Mike Fields
Written by Mike Fields

I have traveled around the globe and even crossed the treacherous Drake Channel between South America and Antarctica by ship. But I’ve never been on a journey quite like the one I took in the midst of Storm Ciara. On February 11, the London Times reported that Storm Ciara was the ‘storm of the century.’ As the storm system emerged in the North Atlantic, I was making my way from America to the Learning Technologies Expo in London.

On Sunday, February 10, I attended services at the historic Westminster Abbey. Commissioned by Henry III in the 13th Century, this magnificent church has been home to all English and British coronations since William the Conqueror in 1066. As the winds howled through the nave, I was concerned this might be the last Sunday service at the Abbey for a while.

When I left the Abbey, I was warned to take caution as Police set up barriers preventing pedestrians from walking through heavily wooded areas like St. James Park bordering Buckingham Palace. I changed my plans and stayed indoors.

Eventually the storm passed, and 8,500 learning professionals arrived for two days of conferences and exhibitions at ExCeL London located in the Docklands east of Canary Warf. Keynote speaker Timandra Harkness discussed the importance of individualized learning in her opening remarks, “Life, Work & Learning in the Personalised Century”. On day two, Dr. Daniel Hulme broadened the discussion with his speech “Artificial Intelligence: the Risk, the Reward and the Extraordinary Possibilities”. The expo showcased a blend of technology, content and consulting organizations.

While some attendees had very specific goals, ViaTech spoke to hundreds of learning executives who simply wanted to identify emerging trends to boost learning engagement and organizational benefits. Albeit, a daunting task. There was no shortage of learning technologies to explore – from integrated learning management solutions to point products like chatbots, gamification tools and e-delivery systems.

Undoubtedly, attendees would leave the conference feeling inspired and eager to embrace innovation. Unfortunately, these feelings are often fleeting, admonished by competing budget restraints and limits on internal technology resources. This may be why the Brandon Hall Group reports that only 35% of organizations feel they have effective learning and development strategies in place (Source: 2019 Brandon Hall Group Optimizing Learning to Drive Performance Study). Quickly, the need for vendors to partner in their work with clients became evident. ViaTech had several strategic partnering discussions on how to more effectively solve client pain points.

Reflecting on the week, it was interesting to see how people came together during the ‘storm of the century’ – not only to battle the elements, but to advance learning and development. Each of us faces storms in our personal and professional lives. How we respond to those storms is what defines our character. Too often, we retreat and fail to partner with others when difficulties arise.

Fortunately, I am part of a strong team, consisting of coworkers, partners, vendors and clients. I was reminded of this during my time at the conference, where I received outstanding support from my colleague, Rob White. Together, we connected with people from around the EMEA looking for ways to partner and become better service providers to our stakeholders.

As I continue to promote the modernization of the learning and development space, I’ll keep in mind one age-old adage: We are always better together.