Life Sciences Learning Trends in Focus

Posted by Amanda Holm on Mar 3, 2015 11:15:00 AM

There’s no denying that changes in the world economy are having an effect on every industry. And the Life Sciences industry is feeling the effect like everybody else. As budgets for learning and development get battered from all sides, the savviest Life Sciences learning organizations have realized a simple truth: it isn’t about doing more with less, it’s about fundamentally rethinking the way learning and development gets done.

Stott & Mesch, 2015

PDG’s Ann Stott and Rich Mesch recently published an article in Focus Magazine, the journal of the Life Sciences Training & Educators Network. Titled Learning in Changing Times: 5 Trends in Life Sciences Learning, the article focuses on how changes in the Life Sciences industry are changing the requirements of an effective learning function. The learning trends covered include:

  1. Rethinking Product LaunchesFocus_Magazine_Cover_small

  2. A Return to Shared Services

  3. Demand Planning and Flexible Learning Resources

  4. Building Long-Term Sales Team Success

  5. Increased Focus on Informal Learning

Click here to read the article for free online. For more insight into the changing world of Life Sciences learning, read Ann Stott’s series on The Changing Face of Life Science Product Launch:

The Changing Face of Life Science Product Launch

The Changing Face of Life Science Product Launch, Part 2: The Launch Toolkit

The Changing Face of Life Science Product Launch, Part 3: The Role of the Learning Team




Ann Stott is the Vice President, Global Accounts at Performance Development Group. She leads the life sciences practices, focusing on pharmaceuticals, health care, biotechnology, and medical devices. Her extensive consulting experience is used to grow the PDG advisory services capabilities. Ann is an accomplished, respected, and energetic leader with more than twenty years of experience in the corporate training environment.



Rich Mesch


Rich Mesch is Vice President, Customer Engagement at Performance Development Group. A frequent contributor to industry events and publications, his most recent article was Taming the Learning Demand Curve: Using Supply Chain Methods to Manage Your Learning Function for Training Industry's online magazine.




Taming the Learning Demand Curve, 4 Smart Steps to Lower Cost and Higher Quality in Corporate Learning

Topics: Business Issues in Learning, Organizational Change, Informal Learning, Sales Training, Workforce Development, Flexible Resource Management, Product Launch, Life Sciences

Leveraging Informal Learning: Four Lessons I Learned from Social Media

Posted by Jamie Rondeau on Sep 18, 2014 8:58:00 AM

I am a big fan of blogs, but not just the ones we typically read for business purposes. The ones I find most appealing are the “mommy blogs”— especially the ones who do interior decorating or crafts or offer recipes on a regular basis. One of the things I find most appealing about these authors is that they make regular time to share their daily work with others in order to document, inspire, and collaborate with others. That’s pretty much what we’re doing in Talent Development isn’t it? We call it Informal Learning, but the attributes are pretty much the same:

  1. Start with the best recipes, then add your own ingredients

Whether it’s dinner plans or an onboarding approach for your new hire sales associates, “recipes” help. Of course, modifications are often necessary, but why start from scratch when there are proven approaches that can jumpstart your success? 

  1. We’ve been “doing more with less” for as long as I can rememberWoman2Laptop103577515

When I see bloggers that recycle components I would normally throw away into useful and beautiful items, I’m inspired. I’ve been in this business for 20+ years and I’ve never seen a time when budgets weren’t tight.  There never seems to be enough money, people, or time to get it all done. That’s where strategy and planning come into play. An investment up front, with a clear cut plan and deliberate goals and objectives, help bring clarity into view and resources easier to allocate and manage. Too many learning executives simply let content drive the build. That’s a big (and expensive) mistake made regularly by learning people everywhere. 

  1. Someone always needs tending and attention

If Social Media has taught us anything, it’s the value of sharing ideas. It’s often difficult for learning professionals to carve out “me” time to do the deep thinking required of the job. The result is lack of a clear learning strategy that demonstrates connectedness to the goals of the business. If you can’t see it, trust me, no one else can either. Negotiate with colleagues if you need to trade responsibilities to buy some solitude later. This planning is crucial to your learning plan’s success.

