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Summary: Learning Ecosystems: Creating Innovative, Lean and Tech-driven Learning Strategies by Katja Schipperheijn


What learning requirements are essential for current and future L&D success? Katja Schipperheijn provides a useful examination of the challenges faced by L&D today, complete with multiple case studies from leaders and experts. From here, she explains how to give your L&D a makeover via worker-generated content, peer coaching, social learning, and, most intriguingly, the integration of AI and ML to deliver the right amount of learning content at the precise moment of need. Her unique phraseology and grammar might slow you down, but reward yourself by persevering.


  • Build “LearnScapes” that align learning techniques with the surrounding ecosystem.
  • A learning culture and effective learning ecosystem stem from an organization-wide commitment to self-inspired learning.
  • No one can draw a single blueprint for a learning ecosystem because no two organizations face the same challenges and circumstances at the same time.
  • Start with values and data.
  • Lifelong learning and “human” competencies set true learning organizations apart.
  • Intelligent technologies can power self-directed learning and provide people with learning content exactly when they need it.
  • Traverse the “six pillars” of L&D maturity to build Lean and social learning ecosytems.
  • Implement five steps to create a nimble LearnScape.

Summary: Learning Ecosystems: Creating Innovative, Lean and Tech-driven Learning Strategies by Katja Schipperheijn


Build “LearnScapes” that align learning techniques with the surrounding ecosystem.

Today, more than 90% of leaders expect workers to learn new skills continually, but fewer than half of employees use the training resources their employers provide. Firms that create well-crafted “LearnScapes” beat this dichotomy. They gain the crucial ability to upskill and reskill workers continuously in a fast-changing, increasingly collaborative and tech-enabled world.

Seasoned learning professionals must embrace new ways of learning. For example, millions of children and teens spend endless hours learning games like Fortnite and Roblox because they want to master those skills. Many young people take the next step and learn to create games and environments for these platforms. When they get stuck, they figure out the swiftest way to overcome the hurdle – whether that means searching social media hashtags or consulting video tutorials, such as those Roblox offers via its free, virtual University.​

Likewise, workers will seek the most efficient way to get the knowledge they need to overcome obstacles they encounter in the flow of their work. They often ask co-workers or go to Google or YouTube before they turn to their company’s Learning Management System (LMS) or Learning Experience Platform (LXP).

“Learning strategies and methods are only worth what they effectively contribute to learning in which experience causes a permanent change in knowledge or behaviour.”

Children naturally possess many of the competencies they need in order to learn, but as adults, people often stop asking “why” and staying open to ideas and experimentation. These capacities are core aspects of a growth mind-set – the conviction that you can learn new skills continuously – and they drive learning and re-learning. However, many adults suppress their curiosity. Their excitement about learning gets supplanted by the sense of obligation they feel when their employer compels them to learn.

A learning culture and effective learning ecosystem stem from an organization-wide commitment to self-inspired learning.

You cannot impose a learning culture and learning ecosystem from outside. People must have or develop an inner drive to learn. Modern learners also need to build some essential core competencies – including analysis, experimentation, curiosity, resilience and digital capabilities, such as “algorithmic business thinking.” As a corporate leader, you can nurture these competencies by collaborating with your stakeholders on fulfilling a mutual goal: creating a learning strategy based on values and data and emphasizing the symbiosis of people and technology.

“Soon, we will enter the virtual world through VR and AR glasses, digital contact lenses or even brain implants.”

Lean learning, data analytics, and the smart, ethical and secure use of learning technologies – including artificial intelligence (AI), gamification, virtual reality, Blockchain and, eventually perhaps, even brain implants – enable a human-centered approach to learning innovation. Continuous improvement fosters the emergence of a learning ecosystem.

No one can draw a single blueprint for a learning ecosystem because no two organizations face the same challenges and circumstances at the same time.

A system that works in one place most likely won’t survive today’s rate of change long enough to be applied successfully somewhere else. This volatility affects everyone who has to learn to work alongside intelligent technologies. Only organizations and learners with a growth mind-set will be able to keep pace.

“It is only when we dare to see the future without allowing ourselves to be trapped by the limits of the present that we can continue to grow from our own strength, as people or organizations.”

To build effective learning ecosystems that match the pace of change, leaders must involve their learners as collaborators, coaches and content authors, even as they leverage technology to enhance human capabilities. These ecosystems, or LearnScapes, require you to figure out what knowledge people need to navigate a complex world. Rather than offering a one-size-fits-all solution, aim to develop a nimble, adaptive, creative and scalable strategy customized to your organization.

You can create a tailor-made LearnScape by following a series of straightforward steps, but even with that roadmap, building your LearnScape is challenging and takes time and effort. Expect resistance, particularly from senior leaders. Recent surveys report that 93% of higher-ups lack the focus and will to explore innovative strategies that intelligently combine people and technology.

Start with values and data.

People don’t want to work in a series of competitive silos. They’d rather participate in a people-centered organization that values collaboration, cooperation and knowledge-sharing – an ecosystem of mutual values and purpose. They also want flexibility. Successful organizations increasingly permit hybrid work arrangements in which staff members work in the office some days and remotely the rest of the time. These firms understand that young people don’t want or expect to hold the same job for life; instead, they look for firms whose values and mission align with their own, including a balance between work and down time.

