2 min read

ATD 2021 Reflections: What We Saw, Learned, and Takeaways

ATD 2021 in Salt Lake City was, above all, tons of fun. Even with a somewhat smaller number of attendees than normal due to the Delta variant, we still managed to pack our three days in with great sessions, great conversations, some long-overdue face time with old friends, some new friends and a deluge of insights we are taking with us into the fall and 2022.

What did we learn? Let's unpack!

The Magic of In-Person Persists: Asynchronous learning technologies and sexy, flex-y byte-sized platforms for just-in-time delivery of content may have been the most exciting voices, but the real hero of ATD 2021 was the experience of people being in the room together. There was a child-like delight in making eye contact, talking face to face (well, mask to mask) and watching other people watch people. People watching! In-person conferences will flourish as soon as they have the chance, as will in-person learning. Virtual is here to stay, but so is in-person learning.

Too Much Choice is Bad for Learners: Remember that infamous study of how six types of jelly were easier for consumers to choose from than 24 types? The same is true for learning offerings within a company. Too much of a good thing gets overwhelming quickly and results in diminishing return. Instead, folks are craving a curated experience of "What do I take next?" with a strategically narrowed selection so they have just enough choice. That's their jam. 

Everybody Wants an Icebreaker: As more teams form under COVID, people find themselves working with folks they've never met (yet.) Learning design is doing double-duty in helping people get to know each other in a structured space away from the "on the job" urgency of today's fire drill. Everybody is craving low-stakes, ad hoc opportunities for conversation and learning environments are one of the places they're looking for it. Fast, freeing icebreakers that lower the stakes for participation not only set folks up for a growth experience, they satisfy the need to get related and build trust with colleagues. 

No alt text provided for this image

The Next Generation of Leadership Will Look Very Different Than This One: We heard so much language/narrative around building culture, developing the next generation of leaders and overall, a sense of those leaders needing to be more empathetic (the idea of creating leaders with "soft skills" was glaringly evident everywhere we turned!) Also, there is a huge need for leaders to convey that empathy and understanding through supportive tech and platforms that are not brain-drainingly awful to use.

No alt text provided for this image

Content is Queen: There is also the voracious need for content for all types of teams, leaders and sales groups. It's a beast that will need to be continually fed. However, in the era of Tik Tok, podcasts and Instagram Live, creating content doesn't have to be a huge, expensive production that requires a whole crew and months to create. In fact, it can be as simple as pulling out your camera and sharing some thoughts on the fly, as our intrepid co-founder Andy Eninger did during the conference!

Overall, we were so happy to attend, see (the top halves of) faces and share and hear compelling perspectives from the ATD crowd. We can't wait for next year, and are already applying these insights to our approach as the world continues to settle into the new normal of constant change and adaptability.

3 min read

Leaders love cool journeys: the power of story in galvanizing your employees


The most basic function of a story is to keep someone's attention. A story is a parlor trick of sorts, a little razzle-dazzle and...

Read More

3 Energizing Tips For Avoiding Burnout

Oooh, boy, we are TIRED. Exhausted. Over it all, and then some.

Read More

Retune to Work

Remember when companies were making grand guesses about when and what the ‘return to work’ would look like? Then they moved those dates and changed...

Read More