  1. You can easily get into a rut; inspiration from others in similar situations is useful, encouraging and enlightening.

It’s amazing what a little benchmarking can do. Whether it’s seeing how someone else set up their family’s coffee cart, or learning about how another company addressed their global learning challenge, inspiration comes from connecting with others.  Do you make time to belong to a community of practice within your own organization and in the learning community? Why not start one yourself?

There is a real balance between the science and art of talent development.  For me, connecting with others allows a view into the application of the science as well as the fine details of the art, and a great opportunity for Informal Learning. Whether it’s Daniel Pink’s blog, or Meg Duerksen’s, I find it this sharing to be rewarding, reaffirming and a great way to refresh and renew on a regular basis. 



Jamie Rondeau is an Account Director and Principal Consultant
at Performance Development Group


Topics: Informal Learning

Tips for Great Performance Support

Posted by Rich Mesch on Nov 18, 2013 4:48:00 PM

Like everything in training & performance, Performance Support is a technique, not the oTips for great performance supportne answer to all of our problems. After all, nobody wants their doctor checking Google on their iPad during surgery to determine where the liver is located. Performance Support works best when there is a base level of knowledge present, but there is knowledge necessary that:

  • Is hard to remember
  • Changes so rapidly that remembering it isn’t valuable
  • Is used infrequently, so it doesn’t stay in long-term memory
  • Is complex enough that frequent reminding is necessary

Conrad Gottfredson identified the Five Moments of Learning Need:

  1. When people are learning how to do something for the first time (New);
  2. When people are expanding the breadth and depth of what they have learned (More);
  3. When they need to act upon what they have learned, which includes planning what they will do, remembering what they may have forgotten, or adapting their performance to a unique situation (Apply);
  4. When problems arise, or things break or don’t work the way they were intended (Solve); and,
  5. When people need to learn a new way of doing something, which requires them to change skills that are deeply ingrained in their performance practices (Change).

(Gottfredson & Mosher, 2012)

Of these, the need for Performance Support fits well into the following categories:

  • Trying to Remember: This is the most typical use of Performance Support, when people need reminders to get work done. Probably the clearest example is the Help feature on most software. It’s rare that you can memorize all the features of a software system, so the Help system provides reminders.
  • Things Change and Problems Arise: These categories can be similar in that they both change the landscape of performance. Things that weren’t important previously may become very important. Even though those behaviors may have been learned, they weren’t prioritized. Performance Support can put that information back at your fingertips.

Good performance support is:

  • Contextualized, so I receive it when I need it and can apply it immediately.
  • Targeted, so I don’t have to read a lot of text or watch a long video to get the nugget of information I need
  • Behavioral; I need to take action, so I need to know what to DO. Performance Support should give me the information I need to make a decision.

In an article I wrote for Performance Solutions magazine, I mentioned the following tips for performance support:

  • Just the facts. Performance support isn’t about teaching people everything there is to know; it’s about giving them just the information they need, as close to the point of need as possible. Keep it brief and to the point. Think about it like a Google search; ever get frustrated when searching in Google and getting hundreds of irrelevant hits? If you want to know who won the Best Picture Oscar in 2012, do you want a link to the history of the Oscars, or just the title you’re looking for?
  • Create “experts in a bottle.” Performance support is a great way to create virtual mentoring. Reach out to the experts and great thinkers in your organization and get their tips and ideas. Incorporate these ideas into your performance support, and suddenly your best people are mentoring everybody in the organization.
  • Focus on the point of need. Great performance support provides help to people when they need it most. So analyze where people typically have problems, get confused, or forget complicated instructions, and create tools to address those needs.

Rich Mesch



Rich Mesch is Senior Director, Customer Engagement at Performance Development Group.

Topics: Performance Improvement, Informal Learning

Mobile Learning is SO 10 Minutes Ago…

Posted by Rich Mesch on Jun 7, 2011 3:41:00 AM

by Rich Mesch

describe the imageImagine going out and buying a shiny new sports car. Now imagine hitching up a horse to it, and having the horse drag your car to work every day.

Sound crazy? Sure it does. So why are people still using mobile devices to deliver e-learning courses?

Years ago, Nicholas Negroponte insisted that in the not-too-distant future, we would all be wearing our computers. He was envisioning complex eyepieces and finger sensors with wires running up your sleeves. He had the right idea but the wrong form factor; he didn’t foresee that we’d be carrying our computers in our pockets and calling them “phones.”

