The term prosumer is now widely used in marketing. The passive consumer has become the co-producer. In companies like Spreadshirt he develops his own design not only for himself but also for others. If one applies this to learning, it means that the learner develops from being a participant to being a proticipant. A participant of a seminar who googles the topic during the event is currently perceived as a troublemaker. This is exactly where the problem lies in most of the traditional training opportunities. We live in an age of networked thinking and acting. This has to be reflected in our learning opportunities and requires a new understanding of the roles in the learning process and the development of new learning methods.
At this stage the traditional set-up predominates, which is already determined by the classroom setting. The trainer sits or stands in front. The participants sit at the tables and look at the putative place of action, previously the blackboard, today the screen, where contents are solely displayed in a more or less meaningful way. A glimpse into the function rooms of the internal academies and seminar hotels gives a realistic picture of the predominant learning environment provided by the institutions offering organised learning. The more expensive the hotel, the more structured the setting. Additionally, the more expensive the event, the more the setting is based on the ancient ideal of the eloquent orator facing the interested auditorium.
However, learning is on no account only an auditory, cognitive and linear process, but also a multimodal, individually associative and at the same time collectively variable process. Thus, teachers, trainers, experts and the companies HT-strategists need to develop appropriate solutions which really take the results of learning research into consideration. In this respect, a traditional lecture on networked thinking in a large hall of a congress centre is as much a paradox as is this article. It appears as a print version, written by experts for experts, in a medium which claims to cover current issues and future trends in the fields of marketing and sales. Who will read it? What effect does reading have? The books of brain researchers are sort of weird, as they reflect on brain research findings and draw absolutely right conclusions about modern teaching and learning settings in the possibly most boring way, without any coloured illustrations and using the worst technical jargon. I have complained enough now, what should a modern sales training approach look like?
1. Define, what should be learned
This is the old-fashioned part of the recommendation. The field of sales training often gives an exemplary demonstration of the lampooned seminar tourism without defined learning targets and competences. Here, it would be helpful if sales departments and HR-development departments end their tug of war over competences and contents. The exciting question is how current corporate targets can be synchronised with the individual learning objectives of the sales representatives. In order to answer this question, a measurable evaluation of the existing competences and those to be developed is required. No witch craft. The processes are known, have been proven for at least twenty years and validated. The only problem is that these systematic procedures are only applied by ten per cent of the companies.
2. From participant to proticipant
The difference is made by involving the target-group in all stages of the requested competence development. The problem of most of the traditional methods is not the content. It is always available in a virtual sense. Every digital native finds all relevant contents in the fields of sales or management within ten minutes of research on Google. It is an intriguing question, how knowledge becomes a skill. The old saying that if you want to learn something, you should start teaching it, gains a new meaning in the age of Web 2.0. Responsible self-study students can research, prepare and discuss contents. In a few years today’s experts will fight over copyrights in a similar way to contemporary artists. If you are clever, you establish communities and retain the loyalty of the participants by means of supplementary offers which go beyond mere knowledge. Only those who succeed in shaping the responsible educated citizen of the web into a co-producer of content under the branded power of an expert status will have the future on their side.
3. From training to simulation
It is, therefore, clear that events for training purposes with participants who are present at the venue need a completely different method than that of today’s seminar tourism. Where information was given in the past, training is given today. Where training is given today, real practical experience has to be simulated in the future. What speaks against replacing all the same sales training methods by practical role plays? Seminar acting is an established profession in the Netherlands. There, no respectable HR developer would have the idea to have role plays performed by stressed colleagues who play the roles of difficult clients unprofessionally. Why not establish a training centre for the sales representatives, where full-time actors who are capable of testing the key success factors in a discussion on a particular product in a real everyday atmosphere are available? A role play to practice customer visits providing professional feedback instead of instructor-led learning with a proven transfer rate of ten percent maximum.
4. YouTube for the new way of learning – The demands of the digital natives require new solutions
If learning becomes the most important competence of the 21st century, the use of new media, in particular, requires solutions which exceed the alternatives of the current market participants considerably. Google and Microsoft are already working on specific learning platforms. In App Store, more and more learning programs can be found for various applications. The use of new media for the purpose of learning becomes standard and the pressure of professionalization increases. Those who grew up with the Play Station do not appreciate linear learning programs with retro pixel style graphics. E-Learning needs to become more sexy. Big solutions are required, either in high end technique or as grooving guerrilla offers for web-affined nonconformists. Those who are somewhere in between will encounter problems. The YouTubisation of learning began long ago. This is precisely where the opportunity lies for the defragmented training market. The question remains, when the big platform solution will be produced that achieves the grouping of the existing vast amounts of content in a meaningful way and defines a new standard of imparting knowledge.
5. Imparting learning skills as a meta-competency
First-career entrants who have never used a computer? Unimaginable. Experience in using standard products of Bill Gates? It is a basic requirement for all entry-level job candidates being paid beyond the minimum wage. How about the ability for self-study? Currently, it is a welcomed but rather nebulous additional competence for which a generally accepted definition or a valid evaluation procedure does not exist. This is precisely the new treasure of the Nibelungen of the Teutonic world champions of export in global competition. Instead of waiting to see which products will be launched in a few years by the education machinery which embraces reforms after being shocked by the Pisa results, now smart companies should develop their own solutions for imparting self-study competences and create their own standards in HR-development work. At the beginning of the internal educational career are training programmes including learning type tests, learning techniques and the intelligent use of the internet as a knowledge web, in order to synchronise individual career and learning objectives with corporate targets. Everybody learns for himself and at the same time increases the intellectual capital statement of his employer.
Perspective: Land of learning
During training in Malaysia, when I was reading the local newspaper at breakfast, I came across a full-page advertisement of a private kindergarten. Parents were assured that their offspring receive a trilingual education and learns to play at least one instrument before even reaching the age of six. When I was browsing local bookstores I discovered a whole lot of learning-to-learn literature aimed at teenage students. There were a good deal of children’s books on the topic of mind mapping and memo techniques. Topics like these would still surprise some managers in Germany, which is convenient for us trainers. It is dangerous for our country and our businesses. Germany was the land of poets and thinkers? The future belongs to the land of learning.