With a continuous focus on aligning learning with work demands, doing more with less, and articulating the value of learning in building organizational capability, ASTD Benchmarking Forum members are sharing and comparing innovative learning tools and technologies to drive business results.

To investigate innovation, the ASTD Benchmarking Forum (BMF) used a variety of questions to target thinking and build a framework for learning about innovation. These questions included

  • What is your organization's definition of innovation?
  • What is your organization's approach to innovation?
  • What drives innovation in your organization?
  • What learning tools and techniques are used to build innovative solutions?
  • How are innovative solutions executedand measured?

In April 2009, BMF members met in a real-time, collaborative lab environment in Wheeling, Illinois, as well as in a virtual meeting space. There, senior executives participated in a panel discussion, action learning events, and multiple reflective thinking exercises to build and share a portfolio of innovative tools and techniques.

One member gave a definition that resonated with the group: "Innovation is not reinventing the light bulb, but using the light it gives off differently."

A sample of drivers of innovation identified as important by members included competitive positioning for products and services, crises in the financial markets and the resulting impact on borrowing, customer dissatisfaction, the skills gap, globalization, outsourcing, the need to expand virtual presence, employee readiness to perform, and use of digital posse

by employees.

Some of the tools and techniques used by members to accelerate learning and build business solutions include

  • accelerated learning techniques
  • alternate workplaces
  • blogs
  • collaborative work environments
  • communities of practice
  • content rationalization processes
  • knowledge management practices
  • lean methodology
  • mobile learning tools
  • moodle.org
  • performance-based training
  • podcasts
  • rotational assignments/details
  • Six Sigma tools
  • social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn
  • storytelling
  • Web 2.0
  • wikis.

As with all learning, professionals are constantly challenged with moving the ideas from "aha" moments at a meeting to action in their own organizations. To facilitate this "from knowing to doing" hurdle, the ASTD BMF is continuing discussions on its collaborative website, having follow-up web conferences on topics generated at the lab, building and publishing a compendium of tools and techniques for learning professionals, and asking participants to share their takeaways with other members.

In summary, ASTD BMF members are benchmarking each other while modeling some of the best practices in learning theory and practice. By leveraging the network, the members are building a learning community around innovation and other targeted topics that collectively build organizational capability.