Mobile learning is on everybody’s to-do list, and why not? Who wouldn’t want learning that could follow an employee no matter where she went? But like so many emerging technologies, we need to look past the gloss of the possible to the reality of the useful. Today’s smart phones have nearly as many capabilities as our desktop computers, but that doesn’t mean we use them the same way. And when we try to deliver learning to a mobile device the same way we deliver it to a desktop computer, we miss the point of having a mobile device to begin with.

When it became clear mobile learning was a reality, the first thing many organizations did was look at “re-chunking” their current content. If something made sense as a 30-minute e-learning program, they reasoned, it could be broken down cleanly into, say, 5 bite-sized e-learning programs for a mobile device. There’s a bit of tortured logic going on there; if something is brief and bite-sized, people will be happy to use it on their phones. And while there’s some truth to that, it misses the point. Mobile applications aren’t just about brevity, they’re about applicability. People “learn” from their mobile devices all the time, they just don’t call it training. Whether they’re pulling sports scores, GPS-ing the next leg of their trip, or sending some quick texts, people use their mobile devices to gain knowledge. So as learning professionals, why would we think they should get little e-learning courses? Why not leverage the methods they’re already using?

The re-chunking people weren’t really wrong, they just sort of missed the point. Rather than creating mini-courses for mobile devices, we need to design learning for each venue in a method that fits it best. People tend to use mobile devices:

  • In short intense bursts
  • When they need information right away
  • In down-time, such as between appointments
  • To retrieve information that may not be at their fingertips, or
  • To get information that may be so current or time-sensitive, there’s no other way to get it other than right now

So when we look at how our audience performs, we need to ask not what can we teach people on a mobile device, but rather how can we use mobile devices to provide information to help them perform better.

Topics: Emerging Technologies, Performance Improvement, Mobile Performance, Innovation Strategy, Informal Learning

Engaging Learners Real Time with Social Media

Posted by Reni Gorman on May 5, 2010 4:43:00 AM

by Reni Gorman

A Great Non-Learning Example

A colleague of mine sent me this video depicting a pianist incorporating social media into his songs on the fly—yes on the fly! You have got to see this video—it is incredible, and it really made me think about social media and teaching/learning (Warning: video contains some mature content). My first reaction was: Wouldn’t it be great if you could do this for an online course, and I had to catch myself; because this, in fact, is how synchronous online courses should be taught and why couldn’t they be? And, more importantly why am I, a learning professional, thinking of this approach as so utopic?

Do We All Think of Synchronous Online Learning as Dull?

My mental model of synchronous learning is not nearly this engaging, and now that I am realizing this, it really saddens me because it should not be that hard. Great instructors have been engaging learners for centuries. I am sure we can all think back on our experiences and remember teachers who stood out. But, let’s be honest: most of them just sort of blend together. This problem was made even worse with online learning; I have seen good instructors become bad instructors online. I personally remember giving a presentation on the authoring and use of learning objects that was well received in the classroom, with lots of brainstorming and dialog; but online, it went totally flat. So what can we do?

A Great Learning Example

I recently saw an eLearning Guild online learning presentation on virtual worlds with Dr. Karl Kapp. The format of the presentation had a bar on the left where participants can chat during the presentation—not uncommon. During the presentation, Dr. Kapp used all the techniques great designers/instructors do: he asked questions, ran polls, had the audience give him their current understanding/frame of mind in the topic so he could build upon it, threw out ideas/concepts to think about and paused to make sure people had time to respond. All was going well enough, but then, he did something that made the whole group come to life: he started reading the chat stream and joining the conversation. He would say things like: “Yes, I agree, Susan just said XYZ, and I think…” The more he did that, the more the group came to life. Suddenly, instead of the chat being a side conversation, it became part of the course.

Another Great Non-Learning Example

I read a recent article on regarding using Twitter to your advantage during a presentation/conference. One suggestion was to take breaks to read the Twitter stream and respond, the same way Dr Kapp did in the online course. Of course, it makes it easier when the Twitter stream is projected in front of the speaker and class because then the presenter can engage the audience without taking a break. Most interesting is that this approach works online and in person.

Lesson Learned: How Can We Make It Easy to Engage Learners?