“Value-driven organizations that present themselves as attractive employers must live up to their branding.”

The growth of the gig economy reflects, in part, the extent to which workers value freedom and autonomy. People will take personal responsibility for re-skilling and upskilling, and will learn as necessary, in return for freedom, independence, and the ability to choose work that interests them and fits their values. Firms that discard hierarchies and top-down leadership in favor of trust and autonomy will find it easier to attract, hire and retain talent.

To improve your brand and create a learning culture and ecosystem, conduct regular employee engagement surveys, analyze that data to identify challenges that affect learning and related activities, and take action to address those issues. Savvy firms augment employee data with external data, including ethically-collected social media data, which can help them better understand employee sentiment. Data from the LMS or LXP, and, eventually, from the LearnScape itself, must inform individual learning. That means identifying areas for ongoing, focused improvement for each employee, and then making the learning pathway more relevant to his or her results and business outcomes.

Lifelong learning and “human” competencies set true learning organizations apart.

Experiencing information that is presented at spaced intervals can help you retain what you learn, but even the best human memory can’t store all you need to know. Lifelong learning now focuses less on memorizing than on self-directed activities, such as finding knowledge; that trend is likely to continue. Locating the information you need could include asking Alexa or conducting an effective web search. But once you’ve asked questions and received answers, you must apply critical thinking to assess and contextualize them.

“Lifelong learning will be necessary in order not to be left behind. However, this learning extends beyond digital skills alone. Competencies that make us human will also distinguish us in an increasingly digital world.”

The symbiosis of machine and human being is also growing more important. To support a lifelong learning mind-set and its related competencies, deploy technologies like LXP to push knowledge to workers intelligently, at the time of need, with the goal of improving their performance and results.​​​​ The “5 Moments of Need” model from learning experts Bob Mosher and Conrad A. Gottfredson can help you identify that moment when workers will benefit from receiving learning just in time to apply it. Such moments occur when people try something for the first time, when they need more learning to do something better, when they need to apply learning on the job, when they have to fix something that’s gone wrong, and when they must respond to sudden change.

Intelligent technologies can power self-directed learning and provide people with learning content exactly when they need it.

Learning technologies that give people greater independence and autonomy also drive lifelong learning. When equipped with AI, technologies like LXPs can deliver bite-sized learning content that fits learners’ specific needs – just in time for them to apply it productively.

Employees can and should produce much of this learning for one other, using their smartphones and simple content creation tools, such as those within their firm’s LXP, for example. Learning professionals can leverage this “microlearning” to repeat – spacing repetitions over time – and build on the learning. Learning tech that incorporates gamification – using game-like elements such as badges as learning incentives or using game-based strategies that turn learning into a game – make content more engaging.

“When we look at the application within the whole ecosystem around learning, blockchain technology might be the most disruptive.”

Though virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) have existed for some time – most notably used in flight simulators – they only recently have come into their own as broadly-applicable learning tools. The fully immersive, safe environments of VR, and its overlay of AR information, may help people become more empathetic and open, and could help them transfer knowledge and skills at scale and distance. For example, surgeon Rafael Grossmann has used AR tools for years to allow students virtually into the operating room to learn surgery almost literally through his eyes and ears.

Soon, blockchain technologies also might provide an entirely new, airtight credentialing capability. By validating formal and informal learning records instantly and inexpensively, blockchain ledgers – functioning as decentralized databases – might break the current monopoly colleges and other institutions hold on certifying skills. Thus, blockchain could facilitate the move to a more dynamic skills-based approach to talent management.

Traverse the “six pillars” of L&D maturity to build Lean and social learning ecosytems.

For organizations to deliver learning “at the point of need,” L&D operations should mature from housing and “broadcasting” learning content to facilitating the co-creation of learning with employees. They can use Lean production principles that emphasize minimally viable products (in this case, learning), feedback and continuous improvement. Currently, the cycle of producing learning content has so much wasted time and effort that solutions are often irrelevant by the time they’re implemented.

“I would estimate that 70% to 90% of current learning and development activities can be considered wasteful.”

Lean learning and LearnScapes rely on six pillars: prioritizing the learner; acknowledging the differences among individual participants; emphasizing social and lean learning; bridging the knowledge gap; encouraging teamwork (including peer coaching); and ensuring system security.

Researcher Jakob Nielsen’s rule of social participation informs the pillars. Based on long observation and experience, Nielsen’s 1-9-90 rule estimates that 90% of individuals are “Lurkers.” They observe and consume other participants’ contributions. “Intermittent Contributors” – those who contribute occasionally – make up 9%. The 1% who participate heavily and generate most of the content are “Heavy Contributors.” Though lurkers outnumber contributors, lurkers might gain great social and peer learning value through consumption alone. Thus, social interaction remains a vital element of a learning culture or ecosystem. To assess this value, place less emphasis on tracking and reporting posts and responses, and more on measuring learning from other people’s posts.

