What is a Modern Learning Leader?

There are two main components to think about, “modern learning” and “leader”.

Being a super leader

You could argue there’s a crossover subset here, of “modern leader”, though I think by tackling “modern learning” I hope to cover that.

There’s volumes and volumes written on leadership and what I present here are only my personal thoughts.

There are different aspects of great leadership, depending on the individuals, the context, the organisation, what is trying to be achieved and much more.

One example of a great leader is Christopher Reeve, the actor of Superman The Movie fame. Yes, I’m a huge fan of the Reeve Superman movies. Aside from my childhood love of Superman, part of my admiration is how Reeve behaved and performed after his terrible horse riding accident that left him as a paraplegic in May 1995.

Christopher Reeve photo by Andre Queiroz

Reeve was put into a situation which most of us can never imagine, how his life changed and was severely physically restricted. However out of that horror came strong leadership on a personal level. Reeve campaigned for rights of the disabled, stem cell research for spinal chord injury victims, became a beacon of hope for the physically challenged and a well known campaigner. He also managed to continue to act and direct films.

To me this is about leadership through adversity. Reeve was highly active in his campaigning, being a visible leader for people to follow. He was also personable and approachable as a normal human being and not a Superman.

You’ll have your own aspects of leadership that you see and admire in many different people and situations you’ve been in. Feel free to share those in the comments below, it would be lovely to read about a leader that is personally relevant to you in some way.

Modern learning includes…

This phrase is one that many of us in learning and development use a lot, though probably isn’t used in businesses and organisations that much. I use it because I want to differentiate myself from the poor ‘chalk and talk’ lecture-style delivery that is more traditional in some areas of training.

“Modern learning” highlights:

Jo Cook presenting at a 702010 session at Online Educa Berlin 2016

The world of work has changed and is constantly changing.

What we deliver as part of our role in HR, Organisational Development and L&D needs to keep up and, ideally, be leading the way forward.

We need all the skills mentioned above, and many more, in order to be leading our businesses towards a modern learning and performance culture.

Learning about being a modern learning leader

It’s a question that Sukh Pabial is tackling through a series of webinars, social learning through a Slack channel, and a two day workshop in London. I’m attending these as I want to confirm what I already know and do, share what I’m doing and m approaches to help others, to see what others are doing to update my own methods and learn things I didn’t even know I didn’t know.

Sukh, who is a brilliant and prolific blogger, has a particular post on modern learning and productivity here.

You can come along to the webinars and also the workshop too and I look forward to discussing this with you more over the coming months.

There is also a Twitter conversation on the #MLLeader hashtag.

Tweets covering the LTSF17 live online learning conference session

“Making the most of your live online session” was the presentation I delivered at Learning Technologies Conference Summer Forum 2017.

Click for LTSF webinar session description

LTSF webinar session description

These are the tweets that covered my session about webinars and the virtual classroom.

Ady Howes had a 360 degree camera and recorded the session. I’ll update this page when we have a video link!

My session was one of the last of the day, against stiff competition of conference Chairman himself, Donald H Taylor, as well as 702010 God Charles Jennings! I still had a packed, sold out room though.

As Kate mentions, each conference session has a person tweeting the highlights, which was the lovely Joan Keevill.

Many thanks to @Obhi and @Designs_JoanK for their tweets.

Remember to download the paper that goes with this session.

And you can also join us for the webinar version!

Bob Mosher notes from TLDchat – performance support and more

#TLDChat is a webcast hosted every morning US time (4pm UK time) by Brent Schlenker. A number of different L&D topics are covered on different days.

Bob Mosher was the guest today, and I shared several tweets of some of his key messages. I thought I would gather them with some other detail as Bob’s work is so important for us all to be aware of or reminded about.

This is the bio of Bob, from the community website for performance support:

The #TLDchat was about an hour and covered a variety of different topics. You can watch the recording here and below are some of my tweets:

This is a different way of thinking to a lot of training design. This is firstly about what people need in their every day job role in order to perform as they need.

You might need to make one sheet guides, quick reference guides, give people access to short videos to support them. It could also be bigger solutions such as the help tools available with software.

Either way, Bob highlights to make sure people have what they need to be able to do their job. The training is to “back up” the support materials – to add extra richness and depth. It’s not about the training first, and hoping that people will rely on your emailed slides!


Bob says this was what someone said to him once, “oh, you are the guy that hates training” or similar. Just because there are other things to do, like performance support materials, it doesn’t mean that training isn’t good or the right thing. It’s just not the ONLY thing!


It was hard to get this all in one tweet, and I’m not sure I did it gracefully! The point here is that there is often time between a training event and when a person next needs to perform that task. The point Bob made was that you might we have a tick in the training box, a tick to say that they passed the test, but if they can’t do the actual task, then it will be the fault of the L&D department who did the training.

