I have been attending the event for many years and have seen the recent transition it has been making from the traditional trainer led ‘American Society for Training and Development’ to its new identity.
In comparison to the major European show, Learning Technologies London, the show is designed for the wider training and development community. However the disruptive force of technology was front and centre here, with many sessions focussed on ‘digital transformation’, the scarcity of talent and the need to re-skill and up-skill the current workforce. With plenty of discussion on the future of work and the rise of AI, it was clear that tomorrow’s workers will need to bring the kinds of softer skills that can’t be replaced easily by a machine.
VR and AR were also being promoted as means to address business problems and there was an interesting insight from Verizon on how it is being used with retail staff in dealing with attempted robbery in stores.
There were far fewer signs of the growth of LXPs on the Expo floor and the focus seemed to remain with multiple large and small scale LMS providers. It also seems that talk of specific ‘mobile’ learning has now been ditched as buyers automatically expect this to be featured in a multi device solution.
ATD also provides the opportunity to see a wide range of famous and inspiring key speakers. This year Oprah Winfrey was the headliner and the opening keynote speaker. She shared the need to follow your gut, be intentional, strive toward wholeness over perfection, and, as talent developers, validate people.
The event concluded with the conductor/composer and TED Talk star Eric Whitacre, whose keynote on working together and performance choir really produced a fitting finale.
However, my personal highlight was the keynote from best selling author Seth Godin. He shared all sorts of wisdom about the differences between education and learning and those between management and leadership. For Seth, leadership has 4 components;
- Sowubana: a Zulu greeting of recognition meaning “I see you”
- Enrollment in your vision
- Tension in the fact that not all ideas will succeed
One big question he put to those of us providing products and services was to challenge us to create something unique in a crowded market saying “Are you making art or are you making copies?”
His final message also resonated with the underlying theme of digital transformation over the four days – “Your mission, which you have already accepted is to make change happen….Go make a ruckus.”