At the TICE 2019 Conference in Raleigh last week, people were sharing ideas, information, and experiences everywhere you looked. Trainers were bonding over their shared struggles to find ways to engage and excite their learners. L&D professionals were sharing the ways that they had successful learning in their organization. Along with addressing the challenges of the modern trainer, an overarching theme of the conference was fostering a culture of creativity.


Ken Taylor, the President of Training Industry, kicked off the conference with an overview of challenges today's trainers are facing. These challenges are like a moving target, constantly shifting as learners, technology, and the workforce change. Our workforce is multi-generational, lives for personalization, and has more access to technology than ever. So what challenges do these factors pose to trainers, according to Ken?

Learner Expectations: It's important to understand how your learners want to interact with training. But in the age of personalization, not all employees want to experience their training the same way. Trainers have to understand what delivery method works best for their learners and to also know what they hope to get out of their training. 

Managing Technologies: Technology is changing fast and new training delivery methods are popping up all the time. How do you decide which is right for you? As Ken said, "Especially when many learning technology solutions don't make a positive impact on your organization."

Sustaining Behavior Change: Trainers put a lot of time and effort into helping employees change behaviors, but does it stick? Does your company foster a safe environment where people can practice and apply what they've learned? Are your learners getting training at exactly the moment they need it?

Measuring Impact: Do you understand the cost of your training? Cost doesn't always equal dollars spent, it's also your employees' time.

These challenges are different for every organization, but the overarching theme is that training employees in today's workforce needs to hit three major points: It needs to be immediate, individual, and intelligent. 


Whitney Mortimer from IDEO defined creativity as "the capacity to have, embrace, and execute new ideas continually." Her primary message to the audience of trainers was that embracing continuous creativity is critically important, now more than ever. 


According to Whitney, who comes from the company that invented things like the laptop, computer mouse, and EpiPen as we know them today, says companies that are creative are more valuable. When you foster creative teams, they work more effectively, are more productive, and generate ideas that can set your company apart. What's required now, more than ever, is the fortitude among leaders for perpetual reinvention and ideation.


To create an environment of constant creativity, companies need to be always "living in beta," never settling for what they have and continually working for improvement. Whitney talked about using a design thinker methodology of identifying ideas that are outliers and thinking outside the "middle of the bell curve."

It's important to develop self-awareness to know when to diverge and when to converge on ideas. Do you need more ideas, or do you need to hone in on one idea that has a lot of potential?


Whitney explained that in her organization, they hire "T-shaped people." Every person who works for an organization has a specific deep skill set (that's probably why you hired them!). If you're new to the workforce, you're a short T, meaning your vertical skill set is new and is still being developed. If you've been around the block a few times, you're a longer T. The horizontal strokes (the top of your T), are your abilities for softer skills like empathy, curiosity, and optimism. T-shaped people that embrace a design thinking process are the foundation of fostering a creative culture. 


ej4 Blog - T-Shaped People


But in order to develop a culture of creativity, you have to invest in your culture, as Zappos' Erica Javellana explained in her keynote.


Culture may seem like an ambiguous thing, but its impact has tangible results. Investing in your culture drives productivity, increases the quality of customer service, and builds your brand's strength. Zappos' mission statement is "To live and deliver WOW." It drives their productivity at work, their customer interactions, and goes outside of the office into their everyday lives. By encouraging living "WOW" at work and at home, Zappos is building a company culture that fosters creativity, productivity, and both employee and customer buy-in.

The challenge with many trainers at this conference was having the ability to create a cultural shift that spurs the growth of creativity and sparks the employee's desire to learn. As speaker Juliette Denny said in her session on using the science of fun to create engagement, "If people aren't learning, then your organization isn't growing."

These challenges don't have one, definitive, one-size-fits-all solution. Every company is different and has their own unique challenges. But by taking some of these ideas, like fostering cross-functional brainstorming, developing an understanding of what your learners are receptive to, and embracing the power of creativity, maybe you can stumble upon some new solutions and ideas you hadn't thought of before.

If you're interested in learning more about how to overcome some common challenges trainers face, how you can develop your learning culture, and revisiting some similar themes in creativity from DevLearn, check out the resources below!


Emily Koehler

Written by Emily Koehler

Emily joined the ej4 team in 2017. When she isn't supporting ej4's marketing team, she's busy baking all kinds of goodies.

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