More from Elliott Masie: L&D and its place in politics

Last week we talked to Broadway producer and L&D expert, Elliott Masie, about technology's influence on L&D. In the second installment of our exclusive interview with Masie, he shares the secret to his success and discusses the future L&D trends that we need to be aware of, including its place in politics.

Published 10 August 2017
More from Elliott Masie: L&D and its place in politics

Q1. You're always able to capture the essence of a problem and you can detect a trend with ease. Your energy and ideas are inspirational for learning practitioners worldwide. From where do you draw your energy, inspiration and insight? And what's your personal "secret for success"?

Masie: I see myself as an analyst and an artist. I'm an analyst in the sense that I don't create things. Mostly, I observe and analyze what others are creating. I'm not trying to promote them - or what they create. I don't have a product to sell.

This means that I'm open-minded and focused on the learning industry as a whole. I'm also an artist, seeking to bring value to L&D in the same way that, as a Broadway producer, I seek to bring value through that artform. Indeed, I've just appointed a Musical Director for Learning 2017 - scheduled for Orlando, Florida, from October 22 to 25. Speakers include the former First Lady, Michelle Obama, and the actor, John Lithgow.

As with every aspect of my "brand," I want this to be a great success - which is why I want to work with the best. I'm never OK with "mediocre" and, although my name has been associated with inventing the term "e-learning," much of today's e-learning is mediocre.

This mediocre e-learning has been produced because of the needs for compliance, rather than for helping people to learn. Furthermore, while I want my brand to be great, I don't care what people think of me. I'm comfortable with who I am.

Q2. Technology and learning: which one's the "cart" and which one's the "horse"?

Masie: As someone who breeds and races horses, I find this an interesting question! I believe that technology and learning have something of a timeshare relationship. Learning always used to be the "horse" in the horse-and-cart analogy. Technology was merely a multiplier of learning. Now, that's all changed.

Technology has changed, in that it's allowed learning to become personal. Moreover, it stretches people's reach. My computer, tablet, cellphone, and so on, extend my intellectual reach. What they can show me makes me curious and that makes me want to learn. So, sometimes, technology can be the "horse." It brings and enables learning. At other times, curiosity prompts learning and then technology can help to satisfy that curiosity through allowing us to access learning.

Q3. Your work on learning is eagerly sought. But whose writings on this subject are your "favorites"? Whose work do you find interesting, challenging, enlightening, entertaining, and/or illuminating?

Masie: The short answer is that I find interest, information and inspiration in the output of those on the Corporate E-Learning's Movers and Shakers list. I find it an invaluable list. Apart from that, I like to "dabble." I'm always reading something. For example, I receive some 3,000 emails a day. I try to read each of them, even if I don't respond to them all!

I follow what's coming out of China, as well as the work of such people as Sir Ken Robinson, Bob Mosher and Nigel Paine (especially his writings on leadership). The problem with only reading what e-learning analysts are saying is that you find they're all saying the same things. They just use a few different words to do so. So, I find it helpful to read about learning from non-analysts, such as specialists in the neurosciences.

These people talk about learning but don't use "L&D words" when they do. Moreover, there are lots of "first-world, some 60-years old, white guys" writing about learning. We're trapped if we only look at the work from our own demographic. So, I try to find the work of people who're of different ages because they view the world through different lenses.

Q4. In an HR/ L&D context, what are your hopes and plans for the future?

Masie: I'm creating a new brand - in addition to The MASIE Center and The Learning Consortium. It's called "Learning Town" and it's an attempt to build a global and virtual archaeology and space to have conversations around learning. Learning Town is based on the premise that the best and most important work in L&D won't come from L&D professionals.

Instead, it'll come from industry leaders and others. After all, learning happens in all aspects of our lives. Yet, as L&D professionals, our conversations tend to be with other corporate L&D professionals.

Q5: Are there any other things you'd like to tell me about?

Masie: While, as a profession, L&D shouldn't be about getting into politics, doing so is inevitable to some degree. In particular, I'd identify three phenomena where L&D can - and should - make a contribution.

1. Cyber Security - "Cyber" and cyber security is growing in importance as we become more "digital" in learning. In all aspects of our lives we need to make sure we're safe in our increasingly complex, risky, digital world. And that extends to ensuring that we always get the correct information for our learning needs.

The greatest danger is that concerns over digital safety could cause some learners and their organizations to become "undigitized," and that will drastically reduce their learning opportunities.

2. Fear - Fear stops and prevents learning. We need to figure out how not to let fear get in the way of learning.

3. Fake News - We're now aware of "fake news" and artificial facts. We need to examine everything's source and the evidence for it. We need to hold everyone to a higher standard to validate whatever is published, in whatever form. L&D can be naiive about these things and it needs not to be.

These three phenomena pose great risks, especially to the L&D community, but there are great learning advantages and benefits to staying globally connected.

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