This post is also published here on the Association of Talent Development Community Page.

In his 2012 book, The Signal & the Noise, statistician Nate Silver explains how a period of great data dissemination is often followed by a period of strife. For example, while it is true that the invention of the printing press in 1440 led to the European Enlightenment and eventually to the Industrial Revolution of 1775, the ease of distribution of information created by the printing press first resulted in hundreds of years of war. This unsettling effect of data continues to this day. As this article in the Scientific American describes, while our own cognitive biases are the primary reason why we sometimes believe fake news, the proliferation of data compounds the problem. It is estimated that approx. 97 zettabytes of data is currently in circulation in 2022 and that this will grow by 85% to reach 181 zettabytes in 2025. But neuroscientists believe that the human mind can only store about 100 terabytes of data (1 zettabyte = 1 billion terabytes).

Well now it’s 2022 and it’s great to see data and digital (D&D) on top of most T&Ed and L&D agendas! But how are we, the T&Ed and L&D practitioners, situating training, talent development, and even organizational culture in the context of D&D? Here are 5 takes on how training programs can be designed to address wider cultural implications of D&D:

  1. Design training for the relationship between data and digital at your organization: How does your organization define data and its sources? How is data used? What is the role of data in defining digital strategies and vice versa? Design your learning strategies in alignment with these business decisions to demonstrate relevance and value.
  2. Drive awareness of the D&D training gap: A common approach in current D&D training programs is to design for ‘level I’, ie, to teach how to interpret certain types of data and how to use certain digital platforms and frameworks. While these provide foundational awareness, it is important to recognize  new  D&D capabilities (see #3) and to design programs supporting their growth.
  3. Design for new D&D capabilities: For example:
    • Physical and virtual workplace dynamics
    • Awareness of the digital self-identity; skills and behavior to build and maintain a successful digital identity
    • Skills and behavior for data collaboration, negotiation, distribution, accuracy
    • Skills and behavior in digital hierarchies, reputation, trust, and influence
    • Skills and behavior in D&D discipline and well-being
  4. Embed D&D in organizational culture: A successful organization program is one that has successfully embedded  actionable items into the organization’s day to day culture. While this is a long-term and cross-functional activity, it should be the final aim of all D&D related training programs  and associated change management activities.
  5. Upgrade to account for the effect of data and digital on existing leadership development: Most leadership trainings have started including  D&D topics; but what still remains is building leadership development frameworks for thought leaders and influencers. These demographics interpret knowledge, influence, and success very differently from conventional business leaders. Their ways of communication, negotiation, and leadership are also different. And while they may lack conventional managerial behaviors and skills, they may be working with qualities we have not yet figured out how to nurture for leadership. It is important to update existing leadership development/ talent management/ succession planning frameworks to support such emerging leaders and neurodivergent leadership styles.