With the end of the year quickly approaching, it’s a natural time to pause and reflect. Even though it can be easy to put reflection low on the priority list since it doesn’t necessarily lead to concrete outcomes, it’s an important practice and can have tremendous value for learning businesses.
In this episode of the Leading Learning Podcast, we reflect on 2022, our biggest milestones as a company, and bigger-picture trends impacting society more broadly. We also discuss the related challenges and opportunities these trends represent for learning businesses in the new year.
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[00:00] – Intro
Our 2022 Milestones
15 Years in Business as Tagoras
We hit 15 years in business as Tagoras in 2022, and that was a significant achievement. (See our related episode, “15 Changes in 15 Years.”)
The number of startup businesses that makes to 15 years is quite small. We’re really grateful for all the organizations that have worked with us and for everyone who listens to the podcast, attends our Webinars, and reads our newsletter.
We didn’t have the podcast or the Leading Learning brand when we started 15 years ago. Initially, we focused on offering consulting services to learning businesses. Consulting is still core to what we do at Tagoras, but we have evolved since our start and have other lines of business now.
For example, many listeners may not be aware of our LearningRevolution.net site where we help experts who want to share their expertise with the world.
Addition of Staff
[03:41] – Another milestone we see when we look in our rearview mirror is the fact that we added more staff.
It was just Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele at the start but several years ago Jackie Harman joined part-time, working with us on projects like the Leading Learning Podcast and in-person events. She joined us full-time at the beginning of 2022 and she’s been instrumental in the growth of LearningRevolution.net.
A Focus on Predictability and Clarity
[05:02] – Another big milestone in 2022 for Tagoras is we’ve started putting time and effort into getting more buttoned-up.
We’ve been focusing on systems, procedures, and structure and getting everything well aligned. These efforts will allow us to be clear on how we do things, who’s accountable for what, and what our goals are.
Bigger-Picture 2022 Moments
[06:25] – We also want to look broadly at society and highlight some bigger-picture moments from 2022.
Emerging from COVID
We’re now emerging from the pandemic. COVID’s not so fully center stage, though it’s still clearly a factor in many decisions. For example, people are more likely to make decisions about whether they’re going to travel to a place-based conference much closer to the time. That may continue because people aren’t sure how big a star COVID still is. People will also likely be more thoughtful about about whether it makes sense to gather in person.
COVID aside, we saw during the pandemic that you can do very important, good work online together. And so there’s just this question of is this something I really do need to be there in person for? And I think people will be asking that question of themselves and maybe of their team members, those that they manage, and that may impact what people choose to do going forward.Celisa Steele
COVID will also continue to impact how employers think about office space and where employees physically work.
A Shaky Economy
[08:27] – The state of the economy is on people’s minds. There’s a lot of uncertainty and shakiness—inflation, rising interest rates, etc. This directly impacts what people are able and willing to spend on things, including travel and learning.
There are also continued supply chain issues and renewed speculations about a recession in the U.S. in 2023.
Distrust 0f Expertise and Large Institutions
[10:29] – Another thing we’ve seen this year, and even before, is a distrust of expertise and large institutions. One data point around this is from Pew Research Center in June of 2022, which found that “[o]nly two-in-ten Americans say they trust the government in Washington to do what is right ‘just about always’ (2%) or ‘most of the time’ (19%).”
We have distrust surrounding elections and the pandemic. There were early stumbles in the pandemic around masking, for example, so people question what to believe from experts. There’s also a huge issue with misinformation and algorithms and bots helping to spread misinformation.
And, in a lot of cases, those people [doctors, economists, and other experts] are being called into question…. It’s kind of a mess out there. It’s getting harder to distinguish fact from fiction, really.Jeff Cobb
ASAE ForesightWorks includes “rejection of expertise” and “declining trust” among the drivers of change identified. ASAE Annual, held in the summer of 2022, included a session around the decline of expertise because it’s such a relevant topic for associations. Trade and professional associations are often seen as a source of expertise, so, if there’s a general distrust of expetise, that can be an issue.
There are a number of books, such as The Death of Expertise by Tom Nichols, that look at society’s declining faith in expertise.
