort and experience the learning through activities.


  • Use what you have at hand. Your phone has a video camera in it that is better quality than a top of the line camcorder from 20 years ago.
  • Use free tools and resources. Cloud-based tools usually have a free version. Use this just to get started.


  • Start with your network. Every viral video had to start somewhere, and that is usually with your friends. Get them to be your conspirators.
  • Use social media. First though, you need followers. Go on your company’s social media tool and post about yourself, your work and resources you’ve found. Then, once you get a following, you can post about your programs.
  • Use reverse psychology. Tell people that no one is supposed to know about this and people will want to be involved.

Once you’ve created the program and ran it successfully, you can present to senior leadership like it was a planned, sanctioned program. You will already have an audience that you’ve built for the full version. Just remember to talk to them about their experience. You are innovating and by definition you will make mistakes. Take advantage of people’s willingness to help you find and resolve them.

You are well on your way to creating Guerrilla Learning. Viva La Revolution!

Go to my Facebook page to access resources and examples:

Please share your thoughts, experiences and opinions. Join us for #chat2lrn Thursday, May 19th, 08.00PDT/11.00EDT/16.00BST and let’s chat about it!



Death to Learning & Development! Fact or Fiction?

This weeks post has been written by Ajay M. Pangarkar CTDP, CPA, CMA (a member of the #chat2lrn crew) and Teresa Kirkwood CTDP are founders of and They are renowned employee performance management experts and 3-time authors most recently publishing the leading performance book, “The Trainer’s Balanced Scorecard: A Complete Resource for Linking Learning to Organizational Strategy” (Wiley), award-wining assessment specialist with Training Magazine, and award-winning writer winning the 2014/2015 prestigious Readership and Editors’ Awards for the Top 10 most read articles. Help them start a, “Workplace Revolution” at or contact:

Is workplace learning and development (L&D) dying? Does it deserve to continue to exist? What should L&D become to survive? These are some of the questions people have recently been asking. My friend and colleague, Tom Spiglanin, just blogged about a significant change in the workplace learning space. Tom knows his stuff and I encourage you to read his post, “It’s Happening” first before reading this. But also, Tom (and me too) is open to discussion so please share your opinions.

What I appreciate about Tom’s post is that it brings to light the need for L&D to keep up with the times. Regretfully, I meet too many L&D practitioners who have an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ attitude or are seeking a ‘quick fix’. If you fall into this category then soon say ‘bye-bye’ to your job and L&D role.

Colleagues from the Internet Time Alliance asked, “What would happen if there were no L&D department?” or as I want you to ask yourself, “What if my role becomes irrelevant?” Don’t scoff at these questions, it’s very much a reality, not a possibility. Our position is that L&D won’t die but will evolve significantly. Essentially, death to L&D, as we currently know it and in my professional experience, is as close to being ‘irrelevant’ as you can get.

There are a variety of reasons why I firmly commit to the L&D (r)evolution hypothesis. Those who know me, read my books (recently, The Trainer’s Balanced Scorecard: A Complete Resource for Linking Learning to Organizational Strategy), or participate in my workshops (Learning DevCamp, ‘Gaining Buy-in for Your E and M-Learning Projects‘), know that I’m an L&D hard ass…I like to refer to it as L&D ‘tough love’ and always look at L&D from a business perspective, not from one of learning. This means that I interact with many business leaders, and trust me, they’re desperately seeking more from their L&D people. But not in the traditional context. They need L&D to be innovative and become a leading performance indicator partner.

Another reason that I believe an L&D (r) evolution is afoot has to do with generational progression. What’s that you say? At no other time in modern human history has there been so many generations in the workplace at one time. Think about it, there are the traditionalists (the 75+ crowd), the boomers (the 55+ crowd), the Xer’s (the 40+ crowd) and the boomers’ children, commonly referred to as millennials, (the 25+ crowd). Count’em. That’s four generations. Typically, there are only three. But wait…there’s more! Gen X generation’s children, gen Z or the Facebook gen, are popping-in. Both the millennials and gen Z employee population will soon exceed the combined employee population of older generations or at least they will in some countries, but not worldwide. In the UK, the workforce population is getting older and it’s not just in the UK that things are changing…it is a worldwide occurrence that L&D professionals will have to address.