So if we rely solely on training to equip people to do their jobs, then it’s training that will get the blame when people can’t perform. If we provide other elements too, such as a PDF or video or whatever to help them do their job in the moment, then we are the hero’s.


An analogy used early in the discussion was about swimming. Bob had said that the minimum you need in a swimming lesson is how not to drown! Learning the details of difficult swimming strokes is for another day.

Taking this analogy further, the detail of different things about swimming (or not drowning!) are best learnt in the pool, trying them out. However, if you’ve never, ever gotten in the water before, without the help of some training, that very first toe you dip in is going to be scary.

It’s our job in L&D to help people get in the water, to make sure the know how not to drown, and, over time, get them competent in other areas and help them as they need it.


This point about the 70:20:10 model is to design first for the workflow, where people need help in the moment, as mentioned above. Another Bob Mosher (and his partner Conrad Gottfredson) also talk about are the five moments of learning need, and that’s well worth a read.


Here’s a tweet from Marco, the only other content tweet from this chat, capturing a lovely point!


Click here to read my blog post for more on Instructional Design. 

Conference content – how to keep your delegates enthused

I wrote a blog about a free conference I went to and how it was sales over substance. After recently attending the CIPD L&D Show in London I thought I would share my thoughts again to see what was done differently, and if it was better.

The same… but worlds apart


Both the conferences I attended contained a similar amount of people and setup; an area for exhibitors and different areas for the seminars. This is where the similarities end.

The CIPD L&D Show was not a free conference, though there was a free-to-attend exhibition and sessions. The CIPD L&D Show also opened up the seminars to experts and professionals who had real content and the passion to deliver it, rather than in-house employees.

Nearly all of the seminars I went to I came out of them learning something or going away with a drive to focus on something in particular.

Content not sales

The speakers would of course mention where they worked and their company or institution as it’s a great opportunity to enhance profile. They might mention throughout their presentation specific points of how their company did certain things but it was never done as a sales pitch. Passion was delivered and strong content provided, people would be able to go away and start trying techniques that had been offered.

I know for myself that I followed on Twitter and on Facebook the majority of the speakers at the seminars I went to. I found websites and put them into my favourite resources to go back and reference. Will I convert into a sale? Potentially. Do I have brand awareness? Most definitely!

Separating passion and sales

The CIPD L&D Conference was a great blend of the two; the free exhibitor floor had many companies trying to raise awareness and make sales. This was expected and if you moved yourself into that environment it was the mind-set you had gone into and were ready for.

On the exhibition floor there were lots of free seminars on offer. As I spent more time in the Conference I only saw the Ignite sessions (you can watch them all on Training Journal).

The conference sessions had passion and you could tell it was mainly about people who really wanted to provide some of the knowledge they had gained on their way to becoming an expert in their field or area.

Splitting the free exhibition and the paid-for conference made the conference feel complete and adjusting mind-set depending where you were was easy to do. The previous conference I had attended missed that – there was no divide between sales and content, a constant badgering of sales with next to no worthwhile content.

Knowing what people want


As a delegate we want to come away from the conference feeling the cost of the ticket was worth it for our own personal development and understanding. We take painstaking time to choose the sessions we want to attend because we are trying to maximise our own take away knowledge.

Delegates also understand that people and companies who have attended to exhibit have their own needs and requirements, cost to gain ratio whether that is sales or awareness for the brand.

We want the best of both worlds and can understand both sides of the coin.


I felt the balance at the CIPD L&D Show was spot on. I could flit between the two areas when I felt the urge, I could find like-minded individuals and get their opinions and network with them.

Content and passion and will always win over the hard sale and I saw a lot of passion and absorbed a great deal of superb content.

Prepare to be flexible

Some of you know that over the last couple of years I have been reinvigorating a long neglected garden and have turned into a (very) amateur gardener and vegetable grower. 

My mum, who is retired and grows veg to epic proportions, gives me her old gardening magazines, including Gardeners’ World January 2013.

Gardener and TV presenter Monty Don wrote an article about preparing the garden for the year ahead and how the changes in climate are affecting crops, “from a field of wheat to a few radishes sown in a window box”. 

Monty Don Gardeners' World magazine talking about change

Monty Don Gardeners’ World magazine talking about change

One paragraph in particular resonated with me, not just for the implications of my seed sowing and crop rotation, but in the work we all do every day:

“Doing what you (or your grandfather) have always done and then complaining that the weather has been ‘against’ you is not the answer. However we do not know exactly what to expect. So direct the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.”

Monty is explaining the VUCA world and how to deal with it. We don’t know what the future will bring, so we don’t always know how to prepare for it. Therefore the only way to prepare is to be flexible; ready to change and adapt. 