[10:48] – At Tagoras, we’re experts in the global business of lifelong learning, and we use our expertise to help clients better understand their markets, connect with new customers, make the right investment decisions, and grow their learning businesses.
We achieve these goals through expert market assessment, strategy formulation, and platform selection services. If you are looking for a partner to help your learning business achieve greater reach, revenue, and impact, learn more at tagoras.com/services.
Looking at the Implications
[14:22] – We started with a more personal look at 2022 from the Tagoras lens, then we talked about broader societal issues. Now let’s look at what we see when we put the two together.
Emerging from COVID
We, as representatives of Tagoras, went back to attending some face-to-face conferences for our own learning and networking in 2022, including Learning Solutions, CEX, ASAE Annual, and others.
Jeff came down with COVID on the eve of a face-to-face event in Washington, DC, we’d planned to hold. It was to be our first-since-COVID in-person gathering, and it was going to be a small gathering for informal learning. But we ended up having to cancel. This speaks to the fact that COVID is an ongoing concern and consideration.
But, despite the potential risks, many people still really want to gather in person, particularly after time away from it earlier on in the pandemic. There is potentially real value in gathering together if you can do it in a way that takes advantage of being together versus just being on Zoom.
Organizations becoming more virtual, some deciding to go completely virtual, during the pandemic. It happened that we had to leave our old office space earlier this year when our lease was up. We had to decide what to do, and we ultimately made the decision to take on another office space.
Even in a world where so much is remote and where work from home is possible, there is value in the physical—both in gathering together and in the actual space.
[E]ven in work-from-home situations, people often find value in making sure that, to the extent that they can, their workspace is somewhat separate from their living space. And so I think just remembering that, even as so much is virtual, the physical spaces and people, that’s important as well.Celisa Steele
A Shaky Economy
[18:08] – Related to the shaky economy, inflation means greater scrutiny of costs. Both in our personal and business lives, we’re becoming more cost-conscious. People are going to be asking if what they’re buying provides something relevant, valuable, and useful. Being able to make that relevancy case and demonstrate your value clearly to pull people into your offerings is going to be more important than ever.
That’s on the bad-news side of the equation, but, on the better-news side, there are a lot of job vacancies in the U.S., which can translate to increased demand for onboarding, upskilling, and reskilling. If onboarding, upskilling, or reskilling is something your learning business offers, you have the potential to serve an important role in helping to fill job vacancies and ensure people get the right knowledge and skills to do their job.
Distrust of Expertise and Large Institutions
[20:19] – Getting good data is becoming even harder, but good data is so important to have to help make good product and marketing decisions. There’s a lot of noise, but now there’s distrust too. Consumers want to know why you’re asking them questions, and they’re wondering if you’ll keep their personal data safe, private, and protected. This environment makes it hard to get good market insight.
Having the relationship just counts more than ever now. And it’s part of what we’re doing strategically as a company going forward is really evaluating that and figuring out, okay, where have we just been assuming and counting on the fact that people know, like, and trust us, that they know that we’re experts, they know that we have authority, that they can trust us to have that? Where have we been assuming that where it may not necessarily be true?Jeff Cobb
We need to invest time in building new relationships and reinforcing existing relationships so that when we do reach out with an ask, people are more likely to respond because they trust us.
This relates to the acronym EAT: expertise, authority, and trust. In general, it’s a good thing for your audience to feel like you have or can provide access to expertise, that you have authority, and that you’re trustworthy. It’s also extremely important now in the digital world. Google mysteriously factors this into how it decides to rank Web sites. If you don’t have expertise, authority, and trust, eventually it will hurt you.
[24:03] – There isn’t necessarily any concrete or preordained outcome from reflection, but it often plays a role in informing future actions and activities.
Take some time to reflect on your own and then with your team. We strongly encourage everyone to do it on their own first to form some opinions and thoughts, and then come together as a group to discuss.
You should also take some time to think about what your reflections suggest about priorities for the new year. It might give you ideas of what to double-down on or what to sunset.
[25:30] – Wrap-up
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