Canada Association of Tourism Employees

Evolution Or Revolution In A Submit-Pandemic World?

Learn from the past, but plan for the future

Technical experts (SMEs) have been an integral part of the network of instructional designers for decades. Subject matter experts are the point of contact when instructional designers are tasked with creating learning experiences for employees that lead to higher ROI and increasingly improved performance metrics for the entire company. Seems easy, but in the current 21st century the question arises: will things still go on as usual, and if not, what has changed?

In an article titled “How to Become a Subject Expert in Your Field” from (Feb.22, 2021), regarding preparation for an SMB, the authors point out that (and I quote):

Look for opportunities to improve your skills in the subject at work or in the nature of volunteering so that you can gain hands-on experience within the subject. It is a good idea to only pursue topics that really interest you as you will have to devote a lot of time to studying.

The authors make an assumption here based on the way things were, not necessarily the way they are now.

One thing we are now realizing is that our societies have faced a perfect storm that has hit businesses on a global scale. I am not referring to the COVID-19 pandemic. This perfect storm is the coming together of an exponential increase in knowledge, technology and an overhaul of what change management should look like under these conditions. What the COVID-19 pandemic did is change the landscape from working in the stationary “office” to a complex network that has to take place in cyberspace almost 100% of the time. This shift presents us with a number of dilemmas:

  • Can someone really claim to be a subject matter expert in the truest sense of the word? Given the exponential rate at which knowledge is increasing in all disciplines, can SMEs honestly say they are up to date in their field?
  • In the past, SMEs have relied on the idea that knowledge follows a “silo” approach to expertise. However, can knowledge still be seen that way, or have the problems of the 21st century evolved into an interdisciplinary form in which one person’s expertise is insufficient to solve the problem?
  • With the steady rise of AI, big data and predictive analytics, can SMEs do their job as well or better than intelligent digital assistants with SMART technology?
  • Given that the pandemic is making business more online because of the pandemic, what does it mean when it comes to protecting our dialogues, research and products from being exploited by people in business, intellectual property stealing and sales to capitalize these assets on the highest bidder who may be a business competitor or even a state trying to advance its own agenda in the global environment?

Photo by Spencer Selover from Pexels

Common answers to this last question are:

  • We have our backups in the cloud, which is safe. “Really?” Have you or your IT department checked what tools are available to breach data stored in the cloud?
  • This is not my area of ​​expertise. It’s the job of the IT department. “Really?” Whose job is it to explain to investors, customers, and shareholders when a serious data loss breach occurs?

The answer to these questions should not lie in the hands of decision makers as it ultimately affects how instructional designers can effectively do their work in collaboration with SMBs.

SME: Evolution or Revolution?

The answer to the above question depends on two ideas that business organizations need to consider:

  1. In considering the future role of SMEs, the importance of the nature of “best practices” becomes important. Are SMB best practices set or flexible enough to adapt to the changing realities and business needs brought about by the aforementioned “perfect storm” with the aggravation of that storm by the global pandemic? It’s interesting how powerful the best practice statements are for looking to the future of a company.
  2. Because of the complex relationship that SMEs will have with instructional designers within an organization, how such a service handles change is at the heart of the future of the SME and the organization.

The following recent Birchwood Learning YouTube video titled “Working with Subject Experts” (below) shows some interesting premises and assumptions about the future of the role of SMEs. Pay special attention to the detailed roles and best practices.

It is comforting that, based on this video, SMBs are realizing that due to the interdisciplinary nature of our growing pools of knowledge, an SMB cannot perform all of the functions to provide what future instruction designers need. The question that arises is: will the roles and best practices of SMEs change through an “evolution” process of change or will “revolution” be required due to the changes brought about by the “perfect storm” and COVID-19?

The answer to this question must depend on whether SMEs are aware of the changes brought about by a revolution in technology and learning science that provides an accurate picture of the way employees learn in the 21st century. Do SMEs plan to allow their roles and best practices to evolve to meet new demands, or is a real revolution needed to overcome so-called organizational inertia that says “Despite the tsunami of change around us? are we going to stay the course hoping for the best? “

Check out the findings in the following Knowledge Fruit YouTube video, titled “What Role Will Subjects Have in the Future?” (below).

A necessary paradigm shift: global SME networks and AI mentoring assistants

One of the things that SMEs need to realize is that they are no longer a source of information in their own area of ​​expertise. and because it is no longer just mortals to keep up with the exponential growth of cross-disciplinary information, a revision is needed. The way information is compiled and channeled related to the growing needs of instructional designers needs to change. This means that their reach in the areas of knowledge must be global in nature, but must benefit from advances in technology.

This means taking advantage of online networks that combine the know-how of SMEs with their databases in a symbiotic relationship. This means developing a global portal that will act as a hub. It means using AI and big data to not only predict the needs of instructional designers, but also to automate and support the processes that play a role in the relationship between instructional designers and a global network of SMEs. For example, AI could be used to set up a mentoring system that supports instructional designers in corporate organizations. The training program of the past needs to change to reflect the reality that learning in the 21st century and in a post-pandemic world really needs to be lifelong, especially in the life of the business organization.

In 2016, I proposed a vision of what this might look like, but at that point the technology for AI, big data, and predictive analytics wasn’t there. In this vision, the heart was represented through a global eLearning portal or hub, as shown below.

In times of global pandemic where more and more business must be done online, the way we shape employee learning and qualification must reflect this new reality in order for business organizations to grow, market share to grow on a global scale, and you see how employee performance generates a higher ROI than ever before. The relationship between SMEs and instructional designers is key.

Evolution or revolution? More on this in the next article …

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