Published On: December 5, 2023By
CEO Circle 2 - Where Does Learning Systems Innovation Begin? - Talented Learning

Time flies when you’re having fun — or so it seems with learning systems innovation lately. Hard to believe it was only a year ago when generative AI first burst on the scene. We all felt that jolt. And since then, aftershocks have just continued rolling across the technology landscape.

Breakthrough moments like this are impossible to ignore, especially for those of us in the commercial learning community. And as an industry analyst, I’m particularly interested in what’s happening at the center of this vortex. What are learning tech vendors thinking and doing — not just to tap into the power of AI, but to move their systems forward in other ways? What are their priorities, and why?

Earlier this year, I decided to answer these questions by looking in my own backyard. I started by reviewing transcripts from Talented Learning Show podcasts with founders and CEOs from prominent and promising learning systems companies. The results revealed interesting insights about what inspires innovation.

In June, I published a round-up post based on the wisdom these guests shared: “CEO Circle: What Drives Learning Tech Innovation?

But I didn’t stop there. As an LMS analyst and consultant, questions about innovation are always on my mind. So I’ve continued to search for answers from some of the brightest leaders I know. And in this second collection of excerpts, I’ve found even more evidence that learning innovation doesn’t happen by chance. Instead, smart vendors understand that success comes from deeply understanding what customers need to achieve.

Despite the diverse goals and perspectives represented here, you’ll find a great deal of common ground. And no matter what your role may be in the learning space, I think you’ll agree these insights are useful to consider as you move forward…


Learning Systems Innovation: Wisdom from Vendor CEOs, Continued…

Mike Scarbrough, CEO, LitmosView Profile
Episode 63: Relaunching Litmos LMS

We’re adding lots of services so we can provide effective solutions. We’re not here to sell you anything. We’re here to help you solve problems. If you come to us, you need to feel confident that we understand your situation. And whatever features, content, or services you need, we’ll get you to a good solution. We might provide it directly, or through one of our partners, but we’ll guide you to the right answer.

People worry either about the scalpel or the surgeon. But a scalpel is just a tool. Most people want to have the best surgeon. In that case, they’ll get a much better outcome, because a scalpel doesn’t make either of us a surgeon.

Our best practices and knowledge of how to use tools are why organizations should work with us. The tools, themselves? I’m happy to show you our tools but let’s not hyperventilate over them. The real issue is whether we know how to use these tools so you get your intended outcome. That means our people are our most important asset.


Want a better way to manage the business of learning? Find vendor profiles, reviews, case studies and more in our free Learning Systems Directory


Tamer Ali, Co-Founder, Authentic Learning LabsView Profile
Episode 67: Next-Level Learning-as-a-Service

When mature, growing companies provide learning as part of their business, they know how they want to use the technology. They know what it’s like for a learning experience to look good, work well, and seamlessly integrate with other digital investments. They’re beyond using software-in-a-box and whatever limited APIs the vendor provides.

These organizations want an embedded experience where learning happens within the context of their infrastructure. For example, they’ve integrated a CRM like Salesforce with key systems of record like e-commerce. And usually, they’ve moved beyond a first-generation learning platform.

That’s where we come in. We integrate with the key components you already have. So if you’ve built a learning experience, our API-centric model means we can build-in the components you need, incrementally.

This is the same concept as a headless LMS, where you can detach the learning experience from the underlying infrastructure. But in our world, those requirements are deeper and wider. In other words, we need to integrate not only with the web experience but also with platforms that drive that web experience, e-commerce, and so on. This calls for a more diverse, mature set of APIs.


Barry Kelly, Founder and CEO, Thought IndustriesView Profile
Episode 66: Trends in Learning as a Business

Building an engaging learning experience is top of mind for organizations right now. They’re asking:

How can we improve to achieve intended business outcomes? How do we engage all of a user’s senses in learning? Connect them with their peers? Get them excited? Get them to come back for more? How do we put the right content in front of people in the right format at the right time?

When learning technology faces your customers, partner ecosystem and beyond, it needs to be integrated with a whole different suite of technology that is vastly different from an internal LMS. We’re talking about CRM systems, marketing automation and other tools. So many new tools are entering the sales and marketing landscape, and AI is heavily featured in a lot of these products.

Integration with these tools is critical. And the stack is constantly evolving. So your integration needs will be vastly different next quarter or next year. Within our company, we rely on 62 different technologies to run our business. That’s a lot. And all of them need to be integrated, whether they face customers or not.

So that’s the key. More organizations need to connect to a broader ecosystem. This isn’t just about creating tools to provide a more compelling learning experience, so people can engage more deeply with your brand and your product. It’s also about optimizing the business.

That isn’t always about the fanciest, coolest stuff. Instead, it may be about providing technology that helps teams focus on things that add value to their company. Time is precious. Resources are precious. And now, organizations want to focus on what is critical for their business.