“Look for methods to make as much relevant information as possible accessible as quickly as possible through collaboration. Only in this way will knowledge flow through the ecosystem so that all those involved can grow together faster.”

LearnScapes bridge knowledge gaps by synthesizing learning from all workers, even external stakeholders, and then intelligently disseminating that learning when needed. Of course, knowledge-sharing must take place in a secure system, otherwise people will lose trust in the process, jeopardizing the entire effort.

Implement five steps to create a nimble LearnScape.

Develop a strategy for ongoing improvement by working through these five steps in teams whose members represent all your stakeholder groups:

  1. “Discover” – Identify the learning needs that positively affect the future. Ask questions to get to the root of learning problems and opportunities; for example, ask “why” five times, each time referring to the previous answer.
  2. “Burning platform” – Based on the root cause of a given problem or opportunity, build a case for your learning plan. To get others to act – particularly senior executives – keep your arguments short and persuasive. The OODAP model may provide a structure for your argument. Start with Objectives. Then list Options (alternatives). Next, list the Dimensions (ranking your options against time, cost and quality). Next comes Analysis (algorithmic weighing of the options), after which you can build a brief Proposal supporting the chosen option.
  3. “Path to improvement” – Explore the partners and tech needed to implement the option you’ve selected. Seek consensus from your stakeholders based on cost, time to implementation and essential features, such as the ability for employees to create and upload quality learning content.
  4. “Joint execution” – Begin implementation. This requires active support from your leaders. Work with marketing to spread the word and to gain broad employee and stakeholder buy-in for the LearnScape.
  5. “Future growth and improvement” – Learn from users, seek feedback, analyze your measures and use that information to develop your LearnScape continuously.

About the Author

Katja Schipperheijn is a learning strategist with a global reputation for expertise. She founded the Habit of Improvement consultancy specializing in creating learning strategies for growth and well-being in the human-machine interface.



In today’s fast-paced and ever-evolving digital landscape, the traditional classroom-based learning model is no longer sufficient for preparing students for the challenges of the 21st century. As technology continues to advance and shape the way we live and learn, educators must reimagine the learning experience to create innovative, lean, and tech-driven strategies that foster adaptability, creativity, and critical thinking. In “Learning Ecosystems: Creating Innovative, Lean and Tech-driven Learning Strategies,” Katja Schipperheijn offers a comprehensive guide to creating effective learning ecosystems that support the development of these essential skills.

Key Points

  • Definition of Learning Ecosystems: Schipperheijn provides a clear and concise definition of learning ecosystems, which she defines as “the complex networks of people, resources, and environments that support and facilitate learning.” She emphasizes the importance of understanding that learning ecosystems are not limited to traditional classroom settings but can exist in various contexts, including online and offline environments.
  • The 5Cs of Learning Ecosystems: Schipperheijn identifies the five key components of learning ecosystems, which are:
    • Content: The knowledge and resources that are made available to learners.
    • Community: The people and networks that support and interact with learners.
    • Culture: The shared values, beliefs, and practices that shape the learning environment.
    • Convenience: The tools and technologies that facilitate access to learning resources and opportunities.
    • Continuous Improvement: The ongoing process of evaluating and refining the learning ecosystem to meet the evolving needs of learners.
  • The Lean Learning Mindset: Schipperheijn argues that a lean learning mindset is essential for creating effective learning ecosystems. This mindset involves embracing a culture of experimentation, continuous improvement, and learning from failure. She provides practical strategies for cultivating a lean learning mindset, including promoting a growth mindset, embracing failure as a learning opportunity, and encouraging experimentation and risk-taking.
  • Tech-Driven Learning Strategies: Schipperheijn offers a range of tech-driven learning strategies that can help educators create innovative learning ecosystems. These strategies include:
    • Blended Learning: Combining traditional face-to-face instruction with online learning experiences to create a more flexible and personalized learning environment.
    • Gamification: Using game design elements to make learning more engaging and interactive.
    • Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR): Utilizing VR and AR to create immersive and interactive learning experiences.
    • Social Learning Platforms: Leveraging social media and other online platforms to facilitate collaboration and communication among learners.
  • Implementation Challenges: Schipperheijn acknowledges that implementing learning ecosystems can be challenging, particularly in traditional academic settings. She provides practical advice for overcoming these challenges, including:
    • Building a coalition of support: Identifying key stakeholders and building a coalition of support to advocate for the implementation of learning ecosystems.
    • Developing a phased implementation plan: Breaking down the implementation process into manageable phases to minimize disruption and ensure a smooth transition.
    • Providing professional development: Offering ongoing professional development opportunities to educators to help them develop the necessary skills and knowledge to create effective learning ecosystems.


In conclusion, “Learning Ecosystems: Creating Innovative, Lean and Tech-driven Learning Strategies” by Katja Schipperheijn offers a comprehensive guide to creating effective learning ecosystems that support the development of essential skills for the 21st century. By understanding the definition of learning ecosystems, the five key components, the lean learning mindset, tech-driven learning strategies, and implementation challenges, educators can create innovative and effective learning environments that foster adaptability, creativity, and critical thinking. This book is a valuable resource for educators, policymakers, and anyone interested in transforming the way we learn and teach.

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