Shouldn’t We Just Best Buy Corporate Learning

Best Buy, a renown electronics retailer perhaps better known for its khaki pants and blue shirt dress code, could be viewed analagously with that of an evolved corporate learning structure.

Imagine that you’re at one of their corporate stores. What do you see when you enter the store?

There she/he is, the greeter: “Hello sir, how are you today?”

As you pass the greeter in this vivid, brightly lit and humming environment there are a number of learning sherpas … the guides on the side not pestering you to buy something, rather, able and available when you require assistance. There are no commissions at Best Buy to make a sale. Employees are there, quite literally, to help you as necessary.

Sure, it’s a formal environment with walls, electricity and so on, but it is not a dogmatic, force-fed curriculum. Those learning sherpas do not prescribe the pedagogy. They guide your meandering requirements, your personal learning environment wishes, your own path on an as-needed basis.

In the corporate learning space, why can’t our formal learning requirements (and there will always be formal learning requirements) be more like the Best Buy store? Why can’t it be simple, open, flexible and built on user choice?

Now, picture yourself at an airport, scurrying down the powered walkways to make it on time to your gate. If you’re at Charles de Gaulle airport, start praying. Those walkways are debatable at best.

Peer to the right, against the wall. What do you see?

That’s right, it’s a Best Buy Express kiosk. It’s at this kiosk where you can purchase and thus pick up electronics at your convenience. Of course the selection is refined from that of the big blue shirt nation stores, but aren’t these bite-sized chunks made available in a convenient format for times when you need it most? For example, at an airport?

Why doesn’t the corporate learning sector think like this? Why can’t it introduce the concept of bite-sized learning chunks? Why can’t it grasp the notion that we all would like to learn at the speed of need? Couldn’t it introduce a concept like Best Buy Express kiosks (metaphorically of course) into the corporate learning space? Isn’t this a nice informal option?

Our last example, as you might suspect, has us venturing over to BestBuy.com.

It’s at this site where I can peruse the entire catalogue of Best Buy products, but I’m able to do so at my own pace, at my own interest level, and in whatever order I choose. Even more important is that I now can utilize knowledge and expertise from my colleagues (in this case, the Best Buy crowd) to gauge whether they like the product through comments and rankings.

Want more?

Through the magic of repeat shopping and business intelligence within BestBuy.com, you are provided with recommendations on products you might be interested to purchase. Bought that 80 inch SHARP TV last week? Sweet screen, but did you forget the HDMI cable to connect your Blu-Ray player to the fancy new monster TV that your neighbours are already complaining about? Don’t worry, the site will advise you on this important component. The next time you’re online at the site, it might recommend a new sound system to accompany your massive LED light factory where those same neighbours have now lodged a formal complaint at City Hall.

The site is an example of social learning. Thus, why aren’t more corporate learning functions taking charge of their own fate by employing this type of social learning strategy? It boggles my mind to be honest. There are too many goalies in the corporate learning space. There need to be more center forwards trying to score goals.

In summary, if you were to think about Best Buy and compare its physical stores, its kiosks and its website to the corporate learning function, you might agree with me. It’s time for everyone in the learning space to start wearing khaki pants and blue shirts and echo the formal, informal and social construct of Best Buy.

Perhaps it’s simply another way of looking at the Connected Learning model.



'Shouldn’t We Just Best Buy Corporate Learning' have 7 comments

  1. 05/14/2012 @ 5:41 AM J. Miguez

    I like the elements here as they reflect current moves towards self-directed, mobile and social (anyone can be a blue-shirted sherpa not just corp learning folks). I personally think that corporate learning should think about itself more as a service business (performance coach) rather than a product one defined by its learning solutions). Finally, I think the analogy fits well because corporate learning, like Best Buy is alreadyt headed towards going out of business unless it can figure out its value proposition.

  2. 05/14/2012 @ 5:44 PM chris saeger

    I get the point of your article and don’t disagree. Best Buy however is an odd analogy. The chain is failing and the small store format is not doing terribly well. One of the contributing factors is that the staff no longer receives the kind of learning preparation needed to be knowledgeable.
    http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-hiltzik-20120415,0,2390333,full.column

  3. 05/15/2012 @ 9:01 AM Mike Desjardins

    What’s missing from the kiosk and LMS’s is the tour guide. At Best Buy I’ve found the team members extremely knowledgable and helpful in guiding me to exactly what I want and pointing out other options to consider. It would be great to a have a virtual learning assistant (AI) who could recommend courses and learning based on what I’ve chosen so far (similar to the genius feature in iTunes), so that learners aren’t having to spent time searching on keywords or exploring through the menu of options. Or even better, one of those “Live Chat” operators you see on websites where someone is standing by to support me with my customized learning.

  4. 05/18/2012 @ 2:04 AM Catalina Lehadus

    This musing took me back to Sir Ken Robinson’s famous ‘Changing Educational Paradigms. Often (or most) times we are trying to apply the same faulty concepts when training in corporate environments as when teaching in scholarly environments. Firstly, learners’ interests are assumed and pre-defined based on a narrow ‘job categorization’ (in schools they use the ‘age’ criteria)as opposed to an all-encompassing curriculum derived, as you stated, from the organization’s formal and overarching goals. Secondly, we attach the ‘mandatory’ stamp which triggers an instinctive negative emotional reaction on the learners’ part; we are probably spending the best part of our instructional time trying to recover from that. And lastly, we feel righteous in doing so because unlike in public schools this is a privately funded learning pursuit. To sum it up, in essence, because it is not a relantionship of trust!

  5. 05/20/2012 @ 12:02 AM Mark Habibuw

    I’m very much interested in subjects you describe with regard to new ways of learning.

  6. 05/25/2012 @ 11:30 AM Danielle Tomlinson

    Remember Khalid’s idea for “BO TV” I think he was ahead of his time there! This reminds me of that concept of having different channels for different content…
    At Red Hat we are launching exam kiosks…going to put them in locations that are easy to access and at key partner locations!

  7. 05/30/2012 @ 12:01 PM Dan Pontefract

    @J. Miguez – performance coach, love it.

    @Chris – ya, fair point … it could have been any retailer that has a big box, kiosk and online presence.

    @Mike – it’s like we need a Siri for all things learning.

    @Mark – thanks for dropping by.

    @Catalina – ahhh, Sir Ken. Very good observation.

    @Danielle – we actually put together BOX (Business Objects Exchange) but we shelved it in late 2007 due to the SAP acquisition. Cool on ya with the Red Hat exam kiosks. Very innovative.


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Dan Pontefract | dp at danpontefract dot com