Lefteris Ntouanoglou, President and CEO, SchooxView Profile
Episode 64: Addressing Franchise Learning Needs

AI can be a complete black box, because sometimes no matter how good it is, it can be as stupid as the brain of a child. Or it can be as smart as a Nobel Prize winner. It depends on the data you feed the AI engine and how it gets the data. It needs a lot of training.

We believe AI has crossed a maturity threshold, and it’s worth starting to put AI into parts of our product where it can make a difference. Most importantly, it can connect learning with development. Organizations can create content and train people, but often they don’t correlate that training with data that shows improvement and progress. That is one kind of connection.

But let’s say the performance of people with skills or developmental training is improving. Does it have an impact on business outcomes? Everyone may complete training. They may also do well on assessments so their skills seem strong. But what if they don’t deliver on the job, or business results don’t improve?

Connecting these things is important. The market is always looking to do this, but it isn’t easy.

First, you need to connect skills with jobs and content, so you know which skills are needed for each job and how competent everyone is at the necessary skills. But that’s not enough. You also need the right content to help each employee improve. OJT and practical hands-on training are better, but you need conceptual learning as well. Building and maintaining all of those skill maps is very labor-intensive because they’re constantly changing.

Traditionally, this has been impossible for larger organizations with 10,000 jobs and a library of 20,000 courses. But now AI can build these connections and personalize training suggestions and career planning. It also helps analyze outcomes so you understand the impact on your business KPIs. This is where AI can make a big difference.


Troy McClain, CEO, Tovuti LMS
Episode 49: Anatomy of a Healthcare LMS

We’re seeing a fundamental transformation in the healthcare industry, where training is moving frontline workers onto a management track to leadership. As a result of the pandemic, healthcare organizations are addressing more of these underserved professionals with training that will propel their career growth.

It’s not just about administrative and management training. Now, it extends to registered nurses, ER doctors and home healthcare workers, as well. For example, instead of focusing solely on technical skills, we see training that is typically offered in a management vertical — how to be more inspired, how to develop soft skills for better “bedside manner” and so forth.

These workers have earned the right to be served and encouraged through learning. So we bring together all the tools educators, administrators and learning professionals need in one platform so it’s easy for them to build learning experiences that address whatever outcome their organization needs. That’s why our platform is intentionally designed to be adaptable, gamified and highly accessible.


Find out how real-world companies are achieving more with learning systems that create business value. Get inspiration from dozens of success stories in our free LMS Case Study Directory


Graham Glass, Founder and CEO, CYPHER LearningView Profile
Episode 62: Transforming LMS Content Creation

In a business setting, you can use AI to improve the instructor experience, the administrator experience, or the learner experience. And we’re starting with content authoring. It’s designed not to replace your job, but to help you do your job faster.

Normally, building a course can take a long time. Now, it takes only about 5 minutes to get everything done. Originally, we weren’t sure this was possible because this is pretty leading-edge stuff. But when we started seeing this in action it was jaw-dropping. It isn’t 100% AI, but it can save hundreds of human hours, no question.

Multiple services are working in the background. One happens to be ChatGPT, but that could change. Regardless, users have no idea what AI or services are being used. It’s focused solely on helping you build a course. You choose the parameters and say “go.” Behind the scenes, hundreds of calls to different services are involved, all orchestrated by CYPHER Learning.

This helps you get 80% of the way to your authoring goal. Then, as the subject matter expert, you can step in and finish the remaining 20%. So think of it as an 80/20 rule.


Stephen Cornwell, CEO, Northpass (acquired in 2023 by Gainsight)
Episode 45: SMB Customer Education

The pandemic was a huge catalyst for customer education. Suddenly, companies shifted to digital-first customer experiences. They also moved to subscription business models, which are critical for retention. As a result, customer education has become a growth engine for companies of all stripes.

At the same time, technology has been shifting down-market — particularly enterprise applications. Analytics, CRM systems, data pipelines, automation, low-code and no-code platforms. Advanced functionality is no longer reserved for large companies with big budgets. And learning is no different.

For small and mid-sized businesses, learning systems are now within reach. The overall tech stack is much more affordable, and this is driving interest from companies that have never had access to high-end learning platforms, applications and tools. All these trends are opening new doors for specialized customer education platforms like ours.


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I hope this glimpse into learning tech innovation is useful and inspiring. And I look forward to sharing more insights from leading-edge leaders in the future. Fasten your seatbelts and stay tuned.

Thanks for reading!


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About the Author: John Leh

John Leh is Founder, CEO and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning and the Talented Learning Center. John is a fiercely independent consultant, blogger, podcaster, speaker and educator who helps organizations select and implement learning technology strategies, primarily for extended enterprise applications. His advice is based upon more than 25+years of learning-tech industry experience, serving as a trusted LMS selection and sales adviser to hundreds of learning organizations with a total technology spend of more than $100+ million and growing. John would love to connect with you on Twitter or on LinkedIn.

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