Good business

Marc Zao-Sanders Sep 28, 2018

Degreed acquired Pathgather this week. Two of the market leading learning experience platforms (LXPs), making it a big deal in our industry. Congratulations to both teams. We know and like them both. I suspect that this new, larger, combined entity will positively and substantively change how corporate learning happens around the world. As Josh Bersin said in his write-up of this deal, the LXP market is big already ($250m) and growing fast. It will soon be a multi-billion dollar industry in its own right.

In the last couple of days we’ve been asked what the Degreed-Pathgather deal means for Filtered. I think the implication has been that this might be a problem. It’s not a problem! Here’s why.

Business culture has evolved. Of course, not everything’s better about business today. But relative to the 80s, concepts like sustainability, flexibility, informality, authenticity, equality, diversity, respect, consideration, collaboration, technology, humanity, are more prominent in our collective business consciousness.

It’s hard to notice small, iterative, incremental changes, so we rarely notice or celebrate positive change. But we’ve moved things on a lot, and for the better. Part of this, for me, is seeing other businesses - competitors - as adversaries. You can choose to see a person who works at a company that competes with yours as a rival. Or you can choose to see that same person in a different light, as someone with a shared interest and expertise, a business partner, a friend, a future colleague, mentor, and a human being with their own worries, fighting their own battles, just like you. And this is how we choose to see Degreed-Pathgather.

An example of this is talking helpfully and positively about other players in your market. It’s a good thing to do because it forces you to be aware of what others are doing. This is very healthy in preparing you to describe nuances to clients. It enables you to evolve your product, sometimes towards, sometimes away from the others. It enables you to educate the market more efficiently, empowering buyers to make the right decision for them. Sometimes that will be you, sometimes it won’t be. In an era of ubiquitous, infinite information, it’s not just futile, it’s ridiculous to not talk to clients about their other options.

 

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And today’s more informed buyer is also more sophisticated; they just won’t believe that your company has the best features, cheapest price, most exciting roadmap and most attentive customer success team. They think the world is a little more complex than that.

Let me illustrate this with a whistle-stop tour of the LXP world and a little beyond. Apologies in advance for any inaccuracies in what follows; I’m still (and forever) learning the market.

Degreed are about unifying assets, libraries, LMSs in a single, consumer-grade learning experience. They also provide ways to recognise (and thereby incentivise) learning successes and achievements. One thing I particularly like about Degreed, which is unusual in L&D, is that they have a free consumer product. Pathgather is similar (as the joint press release said, they have an almost identical mission to Degreed), the team is outstanding and they have crafted one of the best LXPs we’ve seen..

Fuse Universal (who are round the corner from us in London and who we know very well) are not dissimilar. But for Fuse there’s more of a focus on enabling users to create and share learning themselves, spread best-practice, ‘bottle greatness’ as their heroic CEO describes it. Fuse is also increasingly a place where work can happen. This ties to the theme of bringing work and learning together (see Charles Jennings & 702010 and also Josh Bersin’s Learning in the Flow of Work). This is a huge theme for corporate learning; making it viscerally relevant to work.

Anders Pink provides a beautifully simple, auto-curation tool which can keep a workforce abreast of the articles, podcasts, stories from the web interesting to them: personalized, automated and about as turn-key as you can get. It also integrates into many other systems and you can try it in seconds.

Axonify emphasises micro-learning and brain science to bring gamified, incentivised learning experiences. There are others too of course, many excellent, I’m sure.

There’s also Google. Some of you may have used this web-based tool before. I mention Google to prompt the L&D industry to look outside too. As providers sketch out their product roadmaps or buyers brainstorm their feature wishlist, consider the learner, consider the person you’re making/buying this stuff for: they are already a Googler, a YouTuber, a Wikipediac. So the product you make or buy needs to add value beyond that. That is a very tall order, given all the content, data, algorithms and optimised UX those platforms provide.

Finally, Filtered. We do intelligent learning recommendations. A stack of (patented) algorithms and chatbot UX collectively define our personalized learning experience, which we call magpie. magpie looks up assets from any content libraries, material you’ve created yourself as well as those available online, and matches the most relevant to individual users. Like Twitter, YouTube, TripAdvisor, Amazon. But for learning materials.

What happens next?

The L&D industry is going through a period of especially intense change. Everyone says that. LMSs will continue to be a big player, supported mostly by the need to administer regulatory demands (compliance). It will get buried further under layers of corporate software and systems but called up and relied on to get mandated work done, logged etc.

LXPs will continue to grow very quickly. The Degreed-Pathgather deal shines a spotlight on the sub-sector which is good for those that operate in and around it. For learners that want a positive learning environment, where good learning outcomes happen, this is the ticket (like Bersin says, what the LMS was supposed to be).

For learners who would prefer that work and learning come together, there will be some of the more work-oriented LXPs and also Slack, Teams, Google Docs, etc, as they incorporate more learning apps, extensions, add-ons) and perhaps the melded learning-work theme becomes its own category (another Josh Bersin prediction).

Another development - closer to our vision - is that learning is propagated even more widely: beyond learning, beyond work, to the whole of life. Recommendations are portable. So they can go, in the inbox, in the feed and via alerts/reminders/notifications on the world’s 1bn smartphones. That’s our philosophy.

These predictions may be wrong. But what’s clear is that there are many ways of doing similar things. Many good ways. Let’s find out about them, celebrate them, and get people using the tools that will serve them and their companies best.

Back to Degreed and Pathgather: congratulations guys!

About Marc Zao-Sanders
Marc started his career in strategy. He then applied the skills learnt there to a number of small businesses. Over the course of this period he began to realise the shortage of basic business skills in the workplace and wanted to do something about it. And so the idea of Filtered was born. Marc is a co-Founder and the CEO.
Read more by Marc Zao-Sanders

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