So, what does this generational progression mean for L&D? Well, you may notice that millennials and generation Z are mobile ones. They were raised with, and using, the Web. Gen Z is even more mobile than millennials as they typically rely on using tablets and smartphones. Worse, they have the shortest attention span compared to any other previous generation. Recently an interesting Forbes article, Generation Z: 10 Stats From SXSW You Need To Knowhighlights many pertinent Gen Z facts but more importantly for L&D are bullets 2, 3, and 4. They say that pictures speak a thousand words…have a look at this infographic… L&D are facing a huge challenge!

There must be some type of (r) evolution considering the options available to deploying L&D solutions that is inclusive. This technology (r) evolution is accelerating forcing L&D to rethink its place and how it moves forward.

Finally, ‘the learning curve is the earning curve’ resonates with millennials and older generations alike. In the Bersin by Deloitte report, “The Future of Corporate Learning – Ten Disruptive Trends“, people are increasingly seeking additional knowledge or education. In the last four years, 35 Million people enrolled in massive open online courses (MOOCs), with 2015 enrolments doubling 2014 (Bersin et al.).

It’s safe to assume that L&D’s is an endangered species and I say, so be it! If L&D can’t evolve with the new need then should we let it die? But what then of the workforce that likes and feel safe in traditional methods of delivery?  Do we need to find a different way – a way that supports all employees? From its ashes what we have is a stronger, more innovative, more adaptable and a more relevant L&D to rise. Be part of the solution and not part of the legacy.  Align with your business leader’s needs, adapt your learning solutions to meet generational expectations, and seamlessly integrate technology to facilitate the learning process. Simply doing just one of these things will make you an indispensable part of the L&D revolution and for your organization as well.

What do you think? Do you agree? Did I miss something that will revive or possibly kill L&D? Please share your thoughts, experiences and opinions. Join us for #chat2lrn this week Thursday, 08.00PDT/11.00EDT/16.00BST and let’s chat about it!



The Trouble with Tribbles: Traditional Smile Sheets. Lovable? Or Exponentially Dangerous?

Will bookSmile sheets, happy sheets, reaction forms, response forms, learner evaluations, level 1’s. The same thing, different names.

In a 2016 ATD survey, 88% of respondents reported that their organizations used smile sheets, yet only 44% said their learning measurement efforts were supporting their organization’s learning goals.

In two meta-analyses—studies of many scientific studies—traditional smile sheets have been found to be virtually uncorrelated with learning results, with correlations r = .09. That’s like correlating the daily number of my footsteps with the number of Patti Shank’s social-media posts. Not highly related, with the slight negative correlation being due to me being riveted by Patti’s brilliance, which keeps me from walking away from my computer screen!

Smile sheets are ubiquitous, but they are clearly not effective—in their current form—for giving us feedback about the success or weaknesses of our learning interventions. And, aren’t we, as learning professionals, sort of charged with ensuring that what we’re doing is working? Shouldn’t we get good feedback and make improvements?

Maybe we should just throw them out… On the other hand, there are many reasons besides getting good feedback to use smile sheets. From my recently published book, Performance-Focused Smile Sheets: A Radical Rethinking of a Dangerous Art Form, I offer the following list, which I borrowed and modified from measurement expert Rob Brinkerhoff:

  1. Red-flagging training programs that are not sufficiently effective.
  2. Gathering ideas for ongoing updates and revision of a learning program.
  3. Judging strengths and weaknesses of a pilot program to enable revision.
  4. Providing instructors with feedback to aid their development.
  5. Helping learners reflect on and reinforce what they learned.
  6. Helping learners determine what (if anything) they plan to do with their learning.
  7. Capturing learner satisfaction data to understand—and make decisions that relate to—the reputation of the training and/or the instructors.
  8. Upholding the spirit of common courtesy by giving learners a chance for feedback.
  9. Enabling learner frustrations to be vented—to limit damage from negative back-channel communications.

In the book, I focus on the first four—the ones related to getting good feedback. I wrote the book because I think we can create better smile sheets. Not perfect smile sheets! There’s no such thing as a perfect measurement tool, and in the complex world of learning, this is doubly true. But organizations will still use smile sheets, so if we can make them better, we should. Also, as the list above shows, there are other reasons to use smile sheets.

To create better smile sheets—better in enabling feedback—we have two imperatives. First, we have to ask questions that give us information related to learning. Second, we have to ensure that our questions give us results that are more actionable. When a course is rated using a traditional smile sheet at a 4.1, it causes two HUGE problems. First, it enables bias. There is no clear standard for whether a 4.1, 4.3, etc. is acceptable or not. So, we evaluate the number based on our biases. Second, these numeric responses also create paralysis within our organizations. Because we don’t know what a 4.1 means, we stick with the status quo, which too often means we stick with learning interventions that are not as effective as they might be.

