Learning and Development (technology) trends: aNewSpring- EAPRIL Fishbowl – Leuven 14/03/2019


Last week we had our kick-off of the very first EAPRIL fishbowl in Leuven. An exciting new format for EAPRIL, and for many of the Flemish L&D professionals participating. The fishbowl was held in Dutch because that is the natural language of the L&D professionals (“the fish”) coming together to discuss relevant L&D learning technology trends (“the intellectual food”). In a fishbowl it is very important to discuss and communicate in a natural way. Hence, no other option than Dutch in Leuven! Yet, because EAPRIL has a broader European audience, I report about the highlights of the fishbowl in English.

What is exiting about the Fishbowl format?

Ger Driesen, from aNewSpring, was the moderator and has quite some expertise in organizing fishbowls. A fishbowl is a roundtable, both metaphorically and as set-up, where a panel and audience interact and discuss for at most 2 hours. Unlike a traditional panel discussion, the audience is not separated from the panel and is almost immediately involved in the discussion. The panel members, in this case, Professor dr. Piet Van den Bossche (Universiteit Antwerpen), Jan Van Eycken (Cevora), Patrick Belpaire (Independent Business Coach), and Kristin Aerts (TinQwise) act as conversation starters. Their ideas are picked up by the audience, who get the floor to respond. Ger Driesen skillfully made sure that dissident voice and doubt got enough exposure. (See the Frame for a brief chronology of the discussion)

As this rich discussion unfolds, with many different perceptions and views, it no longer matters who said what. And that is just right because what is valuable to you is not necessarily valuable to someone else. Ideas have different meaning to others. In the end, everybody has different takeaways from the discussion. This was mine:

What did we learn from the Fishbowl on the topic of Learning and Development trends?

The paradox is that we did not focus on learning technology trends because in an era where we shift from life-time employment to lifelong learning, it is more important to take the time to think about our learning path for the future. There needs to be both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations at place to keep on learning and developing the individual competencies to secure a future job—person fit. Hence, it is a shared responsibility of the individual, its employer and society. To illustrate this, I end this blog with (only) one quote from the fishbowl. Kristin Aerts clearly pointed out that learning and working needs to become more at a level playing field, as we for instance see in successful dual learning trajectories in Germany.

We ended with some very nice finger food. This reminds me to again thank the EAPRIL office for the practical organization, our sponsor Bedrijfsopleidingen BVBA and of course the dedicated team of aNewSpring. This is a very nice example of what EAPRIL would like to stand for: bridging world between practice and research on (organizational) learning.


written by Tom De Schryver, EAPRIL board member & Associate Professor at the Dutch Ministry of Defense- NLDA

Frame: A non- live-stream of the fish bowl communication

·       Ger Driesen introduced the inconsistencies between the global L&D sentiment survey of Donald Taylor and the Towards maturity heatmap on learning technology trends.

·       The panel almost immediately shifted the attention to the end user of technology  at the expense of the technology.

·       We discussed the effects of the Flemish culture, its effects on the educational system, the business culture in many large Flemish organizations on the willingness of Flemish employees to further develop themselves. There seem to be different institutional, technological, and cognitive barriers to learn and to facilitate learning.

·       Facilitating learning in a business or professional context is multifaceted, especially in large organizations where there is a constant need to balance between and connect to between the different (latent) learning needs of both the organization and its employees. L&D has the challenging task to not lose sight of the workplace neither the strategic component of learning; and to offer learning opportunities for both immediate and future learning needs.

·       We then discussed how learning is different in Flemish SMEs. Learning and working does not seem to be that disconnected as in larger organizations because learning by means of exploring and hard work are often combined. Yet the risk of too much specialization resulting in obsolete knowledge and fatigue is largely present. Also at the branch or community level of SMEs and professionals, there might be more need to exchange ideas with peers. It is unclear how to organize that.

·       Instead of identifying technology trends, open questions and  clear challenges to organize learning for the future remain. It is a shared responsibility: both at the governmental, organizational and personal level, we need to better acknowledge, express and facilitate the learning needs of  our dedicated and well trained workforce to remain meaningful in our global and dynamic society.