As the “new style of learning” lead at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Glyn Townsend is responsible for building new, innovative learning offerings for HPE’s software education business.

Figure 1: Glyn Townsend, new style of learning lead, Hewlett Packard Enterprise

We recently connected with Glyn to hear about how HPE is adopting new methods of learning and how that will shape the software industry.

Doreen Lorenzo: How does the role of visual instruction and communication play in what you do, in terms of the new style of learning and teaching employees?

Glyn Townsend: There are different learner styles in our organization. Quite a few of them are used to learning visually rather than very formal, instructor-based training. Visual learning and the ability to take cues from people, and also digest complex messages, is much easier through visual learning than through traditional means.

DL: What are some of the learning and development trends that you’re following closely that interest you? What do you see coming up?

GT: Access to broader and bigger markets. My industry has predominantly focused on customer training and external training on our product technologies, thought leadership, and trends. It’s how we access a broader market and how we can really engage with those new users, but also, internally, how we can deliver more complex messages more clearly. How do we get access to people and provide them the training and the knowledge around the products and the things that we have to offer? That’s really exciting, in terms of what the new style of learning offers, such as video-based learning in its more structured sense.

DL: Now that you’re seeing more and more companies producing video content, would you ever consider producing your own video content?

GT: Very much so. The more traditional world that we kind of got ourselves stuck into, in terms of how we create content and what people want, has now moved to self-paced, being able to fast-forward and replay the same message over and over again. For example, I’ve tried for years, in doing plumbing in my own house, to solder a joint. I’ve never worked it out right. I’ve been told how to do it. I’ve read documents on how to do it. So I watched a YouTube video. Literally, I watched this YouTube video and I rewound it and I played it probably four or five times. I had one practice go. I rewound it, I played it, and I nailed it. I nailed this solder joint. I’ve never been able to solder a plumbing pipe in my life, and I did it through YouTube.

That, for me, was the real turning point—that you can get across very complex subjects to people and they can play it at their own time, they can rewind it if they haven’t quite followed something, you can get across a truly technical subject to any audience through the medium of YouTube. That’s kind of where I see things going. I think that the new generation of learners that are coming through aren’t expecting us to re-create a classroom experience through online training, which is what we’ve spent the last 10 years trying to re-create. I think that people are accepting of a guy in his living room showing you how he’s fixed something as a way forward.

DL: Could people learn from their peers through video? How much does that play into your organization?

GT: That’s the absolute center of where I see things going. I work in the software development industry. The big, crippling factor to any organization adopting software is: How do they get their end users to adopt this new technology quickly? It’s becoming more and more normal that your products, and the interface your users are using, [are] changing very, very frequently. You can’t do that in the way that we’ve been creating training today. Up until today, that period between where you’ve finished developing your product and you’ve trained your users and you’ve released it is months. In the new world, you’ve already done another six or seven releases by then.

Much the same way as everything else in software development is shifting left, from unit testing shifting left to system testing shifting left to everything in the ecosystem into this iterative approach, our training and development have to shift left as well. I think the only economical way or practical way you can do that is through video-based learning. The way that people are more comfortable with video in this sort of YouTube generation is really going to make that the most significant inflection point in our industry in terms of software development release.

DL: Do you think that learning and development (L&D) could, then, fuel the innovation process in your organization?

GT: Learning and development, as an organization, could really help fuel innovation in companies by enabling rapid information transfer, by enabling people to collaborate in a way that they haven’t collaborated before. The quicker the L&D world can realize that they’re not there just to do compliance training and ethical conduct training, but they’re there to help people work together to understand how they can be more efficient, how they can adopt technologies, and how they can work together to overcome business challenges, [the quicker] they can provide a platform that does both things by sharing that information and the training and the other aspects. That’s where L&D can really become a part of the business.