Monday, 11 February 2013

The future of training and consultancy

Here are a few notes on the future of the training and consulting industries that I wrote for some of my colleagues in industry group.  I would be very interested in other people's views.

I know that on-line learning is becoming more prevalent but at least on a time scale relevant to us (say 20 years) I don’t think it is going to kill off face to face training.
I am not being complacent but have the following views;
1.      Online training sounds good but needs strong self motivation  - I know I am not doing as much on my on-line Arabic course as I should
2.      People have different learning styles and the interaction at physical events is appropriate to some – others will be happy with reading
3.      The time away from the office allows learning in a focused environment
4.      The time away from the office allows from a jolly day away from the office (a big thing in the Middle East!)
5.      It is not easy to codify all the relevant experience and knowledge
6.      Presenters can tailor material to audiences (currently) better than on line systems
7.      The interaction with other delegates is often beneficial
8.      Training is often quite a lot of fun – more than an online version
9.      The advantages of e-learning are cost, ease of delivery, and consistency of delivery.  However we often irrationally value things we pay more for more than cheaper things, and the ease of delivery may make it easy to put it off, consistency can mean a “one size fits all” approach – which as we know means it actually fits very few.

The same discussion can also apply to consultancy  - why don’t people just read a book instead of bringing in an expert?  In future will they just go to expert systems?  Many of the thing we consult about are actually known concepts – you can get them from a book – but there is (at least currently) an advantage to bringing in an external advisor.  In future it will be easier to get the data, but the knowledge of how to apply it will reside in individuals for a while.

So over time I expect there will be a big shift away from individuals to on-line resources, and the opportunities for people like us will come in developing and testing innovative ideas and potentially academic research (assuming students are also mainly being taught on-line).  But that is probably beyond my timeline.  The key differentiators then would probably be profile (people will pay for a world leading consultant), contacts (people will hire people they know), style (people hire “people like us” and people they like), and innovation (something new to give them an edge in a world where everyone has the same basic information).

William Gibson said “the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed”.  I feel the same about knowledge, and see our role as helping the distribution process.  Books (paper or online) are not enough.

Your views may differ.

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