Josh Bersin writes in a recent blog post titled, Why Companies Need a Chief Learning Architect, that the technology of learning (digital and otherwise) has become so disorganized, dis-integrated, and confusing in large companies that they need someone to have responsibility for managing all of the learning resources.

He writes:

Learning management systems, MOOCs, simulation tools, content management systems, new content providers, social profiles, collaborative learning, video sharing, mobile learning, on-demand learning, new forms of assessment, and the use of Big Data are all changing rapidly. And companies are spending more money on training (up 15% this last year)… Added to this is the fact that most large corporations have somewhat of a "mess" in their corporate learning infrastructure.

I agree with Bersin that companies need to do a better job of integrating their various learning technologies and collaborating among departments on selection and implementation of learning interventions, but I don’t agree that a chief learning architect is the solution. As I have written before, learning is everyone’s responsibility. By putting learning resources in the control of a centralized executive, we further marginalize the activity.

Bersin’s analogy to architecture doesn’t fit in this case. He writes, “Just like great buildings, cities, and countries are designed by architects, so is great learning.” But great learning is designed by learners in collaboration with their bosses. Great learning is tailored to the needs and circumstances of the learner and supported by the culture of the organization. Great learning makes a difference in individual, team, and whole organization performance.  

The architect’s goal is to design the best solution for the most people based on a current view of the future. They can’t be successful if it’s a moving target. The learning needs of employees are changing so fast that someone distant from the situation cannot know what new knowledge, skills, and abilities, as well as the formal and informal training and development methods, are required at any point in time.

I believe we should stop looking for a savior to solve every problem (i.e., chief of learning, chief of innovation, chief of creativity, chief of process improvement) and start holding every executive and manager accountable for developing their employees and improving performance. Applying the appropriate technology is simply one of the means that each of these leaders can use to that end.

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