For almost a decade, trend curator and Wall Street Journal best-selling author, Rohit Bhargava, has published a list of the top “non-obvious” trends that he believes will shape the business world in the year to come. And just last week, the ninth edition in the annual book series, Non-Obvious: How to Predict Trends and Win the Future was released featuring 15 all-new trends, many of which have clear implications for leaders in the business of lifelong learning.
In this episode of the Leading Learning podcast, Celisa talks with three-time guest Rohit Bhargava about a few of the trends from Non-Obvious 2019—innovation envy, passive loyalty, and artificial influence—as well as the evolving role of curation.
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Read the Show Notes
00:18 – A preview of what will be covered in this episode where Celisa interviews three-time guest Rohit Bhargava, best-selling author, keynote speaker, and trend curator. See his previous interviews, Non-Obvious Learning and Curiosity and Curation.
[02:04] – Introduction to Rohit.
[03:09] – For the past eight years you’ve published an annual list of 15 trends that you believe will shape the business world in the year to come. The latest incarnation of that work, Non-Obvious: How to Predict Trends and Win the Future, was released officially on January 1, 2019. So you’ve been curating for a long time. Have you seen people’s desire for curation grow—are they more interested in using curation to find what’s meaningful and valuable and reliable amidst the increasing noise? And if you do, what are the signs of this growing hunger? Rohit says there has been a growth in interest but that it’s always been something we’ve done to some degree. What’s different and has grown over the last eight years is the willingness to describe it in this way. Back then, if you said “curation” people would think of a museum/art, but now there’s a growing sense that curating is a technique and a skill that increasingly we all need because of so much stuff that’s coming at us.
[04:45] – So let’s dig into a few of the 15 trends you address in the 2019 version of Non Obvious. One of the trends I was particularly interested in is what you call “innovation envy”. Can you give us the short version of what that is? Rohit shares that when he was talking to other companies about how they were looking at innovation, a pattern he noticed was they were looking at someone else and feeling like they needed to keep up with whatever they were doing. So innovation envy is a way to describe this mentality of trying to do something just because someone else it doing it, which Rohit says is perfectly encompassed with workplace culture. For example, people were looking at Google and seeing they had Segways, beanbag chairs, Ping-Pong tables, etc. and all of sudden, other companies were trying to do something similar and create “innovation labs”. But the problem is, their solution to being innovative was to hire a couple people to lead innovation but Rohit points out, that just doesn’t work.
[06:40] – We often see a lot of chasing of innovation in the learning space, such as with microlearning, digital badges, VR, gamification, etc. What suggestions might you have for how organizations can kind of dodge the dangers of innovation envy when they’re actually trying to innovate (rather than just change)? Rohit suggests you that you look at what you’re actual intent is. If you think about innovation as a broad idea, he says there are lots of reasons for it. But just saying you want to be more innovative without actually knowing what the reason for it is, is the biggest mistake. So the correction to that is to figure out what the reason for innovation is and then, instead of chasing it as a vague idea, put something in place that helps you achieve what you actually need.
Sponsor: Blue Sky eLearn
[08:45] – And if you’re clear on the ends for your learning business and looking for a means to get there, check out Blue Sky eLearn, one of our sponsors for this episode. Blue Sky eLearn is the creator of the Path Learning Management System, an award-winning cloud-based learning solution that allows organizations to easily deliver, track, and monetize valuable education and event content online. Blue Sky also provides webinar and webcast services, helping you maximize your content and create deeper engagement with your audience across the world.
[09:34] – Another trend you highlight in the 2019 version of Non Obvious is “passive loyalty”. Can you talk about how active loyalty differs from passive loyalty? Rohit explains that passive loyalty is widespread and it describes the situation where you assume someone is loyal just because they’re a repeat purchaser/longtime customer. The problem is that person is often loyal only because of something like convenience, price, or laziness but they don’t actually care. Active loyalty, on the other hand, is when you actually care and would go out of your way for it. So to address this, you first need to figure out which of your customers are actively loyal and which are passively loyal.
[11:27] – Celisa notes that among learning businesses, there’s often an over emphasis on things like convenience, cost, or credit so there’s the potential for those to get, at best, passive loyalty from learners and customers. If we really want to get to active loyalty, it may actually involve challenging learners because sometimes effort is what’s required for learning to really hit home.
[12:48] – The other trend I wanted to ask you about is “artificial influence”. Will you give an overview of that trend and what you see as the challenges and opportunities for it—and maybe particularly in the realm of lifelong learning? Rohit shares that artificial influence refers to how people are influenced by things that essentially aren’t real and are made up. The application around learning is deciding who the authoritative source is and what information to trust. He admits one of the biggest challenges around this is that it’s really hard to tell, particularly with the rise of deepfakes, videos that make it very difficult to determine if they are real or not. So this is something we really need to teach ourselves – and our children – to be aware of.
[16:38] – With the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), do you think that the human role in curation will change? Is it possible that the human role in curation will disappear? Rohit says it’s actually already changing and that it will have to continue to change. He thinks there are places where the human role will disappear, particularly in tasks that are better automated and highly repetitive. There is continuing to be a correction between the things we want to be automated and every situation that is increasingly being automated where we might want to deal with an actual person. In regards to curation, Rohit explains that it’s a very individual thing so someone else may be curating information you may not even be aware of.
Sponsor: Authentic Learning Labs
[19:34] – This discussion of artificial intelligence brings to mind the work of our sponsor for this quarter, Authentic Learning Labs, the other sponsor for this episode. Authentic Learning Labs is an education company seeking to bring complementary tech and services to empower publishers and L&D organizations to help elevate their programs. The company leverages technology like AI, Data Analytics, and advanced embeddable, API-based services to complement existing initiatives, offering capabilities that are typically out of reach for resource-stretched groups or growing programs needing to scale.
[20:23] – I noticed in the 2019 version of Non Obvious that you talk about your team at various points. How does trend curation and that haystack method that you talk about work in a communal setting? I’m thinking in particular about how an education team or department might be able to work together to curate collectively? Rohit discusses a couple of ways including sharing idea collections. He says there’s huge value in starting to collect ideas the way we collect frequent flyer miles so that you can “cash them in”. In his case, it’s to help identify trends but others may collect ideas to be used for brainstorming, planning, strategy, etc.
[22:17] – You don’t just talk about trends in an abstract way but you’re thinking about how to apply them—and you include ideas in your book for how to use each trend at the end of each chapter. Do you have a process for coming up with those types of suggestions? Or what suggestions do you have for how we might get to the application of these trends in our work/organizations/lives? Rohit says that this section of the book (application ideas at the end of each chapter) is the most collaborative. This is because once his team reads about the trend he identified they can start thinking about how they would use it. Sometimes they also preview some of the trends a little early and talk to actual companies about what they mean and how they’d use it.
[24:17] – What’s one of the most powerful learning experiences you’ve been involved in, as an adult, since finishing your formal education? Rohit shares the most powerful learning experiences for him are related to when he became a teacher/professor. This is because being a teacher forces you to relearn stuff you already know so you can teach it to others – and at a high level. He talks about how he took a speaking class while teaching a speaking course to make the point that you’re never good enough and can always get better.
[26:57] – How to connect with Rohit and/or learn more:
[27:39] – Wrap-Up
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[29:33] – Sign off