Earlier this year Learning Pool acquired HT2 Labs, the Oxfordshire-based learning innovation company. HT2 are true pioneers in learning technologies, with a well-earned reputation for creating leading-edge learning solutions that use modern technology to deliver innovative business outcomes. This capability was perhaps best demonstrated with the Queen’s Award for Enterprise: Innovation, awarded earlier this year.
As we brought HT2 into the Learning Pool family it was hugely important to keep that pioneering spirit alive within a much larger organization. It was this need that led to the creation of Learning Pool Labs.
Learning Pool Labs was officially launched in August just a couple of months after the acquisition. Led by Ben Betts, former Chief Executive of HT2 and current Chief Product Officer at Learning Pool, the Labs initiative was launched as a call-to-action seeking ideas from across the business. Our people are on the frontline daily answering queries, questions and helping resolve challenges for our customers. Who better to know what challenges are facing L&D and what products we could develop to help meet them?
Our vision, slightly tongue in cheek, was to solicit innovations that would help ‘Learning Pool Labs Save the World’ and centred on three key themes:
How to Save Your Brain
Concepts that consider new interfaces between humans and computers, and how we might apply them in the quest for returning instant knowledge. No fingers allowed. Think voice, vision and more…
How to Save L&D
Looking to improve business productivity in one of two broad categories; learning more efficiently (fewer hours for the same output) or value-added learning (improving the quality of products and services to drive a rising income).
How to Save the Workforce
Seeking to re-skill the workforce in a massively scalable manner. Ideas for training a million or more new learners in a range of future-proof skills in the next three years.
Six weeks later and we had eight submissions, all with their own merits. But with an eye for the most compelling concepts, we began to shortlist based on an internal set of criteria for each category. Submissions ranged from using virtual reality to provide a submersive experience, to reproducing our existing automated system for converting XML content into Adapt. And from human responsive learning (think content that adapts dependent on biometrics, location, weather and eye movement) to working with an addiction recovery group and using our full product set to improve life outcomes.
And these are just the ones that didn’t make the cut!
Many were not shortlisted because of the fact that they were business as usual and will be progressed at some point in the near future, some were too similar to other submissions and could be combined to just the one, and others fell more within the remit of our Corporate Social Responsibility (for which we have already won two awards for this year at the International CSR Excellence Awards) than they did product development.
The Final Four
So what about the ones that were shortlisted?
The pressure on the shortlisted submitters began to grow. The next stage of the process was to expand the idea and take on a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style pitch day. Ten minutes to sell your idea to the Dragons and to try and persuade them that your idea is the one to invest in with the whole of Learning Pool as your audience.
With the Dragons including Paul McElvaney, Learning Pool’s Chief Executive and Donald Clark, one of our Non-Executive Directors, alongside Lindsey Coode, Head of Product Innovation, it was a tough challenge. Both Paul and Donald are known for their straight-talking, strong opinions, and at times, controversial perspectives, so the Q&A that followed the presentations was never going to be easy. Add in hundreds of people watching in person and online and it was a wonder folks made it through their pitches at all….
But our shortlisted four stepped up and all did an amazing job. The ideas were hugely diverse and between them touched on almost every aspect of learning and development. The short table below summarises the pitches in the final four:
Ryan Smith, Software Development Team Lead
RiskBot – A ‘radar-like’ early warning system to alert L&D professionals to impending risks.
Matt Watts, Learning Innovation Designer & Callum Gilbanks, Technical Product Manager
Flo v2.0 – Delivering learning interactions within our ‘learnbot’ to improve engagement and learning through ease and speed of access.
Kerry Simpson, Solutions Consultant
Bitcoin Motivation – Harnessing blockchain technology to provide gamification rewards and improve learner engagement.
Dave Newbold, Learning Consultant
Adapt Launcher – A universal application that will monitor the status of a user’s device and preemptively deliver learning content to them as soon as (or before) they need it.
And the Winner is…
Matt Watts and Callum Gilbanks walked away victorious on the day. Building on existing technology, the pitch for Flo v.2.0 sought to extend performance support interactions to include a wider range of elearning activity – imagine simply answering a mandatory question within your comms channel, never needing to login to the elearning if you didn’t need the refresh on content. Imagine facilitating spaced practice with any content. And then combine this functionality with our Adapt Builder to mean anyone can quickly author this ‘bot’ facilitated questions and content. That’s Flo v.2.0.
You can expect to hear more about Flo v.2 in the new year. But it’s not the end of the road for the other pitches either, each one will be explored in more detail. Next steps range from market research to strategic planning allowing us to take into account wider feedback on the idea as we continue to mull and develop the concepts.
You can expect an update on the Labs projects in the new year from Ben Betts and we will be looking forward to running our next Labs pitch day, later in 2020.