Originally published December 5, 2018

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This is the 37th article in the Profiles in Knowledge series featuring thought leaders in knowledge management. Helen Blunden specializes in workforce social learning, collaboration, Working Out Loud, and the effective use of social media. She was the inaugural winner of the The Internet Time Alliance Jay Cross Memorial Award in 2016.

In her article, You Are Not a Thought Leader, Helen stated:


Nonetheless, I consider her to be one. She blogs, vlogs, presents, and shares generously.

As the founder of Activate Learning Solutions in Melbourne, Australia, Helen provides workshops, coaching, and training services to corporate executives and their teams on how to use social media for professional and career development. She provides consulting, design, and development of guided collaborative learning programs (webinars, workshops, individualized executive coaching packages) for clients focused on building lifelong learning strategies and skills in their employees.

Helen helps people activate the way they learn, connect, and collaborate with each other when their workplace is under constant change and transformation. She shows them the skills and behaviors to self-direct their learning to work smarter, not harder.

Helen founded Third Place, a co-working and networking community of over 500 Learning Professionals across 6 Australian cities to meet, network, learn, co-work, and share with each other for their professional and personal development. She is a roving reporter for LearningNowTV, an internet TV channel dedicated to showcasing stories about learning and development around the world.

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  • Monash University — BSc (Honors), Chemistry and Biochemistry
  • Deakin University — MBA, Management
  1. LinkedIn
  2. About Helen
  3. Social Learning Profile
  4. Change Agents Worldwide
  5. Learning eXperts
  6. Facebook


  1. Activate Learning Solutions
  2. Blog
  3. Medium
  4. WordPress
  5. Twitter
  6. LinkedIn
  1. Inspire Learning in the Workplace
  2. Four Myths of Social Learning
  3. The Value of Networking for Learning and Development
  4. Is instructional design really dead?
  5. How To Work Out Loud At Your Next Conference
  6. A Wake Up Call For Practitioners: The changing tide of learning and development
  7. Personal Knowledge Management — a set of processes, individually constructed, to help each of us make sense of our world and work more effectively
  8. Since When Did Learning Become So Serious?
  • I don’t know about you but it’s rare that I am inspired by mandated training.
  • Whether it’s completing annual compliance e-learning programs sitting on an LMS or being told by a manager that I must attend an event to learn about a new service or product that may or may not be relevant to my needs, the words ‘mandated’ and ‘learning’ should never be in the same sentence together.
  • Why? They cancel each other out.
  • One is determined through control, direction and audit (read: can be measured); the other favors autonomy, engagement and behavior change (read: “too hard” basket).
  • It’s a pity that some organisations have allowed L&D to create programs that favor the former and not develop programs to inspire, grow and connect their people. How did we stray so far from the basic principles of how adults learn?
  • But all is not lost. We can do something about it.
  • Here are my 24 tips to get some inspiration back into our programs — in no particular order.
  1. Banish the word ‘mandatory’ from the Learning and Development vocabulary and when speaking to your stakeholders and subject matter experts because let’s face it, they’ll think everything is mandatory
  2. Get comfortable in exploring creative and innovative solutions. We know that completing compliance courses is ‘ticking a box’ for the organisation but we don’t have to deploy the same mentality for our program design
  3. Ask the hard questions to your stakeholders such as, “is it really necessary to have an assessment?” Stand firm and do number 4 now.
  4. Challenge your stakeholders and subject matter experts and keep asking why. Remember, they’re experts in their subject matter, but you’re the expert in adult learning. They’re relying on you to provide them a solution
  5. Inspire your stakeholders to think back on their best learning and recall what stood out for them — you’d be surprised to know that many do want something different than ‘tick in the box’ training
  6. Wow your stakeholders and subject matter experts with a bold, exciting and memorable proposal for their content — you’ve got nothing to lose
  7. Meet some intrinsic need, connection or motivation to your employees with your content
  8. Get rid of the barriers to your program. That means the pesky LMS. Prepare to fight on this one.
  9. Get rid of the corporate lingo (language) in your program. Sell the benefits of your program in ways your employees understand
  10. Incorporate an experience into your program — it will be memorable
  11. Generate a buzz or an excitement around your program
  12. Have opportunities for practical, engaging and interactions both online and offline with lots of opportunity for feedback
  13. Incorporate some on-the-job performance support tools and aids that they can use before and after the program to keep content refreshed
  14. Get people to learn together; share together; build a community
  15. Make it part of their workflow and not separate from it
  16. Make it practical, hands on, interactive, engaging. Get them to ‘do stuff’ (this does not mean Click Next)
  17. Use personal stories, real life examples with a splash of suspense and “what’s next that get people talking about it in the office. Think how television producers suck you in with weekly episodes of The Walking Dead and the Game of Thrones; use the same principles minus the zombies or dragons. On second thoughts…
  18. Allow for self-discovery and self-direction in the content; have some personal ‘a-ha’ moments in your program
  19. Get your employees to add to the program; share their stories; and create their content
  20. Offer alternatives in how the program is delivered to cater for those who want flexibility — it doesn’t have to be via an online learning program. How about using other methods and media?
  21. Explain the bigger picture. How does your program affect their role, their team, their department, their organisation, their family, their life?
  22. Feedback. Feedback. Feedback. Repeat.
  23. Respect your employees. Don’t waste their time. Make it worth their effort.
  24. Last of all, make it fun for them (and for yourself too — you’ll be designing it)
  1. Working out Loud and Getting Over Social Media Fatigue — interviewed by Stephen Walsh
  2. Crystal Balling with Learnnovators
  3. The Inaugural Jay Cross Memorial Award winner by Clark Quinn
  1. Why Networks are the “New Black” for Auditors
  2. SlideShare
  3. The Value of Personal Learning Networks — The CEO Pitch
  1. Third Place
  2. Scoop.it!
  3. Pathbrite
  4. cMOOC, Social Learning Guided Design or Community of Inquiry — All The Same?
  5. Social Learning — Curated apps and tools to build communities and networks, build your brand, manage online reputation, create your own business and share your knowledge. Much is for freelancers building their own business or people implementing social learning into their organizations.
  1. Anchor
  2. TLDCast PM — Special Guest Helen Blunden Talks SnapChat with Brent Schlenker
  3. How Helen Blunden stays professionally relevant through digital experimentation — Trevor Young
  4. Jamie Good — Reaching the UML Podcast Episode 1 with Helen Blunden — Snapchat, Social Learning + Knitting!
  5. Jon Senior’s Funky Thinkers


  1. LinkedIn Videos
  2. Talks to Garrett Gleim about 3D audio
  3. Talks to Marc Niemes of Healthcare XN
  4. Visits a PSK Performance Fishbowl event
  5. At a huge event for bloggers, interviewed some of the delegates and speakers
  6. eLearnChat 246
  7. Learning is the Middle Bits
  8. Vimeo
  9. YouTube Channel
  10. A Typical Response for Mandatory Compliance Training

Written by

Knowledge Management Author and Speaker, Founder of SIKM Leaders Community, Community Evangelist, Knowledge Manager https://sites.google.com/site/stangarfield/

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