The Business of Learning

Learning with the Experts: Training Industry’s Doug Harward on the Future of Learning (Part 1)


In our fourth installment of Raytheon Professional Services’ Learning with the Experts series, we talked with Doug Harward, the founder and CEO of Training Industry. We asked Doug to expand on some of the most prominent trends and disruptors in the field, which Training Industry recently called out in their 2016 Key Trends report.

 Part I

RPS Q: What was the most memorable lesson you learned in life and who taught it to you?

DH: My father told me before his passing that he and my mother had discussed very early in their years of parenthood that the most important lesson they could pass on to their children was the value of independence. I didn’t understand until later in life when he shared this with me how impactful it has been in not only my personal life, but also in my professional life. The meaning of independence transcends into that of self-responsibility. I believe that great leaders have a sense of self-responsibility, whereby they are able to practice delegation, but whatever happens on their watch, is ultimately their responsibility.

RPS Q: You recently put out your trends in learning for 2016. What trend are you most enthusiastic about for the coming year?

DH: The most interesting trend we are seeing in the training industry for 2016 is how important the science of learning is becoming to leaders of training organizations. For too long we have relied on opinions of what works in corporate training, but now realize that utilizing good research practices and scientific methods to determine better ways to design and deliver training experiences can save lots of money – and create value for business.

RPS Q: You talk about mobile learning and the slow adoption. Why do you think it is has been difficult for the training industry to adopt mobile learning?

DH: There have been two primary obstacles to the adoption of mobile learning. The first has been the issue of economics. In corporate training, much of the programs we deliver are intended to be targeted to audiences that are not large in number. This means that an investment in the development of online training to a small audience doesn’t have the scale to amortize costs across large numbers of students. As a result, the cost of developing online, mobile learning solutions has been too expensive and difficult to get the payback. This has killed many projects because there just wasn’t the right economics to justify the expense.

The second obstacle has been that our approach to designing online training experiences was to attempt to deliver the same program over any type of device. What we have learned, and I discuss it in this year’s trends, is that the best content to deliver over a mobile device is video. Users are accustomed to viewing short video over a mobile device (YouTube effect) and have learned to appreciate ‘real’ video, instead of studio produced video. We also see that video is becoming an excellent form of delivering performance support content. Additionally, through neuroscientists we have learned that the best method of increasing retention and application of training is to reinforce the content after the learning experience. Video over a mobile device is proving to be the best solution for that.

RPS Q: You mention how The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve shows that most people quickly forget what they’ve learned after leaving the classroom. What are the most effective ways to promote ongoing learning in your organization to ensure workers don’t forget their training?

DH: Good science is teaching us that the best thing we can do to promote ongoing learning is implement ‘reinforcement’ techniques to training programs. Reinforcement training provides short bursts of information delivered frequently and repetitiously after the initial experience. These bursts may come in the form of a video, an article, a graphic – virtually any form of content that reinforces what should be taken to the job and applied. Repetition, or what we sometimes call practice, fits the concept of reinforcement and dramatically increases the probability of performance improvement.

RPS Q: You cover the importance of quality trainers. What is the best way to prepare instructors to be Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), ultimately in the hopes of improving training efficiency?

DH: There are two best practices related to improving instructor quality. One is to properly prepare instructors to be SMEs, and second to prepare SMEs to be great instructors. We have been remiss in corporate training in the past to assume that professional instructors could easily learn material and be great presenters, or SMEs knew the material well enough that they should be effective communicators. If we don’t properly invest in training our instructors, the dollars we spend to provide training is wasted because proper knowledge transfer does not occur. It’s important to focus on learning how to best prepare instructors, and/or subject matter experts on how to be ‘great’ instructors.

RPS Q: Due to the prevalence of video, how has it changed the training industry, both regarding mobile learning and other platforms?

DH: Research is showing us that one of the most effective ways for someone to learn how to perform a task is to be able to see it done. The cost of capturing and producing video has come down so much that we can literally film a specific situation in real time, upload it immediately into a video repository, index the content for search and make it available for learners to access it on demand. This provides a new and effective resource to help them solve a problem at the time the problem is encountered. The cost and efficiency of capturing, producing, storing and accessing content has come down so much that it’s now economically a viable alternative to classroom delivery.



Doug Harward is the founder and CEO of Training Industry, Inc. He is internationally recognized as one of the leading strategists for training and outsourcing business models. He is respected as one of the industry’s leading authorities on competitive analysis for training services and works with international companies and new business start-ups in building training organizations.

Harward previously served as the Director of Global Learning for Nortel Networks where he led the industry’s largest global training outsourcing engagement with PricewaterhouseCoopers. He received the Chairman’s Global Award for Community Service for his work in developing integrated learning organization strategies within higher education, public schools and business. He has worked in the training industry for more than 25 years.

Harward received a MBA from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University and a BSBA in Marketing from Appalachian State University. Harward is co-author of the book “What Makes A Great Training Organization.”

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