For further reading before our chat, here is an article that describes what improved smile sheet questions might look like:


What can L+D learn from product management?

Today’s post is written by Holly MacDonald, #chat2lrn crew member and Chief Spark at Spark + Co located on an island off the coast of BC in Western Canada. Holly is an instructional designer, consultant, serial dog walker and a self-confessed whale nerd. Find her on Twitter @sparkandco.

According to wikipedia:

Product management is an organizational lifecycle function within a company dealing with the planning, forecasting, and production, or marketing of a product or products at all stages of the product lifecycle.

In L+D, we often focus on what goes into our instructional product (content), but less about WHO uses it, WHY they use it, WHEN they use it etc. We tend to think of our work in terms of “projects” not products, but what if we changed our perspective?

What if we developed instructional products? What lessons could we learn from product management?


Product managers are guided by the following principles:

  • Products have a limited life and thus every product has a life cycle.
  • Product sales pass through distinct stages, each posing different challenges, opportunities, and problems to the seller.
  • Products require different marketing, financing, manufacturing, purchasing, and human resource strategies in each life cycle stage.

Lessons for L+D

We could develop principles for our instructional products.

How do we develop instructional products to make maintenance or sustainment easier? Do we even consider that? Do we start a “project” thinking about it’s lifespan and how things might be different on launch than 2 years down the road? For our audience and for ourselves? Do we consider product roadmaps?


Product planning involves relentless focus on the customer – using tools like Customer Discovery – the product manager is always thinking about their customers and how to deliver their product to their customer segments. They often use techniques like the “Fuzzy Front End” – which is the conceptual idea stage of the product. Some also use the “Minimum Viable Product” methodology to test their design.

Lessons for L+D

This is analogous to our analysis phase, however do we ensure that we define our customer on every instructional product? Do we truly define the problem that our instructional product will solve? Are we focused on our customers? Do we understand that our customers and users are not the same?  Do we do an FFE? Could we adopt a Minimum Viable Product methodology?


Product managers know their competitors – who are yours? Who vies for your customer’s attention? They also scan the competitive landscape to determine what influences are happening: political, economic, social, and technological.

Lessons for L+D

What is going on in your “market” that you need to keep tabs on? Do you do any forecasting around external forces? Do we anticipate what our business/client is going to need in the future? Are we prepared to provide that?


Product managers of course spend a lot of time on producing their product. They use techniques like “design thinking”. Consider all of the things that are designed: teapots, cars, solar panels, chainsaws, electric cars, stand up desks (and a bazillion other things). Take the lowly door. Even doors can be designed in a way that’s right or wrong. A door that isn’t designed well is a “Norman Door”:

Lessons for L+D

Do we approach design in the same way? Do we look at the overall process of design from all angles: Can we resist the pressure to just jump in and start building? Do you have “safeguards” in place so you don’t build a “Norman Course”.


There’s been variations on the “Marketing Mix“, or the “P’s” of marketing – product, price, promotion, place, (and in some instances, 5 P’s, adding profit) and more variation for service businesses (adding physical evidence, people and process to the mix) and even more for more “digital products” for decades. However you think about it, product managers use a model for marketing their products.

Lessons for L+D

Could we use some of  the “P’s” for our instructional products or adapt them to instructional products?

We’d love to know what you think. What CAN we in L+D learn from product management? Come and join us on April 7th to share your ideas, insights, questions, challenges and concerns.

Device Agnostic Learning Design: Are You a Believer?

Today’s post is written by Andrea May, #chat2lrn crew member and Vice President of Instructional Design Services at Dashe & Thomson in Minneapolis, MN. Andrea is an instructional designer, project manager, wife, mother, Girl Scout troop leader and theater artist. Find her on Twitter @andreamay1.

device-explosionHow many different electronic devices do you interact with on a daily basis? My guess is that most L&D professionals will say at least two, perhaps a computer and a smart phone. Some will add several more to that total. Tablets, smart TVs, gaming systems, smart watches, e-readers, and many other devices have made their way into our daily lives. I’ve even seen wi-fi enabled refrigerators that can hunt for coupons and notify you when you are running out of milk.

Now consider the two or three devices you use most often. For many of us, those three devices are a computer/laptop, a smart phone, and an iPad/tablet. We use each device for different purposes based on its strengths and weaknesses. Your smart phone is ideal for dashing off quick texts, providing turn by turn directions to your destination, getting answers to questions while on the go, and even for making an occasional phone call. But the screen size is less than ideal for doing actual work or taking a course online. Tablets provide a nice hybrid for some tasks, but they don’t fit well in your pocket and it is still challenging to use it for the tasks that would seem best suited for a PC with its full keyboard and mouse and much larger screen.

