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Fall 2015 Symposium, Day 3: The Value of Disruption and Surprise

Disrupting business was the informal theme for the last day of the Fall 2015 Chief Learning Officer Symposium.

It began early with the panel discussion. Previous speakers discussed how disrupting business can create a better learning function, but that morning David Vance, executive director at the Center for Talent Reporting, said training starts — and ends — with business goals.

Learning leaders must first identify a company’s top goals, then find the stakeholders for those goals and collaborate with them to establish what measures of success will look like post learning and cement an ongoing partnership.

Panelist Judy Whitcomb, senior vice president of human resources and learning and organizational development at Vi, advocated a similar approach to aligning learning and business. She also stressed how important it is for chief learning officers to be effective marketers; both shift attitudes and behaviors. At Vi, she works closely with the sales and marketing departments, which she said helps to build business credibility.

On the other side of the argument, afternoon keynote speaker and “Suprisologist” Tania Luna advocated to build more surprise into the learning function. Her version of disruption, however, happens within learning itself. Luna, a co-author of “Surprise: Embrace the Unpredictable and Engineer the Unexpected,” said building surprises into a teaching model can help boost engagement and help learners retain information.

She demonstrated this during her speech. She had the audience members write down a question we hoped to continue asking ourselves, and then she asked us to think about whether it’s an open- or closed-ended question.

We then edited our questions, balled up the papers on which they were written and had a “snowball fight.” This surprise served to cement the questions in all attendees’ minds.

The surprises Luna highlighted — examples from a diverse group of companies that have successfully incorporated surprise into their learning and business models — not only created a connection with the audience but also provided a fun way to conclude the Fall 2015 Chief Learning Officer Symposium.