May 25, 2017 | 2 Minute Read

IBM Watson is now a coach and other big takeaways from ATD 2017


This year’s Association for Talent Development (ATD) Conference and Expo featured a host of different topics and compelling speakers. To give some perspective, this year’s ATD Conference and Expo had over 10,000 attendees navigating nearly 400 breakout sessions in 3.9 million feet of conference space at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, GA between May 21-24, 2017.

This multi-day bonanza is where many of the world’s finest companies gather to set the compass for talent development in the next year.

TTI Success Insights' boots were on the ground at the world’s largest event for talent development professionals. We’ve rounded out a few industry trends discussed at the event: 

1) Storytelling is pervasive.


Featuring speakers that base their businesses on building compelling stories for learning experiences, this year’s sessions and expo featured stories whose plot lines stay intact as technology continues to evolve. After all, we’re all human...or are we?

2) Video continues to proliferate the learning experience.


Not just any video will do. Passive video is for the birds. Active video, meaning video that interacts, engages, and challenges the viewer, is a requirement now. Technological enhancements in video will enable facilitators to advance with interactive video, Virtual Reality (VR), and Augmented Reality (AR).

3) Gamification has arrived.


With over 13 breakout session dedicated to gaming (and many more that made gaming a critical point in the learning), it’s easy to imagine how this has become a priority. As the next and future generations come through the metaphorical learning halls of talent development, there will be an expectation to make learning fun, challenging, and rewarding.

4) Content is king; context is emperor.


Understanding the business purpose and why behind learning development continues to be paramount. No matter the medium, or latest technology for delivery, driving business results continues to be a focus with priorities set to hiring the right talent, reducing turnover, and placing people into the right positions. To which we say, “Phew. Thank goodness there is some sanity.”  

 4) Empathy is a constant; scalability is a new need.


Why does face to face training work so well and virtual doesn't? Empathy is the answer. Learners ability to engage and empathize with the instructor indicates the stickiness of the instruction. With VR or AR, the face of a digital trainer moves from a two dimensional, flat screen to a three-dimensional, interactive and emotive learning environment. And it will enable a trainer to be in multiple places at once. Businesses are already on board - NASA is already doing it.

5) Microlearning is hot.

Microlearning Infographic.jpg

Also known as just-time-learning, microlearning is the new age of talent development. With the increasing use of mobile and consumer-driven “I want to learn it now” needs (think: how-to videos), facilitators need to build learning experiences congruent with the binge-watching consumption habits of consumers today. 

6) IBM Watson was the invisible Belle of the Ball.

IBM Watson.png

Student, coach, consultant, teacher, storyteller. Watson was nowhere to be seen, but discussed in nearly every breakout session at ATD. We saw Watson instruct people on topics, adapt the curriculum to a learner’s progress, and even identify the most emotive and empathetic of stories to make learning come to life.


We’ve only skimmed the surface on the fascinating experiences that were showcased at ATD this year. Staying ahead of the game continues to be the battle of the century. Travis Waugh, a fascinating ATD speaker and an Instructional Technologist at Georgia Institute of Technology, argued that we will make as much progress in communication in the next 10 years as we did between today and when the human race invented hieroglyphics. It is up to us to upskill at every turn so that we can deliver the best of the best to the world.

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Candice Frazer

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