Members are looking to their associations for the necessary knowledge and lifelong learning opportunities they need in order to succeed yet research from our latest Association Learning + Technology report revealed that less than half of associations have somebody at their organization who holds the title of chief learning officer (or a similar executive role who’s primary focus is learning and education).
In an effort to draw more attention to this critical role, we plan to continue discussions with CLO’s, both in and outside of the association world – check out our recent episode with Kelly Palmer, CLO of Degreed.
This week’s Leading Learning podcast features an interview with Diane Simmons, CLO of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) and two-time advisor for the Leading Learning Symposium. In it, Diane talks to Jeff about her role as CLO, how continuing education in the medical field differs from other areas, and her thoughts about what’s happening in this new learning landscape.
Listen to the Show
Read the Show Notes
[00:20] – A reminder to check out the Leading Learning Symposium, an event designed specifically for senior leaders at organizations in the business of lifelong learning, continuing education, and professional development. The symposium takes place this year on October 24-25 in Baltimore, Maryland.
[01:18] – A preview of what will be covered in this podcast where Jeff interviews Diane Simmons, Chief Learning Officer (CLO) of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) and two-time advisor for the Leading Learning Symposium. This is part of a plan to feature more interviews with people in the CLO position (we interviewed Kelly Palmer, CLO of Degreed several weeks ago).
[03:19] – An introduction to Diane and some background information about AAD including who they serve and what she does in her role as CLO. She shares that they currently do a blend of event based learning and digital strategies (but beginning to shift the balance to digital strategies) and says there is a preference for just-in-time learning and quick bite-sized chunks of information. She also talks about the different variables that add complexity to their education design.
[06:04] – You have a very diverse background as an association executive. What common threads have you seen run through all of these roles, particularly from the perspective of learning and education? Diane says the common thread she has seen is that people in professional associations are truly committed to lifelong learning and want to advance their practice. She explains that there are unique challenges working with each group, particularly in the healthcare arena.
[08:04] – The medical world seems to be at the cutting edge of continuing education – has that been your perspective? Diane explains that because medical societies are scientifically based they tend to be used to a very traditional format in terms of education and that can be hard to break out of. As a profession, they have adopted pretty rigorous standards related to certification/recertification.
[10:11] – You don’t encounter the “CLO” title in the association world that often. Did that role exist at AAD before you got there? Diane shares that this role did not exist before but they recognized a need to expand their vision of what professional development really is within associations. She says we tend to think of education in terms of a product/program/thing but that we need to acknowledge that learning occurs in lots of different ways. Diane adds that her role as CLO is intended to focus on being more strategic in identifying the educational needs/preferences of members, communicate at a level that’s consistent with other executives in the space, and to act as a leader for the staff and subject matter experts to expand the portfolio.
[12:43] – From your perspective, why don’t you think there are more CLO positions (or executives with a primary focus of learning, regardless of the “CLO” title)? Diane explains that the notion of thinking of education as a product may not be serving us well and that if we could begin talking more with colleagues/peers about learning propositions that we might be able to move the dial. She reiterates that her two primary strategic priorities are to expand the portfolio of educational offerings and to expand their audience.
[14:31] – What are you seeing people struggling with most in this new learning landscape? Diane points out that the number one reason most members likely belong to an association is to obtain resources related to lifelong learning and that she continually hears about issues related to this. Also, a dynamic tension exists between the traditionalists (in terms of how education is developed and delivered) and those who are able and willing to experiment and push the envelope.
[17:09] – What do you see out there as potentially bad influences/bad advice floating around right now about learning that’s potentially distracting people more than helping them out? Diane acknowledges that there’s a tendency to pursue technology (shiny new object) without really evaluating what the learning needs are and how it’s going to be fully utilized. She adds that a platform without a strategy is pretty useless.
[19:14] – What has you most excited right now in the world of learning when you think about the possibilities or opportunities? Diane talks about an opt-in program AAD introduced called Question of the Week. The success of this program has demonstrated the value of just-in-time learning that’s quick and accessible. They also continually evaluate to see if their offerings are effective and if they aren’t, they redirect and try something else.
[22:06] – As you have developed your own leadership capabilities over the years, who is someone you have been inspired by, or particularly admired? Diane reveals that there are leadership traits that she has tried to emulate over the years such as humility and curiosity. She says that her biggest inspiration has been from those she has gotten to lead and lead with over the years. In terms of writers, she’s a fan of Jim Collins work around leadership.
[24:28] – What are some of your own lifelong learning habits? Diane admits she is a Harvard Business Review junkie and that she finds value in opportunities such as attending the Leading Learning Symposium, which allow for interaction with people outside her own space. She also enjoys any courses, conferences, and reading related to strategy and how it evolves and develops.
[26:35] – How to connect with Diane and AAD:
[27:14] – Wrap-Up
A reminder to check out the Leading Learning Symposium, an event designed specifically for senior leaders at organizations in the business of lifelong learning, continuing education, and professional development. The event will help you maximize the reach, revenue, and impact of your education business and takes place this year on October 24-25 in Baltimore, Maryland.
Thanks again to CommPartners for sponsoring this podcast episode.
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[28:45] – Sign off