Ultimate Personalisation

29 Jan

A few weeks ago, I read a blog post by Andrew Jacobs called Turn and Face the Strain. It was about the lack of ability of L&D to be innovative and provided some reasons that hold us back from doing things differently – from being disruptive. It’s definitely worth a read.

After I read the post, I shared a link to it on twitter:


To which Andrew replied:


I commented that for me it was my confidence but in reality it’s also for the reasons he mentioned in his post. It can be hard to change and try something different.


I thought about this and replied:


By this I mean L&D solutions within my organisation. To which he responded:


It got me thinking, what would Ultimate Personalisation look like? Here’s a list of what I came up with, in no particular order:

  • Talking to new employees a few weeks after they have started to see how they are settling into our organisation and finding out what support they need for their role.
  • Gaining a better understanding of our employees and the environment in which they work by spending time with them on-the-job i.e. getting away from my desk and going to where the work is being done.
  • Talking directly with the employees whose managers or supervisors say they need ‘training’ and find out what the real issues/gaps are.
  • Following up employees who have completed courses or been to conferences to find out what they’ve learned, how they’ll apply it and how we can share this knowledge/skills with others in our organisation.
  • Creating informal workplace networks that encourage the sharing of ideas and experience between employees.
  • Creating customised learning solutions for individuals and teams and not generic ones.
  • Curating resources on a range of topics and encouraging employees to share and add to the collection and importantly, making the information easily accessible by those who need them, when they need them.
  • Providing personal development opportunities on topics not related to work e.g. general interest topics.
  • Working with top performers from within our organisation and encouraging them to share the ‘secrets of their success’ with others.
  • Being a learning role model myself within our organisation by sharing, participating and collaborating.

What else could Ultimate Personalisation be?

I’ve started to do some of these things and I’ll write more about it in the coming months.

I’m sometimes frustrated because I think that I’m not in a position of influence. The reason being is that I’m not in charge, I’m not the manager/supervisor. But, this is an excuse because I can still be influential from where I sit in our organisation.

What other ways can we be disruptive?

Footnote: While putting this post together, I came across another great blog post worth reading Status Quo Sucks by Shannon Tipton that talks about a need for L&D to do things differently.


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12 responses to “Ultimate Personalisation

  1. tanyalau

    January 29, 2014 at 6:37 am

    Hey Matt, nice post with some inspiring ideas which I might ‘steal’ (aka ‘remix’ / adapt….have been all about the ‘stealing’ ideas…it’s a reference to stuff I’ve been doing in #rhizo14 a crazy mooc on rhizomatic learning…). Also recognise some themes that came up in our ozlearn twitter chat > shameless plug! (Though I genuinely think your readers would be interested in ozlearn… : )).
    Anyway thanks for the post some great ideas – ultimately think it’s about developing closer ties – partnerships with the business, and understanding their needs better..something we’re moving towards too.

    • learningsnippets

      January 29, 2014 at 11:05 am

      Hey Tanya, steal away!!
      I’ve seen some bits and pieces from #rhizo14 and it does seem crazy but in a good way. I must admit a fair bit of it went over my head!
      You’re right it is about being closer to the business and its something that I really want to do (and not just talk about it) and hopefully achieve some good outcomes.
      p.s. OzLearn post is on the way…

  2. Helen Blunden (@ActivateLearn)

    January 30, 2014 at 12:05 am

    Hi Matt and thanks for your post. I feel your pain. Totally.

    I had a bit of a vent to my manager late last year about this very thing. I was exasperated. My frustration had reached a point where I felt that I could no longer “go through the motions” again anymore with our clients. I was tired. Exhausted.

    Over the Christmas period I had time to reflect my own words, thoughts and actions. I came to the same conclusion. We simply don’t have the level of influence. But not just me, neither do our managers. Learning and Development does not have a “seat at the table” with senior leadership teams. So not only are our own Learning Managers hamstrung but this is feeding down the line. Frustration, confusion and anxiety about our roles, impact to our roles, constant organisational change; resource movement, transfer and resignation is tiring. We want to provide a quality product and service to our people and client but if we offer something that can be misconstrued as ‘too hard’ or an additional strain on their time or resources, then we revert back to doing and giving them what they want and know.

    Part of me thinks that for me personally, is to deal with the business direct. No ‘middle man’ like HR or any support function. Deal with the economic buyer who is more open to exploring opportunities and giving something new a go. Really, all they want is for you to solve their business problem. If they treat you with respect to pay you to deliver this service – in whatever format that would help them – then you do get support. My most rewarding projects have been dealing with the business direct, working directly with a business manager with no Learning and Development Manager in sight.

    • learningsnippets

      January 30, 2014 at 5:40 am

      Thanks for your comments Helen.

      Yes, you’re definitely right. It’s all about influence and I guess our challenge is to develop that but it’s not easy especially when there hasn’t been any before. It’s also hard when those above us lack influence too which has a flow-on effect to our roles.

      Exhausting is a really good way to describe our jobs at times it and even though it’s hard, I’m conscious that I don’t want to just accept our lot in the organisation and I’m sure you feel this way too. I want things to change but I realise it’s a big slog.