I think we can see the trend here: learners don’t engage when we, as instructors or designers want them to. They engage how they want to and when they want to. They don’t jump up to answer the questions we pose or the polls we post, but they sure do love having their own “behind the scenes” conversations in chat rooms and on Twitter. Before social media, learners could not do this because most won’t have a side conversation in the classroom or online if it disrupts the instructor. But they can do so in chats and on Twitter without bothering the instructor/speaker at all. So, let’s take advantage of that. We need to join THEIR conversation, rather than trying to make them join ours—a good idea for online as well as in person.

Topics: Emerging Technologies, Learning Theory, Informal Learning, Social Media

Creating Informal Learning Opportunities for Business Professionals, Part 1

Posted by Reni Gorman on Nov 13, 2009 11:53:00 AM

pda lady

Peter Henschel, former director of the Institute for Research on Learning (IRL), said: “People are learning all the time, in varied settings and often most effectively in the context of work itself. ‘Training’—formal learning of all kinds—channels some important learning but doesn't carry the heaviest load. The workhorse of the knowledge economy has been, and continues to be, informal learning.”

The Institute for Research on Learning found that 80% of learning in organizations takes place informally and only 20% takes place formally. Yet, corporations spend 80% of their training budget on formal training and only 20% on informal. Deepak (Dick) Sethi, the CEO of Organic Leadership, said: “Informal learning is effective because it is personal, just-in-time, customized, and the learner is motivated and open to receiving it. It also has greater credibility and relevance.” However, in my experience of nearly 20 years in corporate learning and development, I have observed that implementing informal, just-in-time learning continues to be a challenge in many organizations.

Jay Cross, author of Informal Learning (2007) said: “If your organization is not addressing informal learning, it’s leaving a tremendous amount of learning to chance. Is that okay? Not any longer. This is a knowledge economy.” Social media tools like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are some examples of great tools organizations can begin to use to foster informal learning for people who work inside corporations that also offer formal types of learning interventions.

So, how do you create informal learning opportunities? Stay tuned, that's what I'll be talking about in Part 2!

Topics: Emerging Technologies, Series, Performance Improvement, Informal Learning, Social Media

Conversations with Clark

Posted by Rich Mesch on Oct 21, 2009 5:19:00 AM



by Rich Mesch

I’m blessed to know some of the smartest people in this industry. My friend Clark Aldrich pinged me today to take a look at the new post on his fantastic blog, Clark Aldrich On Simulations and Serious Games. I’m glad he did, because it’s a good, provocative read. Take a look, here:

Clark suggested that “I am sure my newest entry will offend just about everyone!!”
With Clark's permission, I wanted to share my response to him. I think some of what Clark is writing about is going to define the future of organizational learning. Here’s what I had to say:
Well, THAT made me go and read it!
If it offends people, I think that’s only the nature of speaking truth to power. I think I may benefit from not coming from a formal training background (but having worked with formal training people most of my life), but pretty much everything you said rings true to me. The inherent problems are that:

  1. T&D Departments sometimes exist to perpetuate themselves, not to improve performance in organizations (there, that should offend someone)
  2. Techniques are lagging indicators, not leading indicators. T&D, on average, does what worked ten years ago, not what works today.
  3. Culturally, we have to break out of the notion that learning is something that is done to you, or something you do to achieve an external goal, as opposed to something that helps you live your life.
  4. Most of all, training designers are NOT supposed to be meeting their personal goals, they’re supposed to be meeting the needs of their audience.

You’re just speaking truth. The great schism of learning is going to be the formalists versus the informalists. You and I have been in this game long enough to see that the stuff that people really retain, really apply, really use rarely comes in the form of formal curriculum. And while we were having this discussion, the five billionth person on earth logged onto the internet and learned something informally. He didn’t need the permission of the Formal Learning Cabal. He doesn’t even know it exists. So humans are going to behave this way whether we like it or not. The only question is, who’s going to be smart enough to recognize that?
Okay, we're back in real time here. I thought about editing some of that, but I decided to leave it as is. The one thing I didn't say was: what's really going to work is going to be a mix of the formal and the informal. The challenge of knowledge transfer and knowledge application won't go away. But right now, we do too much as transfer, and not nearly enough as application.

However, I encourage you to disagree with me-- that's what the comments section below is for!

Topics: Emerging Technologies, Performance Improvement, Informal Learning