Shannon Cunningham is the Director of Education Services at ServiceMax.

Growing up in the 70’s, a lot has changed.  While I secretly miss my Shaun Cassidy iron on ringer tee, I don’t miss the hours spent learning to write my name on wide lined paper and memorizing the multiplication table.  Growing up ‘back then’, learning meant memorizing and today, learning is more about teaching people to think differently. Instead of having a directive approach, you start with asking the learner, “What do you want the outcome to be?”. Today we learn by access and deductive reasoning. Google, “I Feel Lucky” leads me to the majority of information I’m seeking in a manner of seconds.  My iPhone doesn’t require me to memorize phone numbers and even provides me Siri to carry out simple tasks like “text my boss,” or “directions to the nearest Starbucks.”

Traditional training and education techniques still have a place, like when assembling IKEA furniture or learning CPR, but context and situational learning, combined with just-in-time instruction is the new wave to learning. If I can’t figure out how to reset my wireless router, I search YouTube for the answer.  The more specific my question, the more targeted the results can be, leading me to specific information faster.  I no longer feel the need to read the manual that came with the device only to have to comb through non-relevant details that become obstacles to my intended outcome.

These factors impact the way we learn, or in our case at ServiceMax, how we decide to train our customers and develop applications. The old Chinese proverb, “teach a man to fish” has been updated to “SEARCH: ‘What is the best sushi restaurant in San Francisco.’” People are smart. We want information that is fast, relevant, and personalized to our needs.  Teaching people how to use tools better will always create the best training.