Thomson Reuters is, by the company’s own definition, “the world’s leading source of intelligent information for businesses and professionals”. It was created when the Canadian Thomson Corporation purchased the news agency Reuters in 2008. In this environment, information and learning are in constant and rapid flux. Accordingly, the company has launched a major change programme for its training department now known as the Thomson Reuters Knowledge Network. “Learning at the speed of need” is the order of the day. OEB has asked ‘Knowledge Network Ambassador’ Joe Pokropski, Managing Director at Thomson Reuters Markets Division and keynote speaker at OEB, to explain the new concept.
OEB: Thomson Reuters has transformed its training department into a “Knowledge Network”. How does your new ‘system’ work?
We serve a diverse client base of financial market professionals across all time zones, in dozens of languages and a myriad of workflows including retail brokers, investment managers, investment bankers, traders and the numerous support functions that serve these roles.
These market professionals turn to Thomson Reuters for the intelligent information they need to perform their jobs. We call it the Knowledge to Act. Our role is to help them not only learn how to operate the technology solutions they get from us, but to also help them embed this learning into their daily workflow so that using our datasets and analytics becomes a natural extension of the way they do business.
Over the years our training organisation has built a solid reputation of service with our clients, but we have done so primarily by scheduling office visits and deploying trainers – sometimes across great distances – to train our end users.
While this worked in the past, the challenges of the modern business model demand that we evolve the training model to keep up with an increasingly complex, web-based marketplace. A web-enabled workforce dependent on multimedia capabilities has emerged, demanding increasingly greater specialised knowledge.
We felt we needed to adapt our training capabilities to match. We believed there must be a better way to enhance our learning programmes to be more responsive to our clients – to better connect them with the expertise in our firm, regardless of where that knowledge resides around the globe, and to provide this in a timely and relevant way that matters in their day-to-day workflow. So, with the needs of our customers firmly at the core, we set about building the Thomson Reuters Knowledge Network to do just that.
To deliver this cutting-edge programme, The Knowledge Network uses three capabilities: Knowledge Live, Knowledge OnDemand and the Knowledge Academy (see textbox).
OEB: ‘Speed’ is a cornerstone of your learning concept. How do you speed up learners and trainers? Are there special methods involved?
I call it “Learning at the Speed of Need”. The truth is that decisions regarding speeding up the process are being made for us. The professional business markets today move at incredible speed. The Internet, Google, YouTube, social networking… you name it. Today’s learners do not wait for the learning to come to them. They are proactive. They seek out knowledge for themselves. So training needs to adjust.
In our case, we flip-flopped the traditional thinking about designing and creating the full curriculum arc, preferring instead to focus on producing at the smallest unit of learning, or topic level.
It is like making bricks in a wall. You cannot wait for the wall to be finished before releasing all the learning. Instead, get the bricks out there. As more and more topics are available to the learner, they can be assembled into more traditional courses and full curriculums. And the wall that gets built may even be different from what you originally imagined!
OEB: How do you provide quality content in your ‘speedy’ learning environment?
That is the real balancing act, isn’t it? To be responsive to the customer you must produce quickly but quality standards need to be maintained. Fortunately, advances in technology help us here. Rapid development tools are significantly improved compared with just a few years ago.
We are making more use of video, which is something we have learned to produce quickly and to a high standard. Not all situations are the same, but in our case we found it cost-effective and beneficial to create our own “mini studios” that allow us to react quickly to market events. By design, our video trainings have the look and feel of news and entertainment that our users view every day.
We are also learning from our customers as we go. Their feedback is invaluable to us and it is already shaping the direction of our content development.
For instance, there are times when highly produced video and e-learning content that takes time to develop is definitely the way to go. But we have found there are also times when less slickly produced material, which may not have a long shelf life, is what is called for to meet customers’ needs. Just think about the high-quality demos produced by product vendors versus the YouTube experience and I think you will see what I mean.
OEB: What are the L&D challenges for the future – where will you be in 10 years’ time?
We consume news, entertainment and even education in ways which differ vastly compared with just five years ago. Information flows in real time. Social sites often report the events of the day before more traditional outlets. We can download a book in a matter of seconds. We stream video to our phones. As modern consumers of information, our learners will demand exactly the same immediacy and choice when it comes to training.
The challenge for L&D professionals is to recognise that a change is coming and be willing to embrace it – adapt to it – and evolve along with it. Classroom instructors need to recognise that the future is not about the knowledge locked in their heads and their ability to transfer it to their students. Our expertise going forward is much more about teaching others how to find information, how to validate their research and how to make sense of it, and apply it to the work at hand.
The business model will change, too, impacting the way we produce and deliver learning. We are already seeing this with innovative efforts for initiatives like the Open University. Why should a student be limited by location? Why not attend the best classes provided by the best instructors regardless of where they are offered? We already subscribe to entertainment that suits us, choosing what to watch, when to watch it and even which device we want to stream the content to for viewing. Why should learning be any different?
It raises some interesting questions for the academic model, too. If learning can be virtual, what happens to the bricks-and-mortar universities today? How will the publishing model evolve to address the advances in self-publishing and the demands of a virtual learner population? Surely there is no need to print and ship huge, heavy textbooks when a student can access lesson plans on an iPad or similar device.
How will today’s instructors, who are adept at lecture hall style delivery, adapt to the coming virtual environment when they no longer have a captive classroom audience?
I recall in my university days how word of mouth could spread the news of the best, most entertaining professors and we’d flock to those classrooms. Now, and in the future, social networks will create a viral demand for the most engaging instructors capable of filling virtual classrooms on demand. The same applies to corporate trainers. Our skill sets will need to include the ability to engage an audience online and on video.
Of course, as technologies improve and come to market there are a wealth of opportunities for L&D professionals to explore. How long before we have affordable two-way, high definition video on our phones? Will future instructional design include 3-D? Will I be able to appear in multiple classrooms around the globe as a virtual hologram? Nothing is too far-fetched when you consider how far we have come already.
I am optimistic and excited about the possibilities. It is going to be a very interesting ride!
OEB: Mr Pokropski, thank you very much for your time.
At OEB, Joe Pokropski will deliver his keynote speech SWITCH Happens! The Challenges of Learning at the Speed of Needin the corporate plenary session on Friday, December 3rd, from 09:30 – 11:00.