But what if more content was designed in such a way as to be device agnostic? eLearning courses, for example, that work just as well on a smart phone as they do on a PC, could set users free to interact with that content exactly when and how they choose. The user could choose a device based on their preferences rather than on the needs of the content. Exciting stuff!

The trends are heading in this direction. So what do we, as L&D professionals, need to consider in order to design content that is essentially device blind? Join us this Thursday, March 24th 09.00 PDT/12.00 EDT /16.00 GMT on Twitter for #chat2lrn and share your ideas on enabling device agnostic learning content.


What skills do learners need to learn?

This week’s post is written by Lesley Price (@lesleywprice).  Lesley is a co-founder of the #chat2lrn crew and now, although supposedly ‘semi-retired’, she works part-time for Learn Appeal  and continues to love challenging and being challenged! 

Those of us who work in learning tend to focus on our own skills and recognise that the skill set we require is changing. We know that even delivering high quality engaging face-to-face training or e-learning will not necessarily improve either performance of those we want to support or have a positive business impact.

Those we support very often focus on what skills they will need to be better in their roles or on the practical skills they need to acquire. Management ask us to deliver all kinds of training.  The list is endless and varied – leadership, project management, health and safety, compliance, performance support and so it goes on.

But how often do we think about the skills that are needed to learn? Do we ever actually spend time helping those we support to develop learning skills or do we assume that because everyone has been through the education system that they know how to learn?    We also know that some learners are more ‘successful’ than others in terms of academic ability or in their ability to learn practical skills.  But what makes them ‘better’?  Is it some inherent part of their character or are some people just better at learning that others?

There have been rapid advances in the use of technology to support learning. Not just in terms of the way it is used in the workplace, but also that if people want to know about almost anything, they can probably find it somewhere on the internet.   However there is also a lot of incorrect information out there which is at best ill-informed and at worst just a hoax. Do those that we support have the skills to be able to tell the difference?  Do they need to learn another skill set?

So my question is, what skills do you need to have to be a successful learner, can they be developed and if they can, how can we as learning professionals help learners learn?

Join in using the hashtag #chat2lrn and discuss these and other questions on 10 March, 2016, 08.00 PST/11.00 EST /16.00 GMT.

The Learning Technology Ecosystem – are we there yet?

Today’s post comes from Fiona Quigley (@fionaquigs), chat2lrn crew member and
Director of Learning Innovation for Logicearth Learning Services.


The term learning technology ecosystem has been around for a few years now but I’m not seeing much practical application of it. It could be one of those newish ideas in our industry – we have to talk about it for a few years before we decide we can actually embrace it successfully (hello social learning and mobile learning!)

But after giving this some more thought, I now think the time is right for us to be thinking about a set of integrated tools, content and processes that should work seamlessly together to support organisational learning. eLearning (content) has been around long enough now for us to both want and expect more. And as for the LMS, well that debate will run on and on.

What I do know for sure, is that the trend to have the LMS more and more hidden, is a very real one. It seems that while other technologies have developed – curation tools, user generated content tools, enterprise social learning tools, not to mention the myriad of learning and productivity apps now available, the good ‘ole LMS, even with a shiny new talent management badge on it, remains quite traditional and dare I say ‘locked down’.

The new open systems – LRS, xAPI and LTI

If you are anything like me, you’ll probably have heard of LRS and xAPI, but you might struggle with LTI? This term was new to me until a few weeks ago; it stands for Learning Tools Interoperability. So think of third party rich content platforms like Khan Academy, TEDEd, Code Academy etc. These tools can be bolted together to allow single sign-on for all your staff. And no, this isn’t about formalising what some people would call informal learning. And it isn’t about tracking everything your staff does either. It’s about providing easy to access resources in a central location to facilitate self-service learning in its truest sense.

Instead of relying on procuring a complex and expensive LMS that could go out of date quickly, we think in terms of flexible bolt-on technologies. When used together, the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. What better way to get to self-service learning than to encourage your staff to use best in class curation or social learning apps that are part of your total learning technology ecosystem rather than just accepting what ‘comes’ with the LMS. Imagine following the high performers in your organisation as they curate the best content paths and share their insights in a way that could never compare to ‘click-next’ eLearning.

So there you have it – some initial thoughts from me on what a learning technology ecosystem could give us. Join us Thursday, February 25th to share your input.