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This is a guest post by Manas Satpathy interviewing Mr. Surya Prakash Mohapatra.

Innovation in Learning and Development is a subject of keen interest and intense discussion for all the top honchos of any organisation. Learning and Development has undergone a sea change in the last decade to add numerical values to the top line as well as bottom line of of an organisation. In an exclusive interview with Manas Satpathy catches up with India Head Knowledge and Capability Management at HP’s Global Business Services, Surya Prakash Mohapatra and asks for his perspectives on this subject.

Surya emphasises on the growing importance of  innovation in L&D to stay ahead of the curve. Surya, a key speaker will speak passionately on innovation in L&D space in the HR Tech World Congress on 27th Oct,2015. He is also the moderator of the learning track at the world congress.


Is innovation important in the L&D Space?

Surya Prakash Mohapatra: Organizations need to innovate faster to stay ahead of the curve. To innovate faster, organizations need to learn faster than competition. Traditionally, L&D function has been enabling organizational learning. However, the game is changing. Today, it is not enough for L&D to just enable organizational learning. Now L&D has to enable Organizations to learn faster. L&D functions need to keep churning out new learning solutions to enable their workforce to keep pace with new technology, new business models, new rules of business.

Well, the changes today are not  restricted only to technology or business models. These changes now have permeated the workplace and the workforce. Today’s workforce is global. It is mobile. This workforce is characterized by diversity. There are baby-boomers, Gen-X, millennials and Gen-Y working together. People belonging to different nationalities and different cultural backgrounds, speaking different languages are part of the same workforce. So this wide range of diversities in the workforce today means that people have different learning styles, tastes and preferences.

The above facts highlight the complexities for the L&D practitioner. The Learning leaders now need to think ‘Different’ and think ‘Big” to become effective in this complex business environment. In the other words, they need to innovate.


How is innovation transforming the L&D space?

Surya Prakash Mohapatra: Genuine innovation in the L&D space is focusing on how to address these complexities. The critical need for L&D is to drive vibrant, responsive, relevant learning interventions in a timely manner that engage employees and lead to better organizational performance. But doesn’t it mean that we are asking for the moon?

Well, researchers, practitioners, curriculum designers and leaders in L&D space are working hand in hand to make this impossible task possible. There is a good amount of research going on in neuroscience to determine how to optimize brain’s ability to process and assimilate new knowledge. Research is on to determine the tastes and preferences of different generations of learners (Baby boomers, Gen-X, Gen-Y and Gen-Z). Instructional and Curriculum designers are coming up with innovative solutions which would engage different learner groups.

L&D practitioners are deploying informal and social learning and crowd-sourcing strategies to capture and disseminate knowledge which is dynamic and continuously evolving. Another example of innovation is the wide-spread usage of technology in L&D. Overall efforts are on to build an eco-system where learners can acquire relevant skills just in time in order to improve business performance and achieve professional success.


Can you give us some examples?

Surya Prakash Mohapatra: Well examples are plenty. Gamification, learning through theatre, learning through music, learning through clay modelling etc. are examples of how L&D practitioners are stretching their imagination. In the space of social learning, while Communities of Practice have been popular since times immemorial, the innovation in this space has been the deployment of technology. L&D leaders are creatively leveraging platforms like Yammer, Watercooler, Facebook, Linkedin, WhatsApp etc. for a workforce which is spread out across the global and is always on the go.

On-job performance support tools are being used to shift learning from the classroom to the workplace. Byte-sized learning capsules have become the norm of the day. L&D leaders have just started leveraging Big Data to understand linkages between people, programs and performance though this effort is still at a nascent stage.
How do you see L&D contributing to the Business goals in future?

Surya Prakash Mohapatra: L&D needs to take three important steps in this regard. The First step is to diagnose and identify business needs .The next step is to prioritize critical business needs and the third step is to align learning solutions to the prioritized critical business needs. Therefore, L&D’s contribution to business goals would emanate from its alignment with critical business needs. If this alignment is not established, L&D will lose its value. It would become irrelevant to the business.

L&D has to stop seeing itself as enabler of strategies. It has to start behaving as accelerators of business strategies. To make this transition happen, L&D professionals need to have the right mind-set, skill-set and tool-set.
Can innovation and cost cutting go hand in hand?

Surya Prakash Mohapatra: The objective of innovation is to create solutions which will improve quality and reduce cost for the business. So in that sense, both innovation and cost cutting go hand in hand.

Does Innovation always call for huge investments? It is not necessarily so. In fact, innovation calls for creativity and out of box thinking. It calls for new ways of doing things. It is about finding more relevant and useful alternatives. Innovation is about breaking down complex problems and finding out simple solutions. Often innovation is misconstrued as investment in new and sophisticated technology. But before investing in expensive technology, the question we need to ask ourselves is: “What is the problem we are trying to solve and what is the most appropriate solution for it?”