Monty gives the example of “raising seed in smaller batches and more waves of succession”. This is about failing fast. If your first few batches of seed get ruined by an unexpected late frost, you have more to follow. It’s also not sowing all the seeds in one go, it’s doing something smaller and more often to see the results as time goes on. 

As I look at expanding Lightbulb Moment, I have many ideas of what to do and achieve. Just like I have many fantasies about what to do with my garden. I have to carefully select the ‘seeds’ that I sow, how many and at what time. 

In my garden last year, after removing dead and safety-risk leylandii trees, I wanted to get the newly made border dug over and planted up beautifully. That didn’t happen and still hasn’t. There wasn’t the time, money or energy. Likewise there are things I want to do with my business that I know probably won’t happen this year. But it’s ok, I can use that time to research, listen to my clients and plan. 

My border might get started later this year, and next year might look great. Just like my business. 

Jo Cook enjoying the garden!

Jo Cook enjoying the garden!

Conference content – how to drive away your delegates

A colleague and I went to a free conference that was hosted by a company in our business sector. We spend a lot of money on each year with this company, for many of our business and software solutions.

Some of what went on was good and some of it was very bad…

Hopes and expectations

In the days leading up to the conference I received various emails promoting the conference, guest speaker Blah the 1st from leading company X, guest speaker Blah the 2nd from leading body Y. I was ready to hear from these experts and gain from their knowledge and wisdom!

The itinerary detailed exciting workshops in the afternoon. I was upset that the two that sounded the most interesting were on at the same time and I had to choose between them.

The pre-event information had got me in the right mind-set and not even the train strikes, which meant I was forced to be packed in like a sardine on my way to central London, could hold back my hopes and expectations.


A good start with good content

The morning started off well, the expert speakers were all good, engaging content and providing really useful information to take away, I was scribbling away in my notepad ready to go back to my company and revolutionise what is quite a boring and traditional business sector.

I was really impressed with the passion and delivery from most of the speakers, technology was used well by some, getting people to log in with an app and provide live polls and opinions. It was a great example of listening to the questions the sector has, and then posing those questions to the experts whom delivered great structured content to the attendees.

Downward spiral

After a nice lunch the workshops started: 40 minute seminars that attendees were able to choose out of three on at the same time. In total they would get to go three of these sessions out of the nine on offer.

I was still hyped from how good the morning was. The workshop speaker came on and it was obvious the person was some kind of middle management from the company hosting the conference.

A faltered start, low production values in the presentation and a lack of enthusiasm from the speaker: the professional air from the morning was quickly evaporating.


Where is the content?

The workshop was titled along the lines of “how to update the marketing in your business, gain sales and not lose potential sales.” The talk started as a lot of these things do with some stats, a very blatant use of stats, “how many people view a website for a company before buying something” and “length of time someone stays on a homepage.” The stats were obvious, in your face, focusing on one aspect of marketing, (the website) all from the angle they wanted to talk about. My pen had not written anything yet.

A live poll was put out to the audience, “do you think your business needs a website?” Shockingly everyone said yes. I could see exactly where this was going: I knew the organisation running the conference had recently purchased a website design company so my mind had already finished the obvious presentation. I did still have some hope it would not go the way I thought it would.

I was naïve to think it would not turn into a sales pitch, I had to sit through some more stupid waffle about how important the internet is and websites are, my pen was in my pocket and my pad closed and on my lap as I was talked to like a five year old and spoon fed basic information.

Sales without content

About 15 minutes into this “workshop” the sales pitch hit and went on for the remaining 25 minutes. My pad was back in my bag and I suffered through a sales pitch that was lacking any enthusiasm or depth. I felt cheated and lied to!

I can survive a sales pitch at the end if I have been enlightened with good focused content and feel like I have something to take away. When it is just thrown down your throat and obvious, limited content is used to try and dupe me into a sale is a poor showing indeed.


Unfortunately the remaining two sessions I attended were exactly the same and my colleague who attended three different sessions reported the same feedback.

I understand companies need to make money, renting out a venue in central London to accommodate 200-400 people and provide lunch for everyone for free is not going to be cheap, you want a return on your investment. But it needs to be handled better than this.

Being subjected to three lacklustre sales pitches with next to no useful content did not make me feel for a single second that I should take on these extra services the company was offering. In fact it had the exact opposite affect and made me think I would look elsewhere if I needed to resolve these issues.


Final thoughts on content marketing and conferences 

Good content is key! When it comes to these types of events or any kind of sales pitch if it is in person, a webinar or at a conference, the content will sway the person.

What was interesting in the way that they spoon-fed these basic concepts, skirting the main subject so much and providing so little content, it got to the sales pitch and I was missing a key thing to actually buy, need and want!

I wasn’t sure I had the issues they were trying to provide solutions for because they had provided basic stats, opinions and no content about it.

Free conference or not, I expect better and I hope you do also.