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Reflections on CES 2017

ron-playstation-vrI’ve returned from the Consumer Electronics Show and am looking at the snow-covered mountains above Salt Lake City, and it’s a good time to reflect not just on applications but technology in general. The affordability of technology assisted learning has in large part been constrained by the limitations of a regulated corporate environment rather than by the hands of learners in their everyday life. Attending CES highlighted for me the untapped potential to apply the very things we’ve come to expect in our new daily lives to learning in the workplace. For example:

  • Accessing content anytime from anywhere—from your phone to your computer to your TV
  • Sound activation and audio query devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home that control our house, our entertainment, and how we search for information
  • Machine learning that personalizes experiences and shortens our patience for extraneous information
  • Smart optics and even smarter screens that change the standards of our visual experiences
  • The Internet of Things that raises our expectations of what it means to connect our world

We often suggest to our clients that they start looking internally to understand how their respective organizations are adopting new customer facing technologies. For example, many retail companies are utilizing visual tracking and purchasing analytics to track and analyze customer behavior in retail stores as well as their e-commerce websites. However, talking to vendors of these tracking technologies, we discover that these applications are limited to monitoring only customer activity. Why are companies reticent to use these same applications to track employee activity and interactions. Having that data would surely help to maximize both employee productivity and increase positive user experience.

We can and should grapple with the reality that our learners consistently bring their social consumer driven lives into the workplace. The gap between how we train, particularly our younger learners, and what learners expect from that training can be bridged with new approaches and technologies. At Allen, we focus on bridging that gap. Allen takes a unique approach to learning and development, and has invested in these advanced technologies and methods to enable learners and organizations to explore these new technologies as well as how to apply them.


Our very ability to take advantage of these new technologies may reside in the governance models that exist within organizations. For instance, can our corporate knowledge base be voice accessible to provide hands free manipulation and faster access to information? Can we safely and accurately provide visual information to the devices our learners use on the job? Must we be tied down to a classroom setting that can’t emulate the real-life experience, in which our learners need to work and thrive.

For the past few years, technology has become an integral component of how we execute the most basic of tasks. We multitask more and we react
more quickly to requests and day-to-day interactions. Moreover, our expectations of content and its relevancy to our needs has grown. In the hundreds of yearly projects we do here at Allen, we rarely meet a learning professional who doesn’t want to innovate. What we learn from shows such as CES is that our learners understand and expect these innovations. It’s an exciting time to be a L&D professional, and we at Allen are looking forward to continuing to elevate the potential and impact of learning within the organization.