Novel technologies come and go, but the business landscape is constantly governed by which organisations can adapt to disruptions faster than others. Trying to predict how technology will impact your organisation, is like reacting to yesterday’s news today. Therefore, organisations often never know what is coming and the ones that survive simply adjust to change faster.
There are no organisations that seem to adapt to change as fast as startups. It is for this reason why startups have been able to disrupt industries and overtake larger incumbents with fewer resources.
Why should this matter to L&D departments?
Well, we can draw some parallels between the structure and resources a startup and an L&D department have.
Startups are generally small, under-resourced and begin by serving early adopters. Although this may seem counter-intuitive, many entrepreneurs consider the lack of resources and being few in an organisation to be some of the significant strengths startups possess. Limited resources force startups to prioritise. Ensuring they continuously develop fast and cheap experiments to test their hypothesis. Small teams also allow startups to have more rapid decision making and take action accordingly.
Understanding your market
I'm guessing some of you might be asking yourself two questions.
- What are early adopters?
- Why is it important to start with early adopters?
The early adopter
Well, successful startups are aware that not everyone will like their products or services on day one. They also know their solution will improve over time, as they learn more about their market. Therefore, they focus their attention on a small group of people who are already in need of their solution. These people are known as early adopters. Early adopters are generally motivated to try new things and have probably tried to look for similar solutions already.
The importance of early adopters
Early adopters are generally not concerned with a perfect solution immediately. Therefore, they are willing to try out new things, as long as you are transparent with them. Having an incentive to see the solution improve, they will continuously provide you with feedback. This first step of working with early adopters is to test and enhance your offering with low risk. As early adopters become satisfied with your offering they begin telling their friends about your solution. This is when you are ready to scale to more people (post early adopters).
Often, companies make the mistake of offering their first solution to post early adopters. At this stage, the product or service is still in its infancy. The issue of working prematurely with post early adopters are their challenging to please. Instead of providing you with user feedback; they stop using your solution altogether. Without feedback, your offering never improves, and all you have is a large group of unsatisfied people.
Finding your early adopters in L&D
While L&D departments don't sell products or deliver services like startups, we are in the business of providing learning (service) to employees (customers) in our organisation.
Your organisation is riddled with early adopters. These early adopters are employees who want to learn and develop themselves professionally. Some of those employees may already be looking for ways to up-skill themselves on their own time. Towards Maturity conducted a study on 2,084 individuals, who have invested their own time and resources in online learning. They found that 88% knew what knowledge they need, but only 42% agreed that their company provides relevant online education for their job.
In your organisation, these early adopters could be newly appointed managers. It is often stressful for employees to go from taking care of themselves to a whole team. The expectations of them could increase overnight. Some managers may already be Googling content on how to succeed in their role, not knowing where to start. Leveraging these people will allow you to test new solutions faster and with lower risk. Start by making this group of people happy. Then get ready to hear from other employees asking for the support you offered their colleagues.
If you interested in getting started with fast and cheap experiments, check out this article. We share an experiment we conducted on improving manager involvement after training.