Press "Enter" to skip to content

AI? Will we be able to learn faster than machines?

I have recently had the pleasure of assisting a client in developing a digital learning path for their operations area. The learning path kicks off with an orientation session in which we deliver some hard messages about the future and how we can be ready to embrace this. Honestly, I don’t even know if I am fully ready for this.

Now we know that AI (Artificial Intelligence) is not going to be able to do everything as well as humans especially when it comes to complex decision making, however machines are becoming increasingly capable of learning and are set to transform our operation and production spaces.

According to James Hodson, over the next five to ten year period will see AI systems focused on “getting the right information to the right people at the right time. Building upon the business intelligence revolution of the past years, machine learning will turbocharge finding patterns and automate value extraction in many areas. Data will increasingly drive a real-time economy, where resources are marshaled more efficiently, and the production of goods and services becomes on-demand, with lower failure rates and much better predictability.” (Harvard Business Review: How to make your company Machine Learning ready, November 07, 2016,

My main take away after reading this article is that at this point we have no idea to what extent our world of work is going to change, nor do we know how quickly this will happen. In my view the only way we can stay ahead of machine learning, is to become “learning machines” ourselves. We have to be able to learn and unlearn – at a rate faster that what the machines will be able to.

Our ability to adapt at pace is what will determine our survival in this new world. We are living through and co-creating the 4th Industrial revolution and our ability to learn lies at the heart of this revolution. This revolution is about how we as a species will adapt. If you have not yet seen the World Economic Forum’s documentary on the 4th Industrial Revolution please do yourself a favor and watch it now. Here is the link:

Biologically adaptation is a natural learning process and we do it instinctively. The question I am now asking is if we can do this naturally on an individual basis how can we use our learning teams to mimic this natural human ability to learn at scale within our organisations?

We are already seeing the rise of the new breed of learner. We (and I am speaking from the vantage point of the X generation) are ourselves already transforming into this new breed of learner, we are supreme multitaskers (often to the point of adrenal fatigue). We are “always on” we expect feedback and service to be immediate, we want our learning to be on demand and just in time – everything we need to know needs to be one click away.

In the 2015 “Towards Maturity Annual Benchmarking” report we see that 76% of learners learn online in order to do their jobs faster and better, and 75% for personal development. However this seems to be a great balancing act as 63% lack the time for self-study. I see this as our biggest stumbling block especially when it comes to operational environments.

When we think about how to enable adaption through learning at scale within our organisations we need to consider that there will always be those that do not want to learn; they are comfortable with the status quo and nothing we do will shift them. I do not know what future lies ahead for them.

The two groups of learners we need to focus our efforts on are firstly the minority who just get it. They are the high flyers, they know what they need to do to stay ahead of the pack and find a way to do so regardless of barriers. These are our early adopters – they are creating their own future, leading the revolution. And secondly, the majority, that sit somewhere in the middle. We need to do three things to enable these two groups:

  • Firstly, we need drive a culture of learning,
  • Secondly, we need to focus on building core skills for the future – “Change fitness”, self-reflection and Collaboration,
  • Finally, we need to deliver this through crafting sexy accelerated learning paths driven by digital platforms that offer individualization, just in time and on demand learning.

If we do not have an organisational culture that supports and encourages learning we will never enable individuals with the time and space to learn; we will get left behind. If our people are not change fit, they will lack the resilience needed to survive in this hyper-paced world.

Personally, for me the third point above on using Accelerated Learning Methodology overlaid with a digital learning platform is the key enabler as an Accelerated Learning methodology is about adopting a systemic approach that speeds up and enhances both the design process and the learning process. It is effective because it assumes that we are natural learners and taps into this natural way of learning. Our potential as natural learners is unlocked through this Whole Brain; Whole Person; Whole system approach. This Methodology maximises the four Rs of learning – Repetition…Recall…Review…Reinforcement.

One small caveat here is that Repetition needs to be varied to promote deep learning with understanding. When you overlay this methodology with a digital learning platform learning becomes supercharged because by its nature digital learning reinforces our natural learning ability. It gives us as learners control over what we learn, how fast we learn, when and where we learn. In essence Digital Learning overlays the 4 Rs with the 4 Ps Preference…Pace…Place…Path; this unlocks our potential as natural learners because it encourages autonomy, curiosity, and self-paced learning, all characteristics or our new breed of learner.

Personally I think these three things are the winning combination; this is how we enable individuals within our organisations to become “learning machines.”

Share on...