      I think dealing direct is the way to go too. I think that some of my ideas will allow me to do things without ‘asking for permission’. I can make direct contact with areas of our organisation and hopefully influence via other avenues – time will tell.

      Hopefully, by connecting with members of our PLN who share the same view we can support each other and bring about some change – cause disruption – within our organisations and the wider L&D landscape.

      • Activate Learning Solutions

        February 1, 2014 at 9:39 pm

        Thanks Tanya, that paper sounds interesting – the model of going out and fining the connector. Thanks for sharing!

  3. tanyalau

    January 30, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    Hi Matt,
    the other thing I was going to say was, it’s important to note also that you may not necessarily be able to do it completely alone – (or, it’s very difficult to, anyway). It’s not necessarily just about having the ideas and the will on your own but also developing relationships with internal influencers who will support and back you to make it happen – especially when you’re talking about big / disruptive change or innovation.

    One of the papers I cite in my literature review on PLNs (Whelan et al 2011) in fact found that for an innovative idea to actually be implemented in an org required idea ‘scouts’ (those with extensive networks outside the org, who have access to new & innovative ideas) to pass the idea onto a ‘connector’ – these are people with really good internal networks and influence (not necessarily the scout’s manager!), and who also has the ability to recognise how the idea will work within the organisation and connections and influence with the right people to make it happen.
    There is more in my lit review if you’re interested (still in draft mode…really need to start refining it!)

    I’ve also found similar to Helen, that those who are in the role of liasing with the business on their requirements (the ‘business partners’) are often barriers, because they don’t necessarily understand the potential – and sometimes don’t even really know how to consult with the business on their requirements (in ‘order taker’ mode…). So I guess in those situations, it’s about circumnavigating the blockers and sourcing & developing relationships with others who have the appropriate level of influence – and the capacity to recognise the potential of the idea you’re pitching (that might be the hard part….)

    • learningsnippets

      January 31, 2014 at 5:45 am

      Cheers Tanya,
      You raise some great points and when I think about it, going solo may get you so far but eventually you’ll need to get others on board and this happens via relationships. Perhaps you need to be a bit strategic when forming some relationships within your organisation?

      I thought your literature review is terrific and very informative (I read it a couple of times though to help me take it all in!) I love the ‘idea scouts’ and ‘connectors’ concepts and it makes perfect sense. I can actually relate to some of what you’ve raised in your review in that I have taken an idea that was raised by a member of my PLN around ‘compliance campaigns’ and approached our Corporate Risk and Compliance Officer who was supportive and through her we are taking it to other key players for support. I’ll write a more detailed post when it’s a bit further along.

      For me, improving my own consulting skills is one of my main focuses for this year so that I can be more effective in my role.

      • tanyalau

        February 1, 2014 at 2:17 pm

        Thanks for your compliment re lit review…but there are definitely some flaws in it that I need to address: mainly around the lack of specificity in the section on ‘online interactions’ (this could mean anything, really – need to define exactly what types of interactions these are, platforms, affordances and how people are using…) and their role in developing PLN relationships. Something I really must get to…..!

        Your compliance project sounds interesting and certainly an area that would benefit from different, better approaches. I will certainly be intrigued to hear more about it. But yes – the compliance person you’ve connected with there does sound like she could be a ‘connector’.

        As a result of doing this lit review, I realised my internal network needs improvement..somehow I find it more difficult to build and network internally than externally – possibly because of the politics and power plays that may be tied to internal relationships. Possibly a different set of skills and strategies involved in internal networking…? Just a thought.

  4. Nick

    February 11, 2014 at 4:54 pm

    Matt, you don’t need to be in a leadership role to influence change, you just need to work with those leadership roles to push for it.

    I love the list and there are a few things on there that I haven’t had in the past but now do. Specifically access to the learner, which makes all the difference in the world. I’m going to keep some of these other things in mind and perhaps build my own list of “ultimate personalisation” in my head.

    • learningsnippets

      February 12, 2014 at 9:45 am

      Thanks Nick,
      Spot on with your comment on influence – well said. Learner access is important to make a lot of what’s on the list become a reality. Let me know if you come up with more ideas for personalisation I’d love to hear them!

  5. Ariel Margolis

    February 12, 2014 at 12:11 am


    You wrote a very interesting blog! What you describe is exactly the way to maximize workers’ potential for growth and therefore better productivity. As an 8th grade teacher, I try to both individualize and personalize the learning of my students. I am regularly asking for their feedback on what projects and topics they want to study as well as ask them to reflect on their productivity and what I could do be more helpful to them. This type of structure is slowly infiltrating the classrooms and the workplaces – which is awesome! You are an early adopter!

    • learningsnippets

      February 12, 2014 at 9:43 am

      Hi Ariel,

      Thanks for your comments, much appreciated! It sounds like we are are doing similar things in terms of personalising learning which is great – even though our audiences are much different. Afterall, we need to do the best for our learners and hopefully more educators will see the value of personalisation too!


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