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DoceboInspire: ‘AI Cowboys’ & Learning Personalization

• 6 min read

DoceboInspire 2019, Docebo’s annual conference featuring top learning industry experts and technology theorists, is just around the corner.

From September 16-18 in Atlanta, Georgia, guests will gather to share their future-forward insights and learn from the top minds in the business. This year, guest speakers will discuss how we can define technology through a human lens and what this means for future e-learning advances.

Josh Squires, self-confessed ‘AI cowboy’ and Docebo’s Director of Enterprise Market Solutions, offers us a sneak peak into what audiences can expect from his talk on Powering Learning Performance with AI and Personalization at this year’s DoceboInspire conference.

How has the need for personalization affected learning technology?

Personalization has been the holy grail of learning technology that LXDs (Learning Experience Designers) and learning technology providers have been striving for since the 1980’s. The goal for performance support systems has always been to provide learners with just-in-time information in the format that best suits them.

While vendors like Amazon, Spotify, and Netflix have succeeded at personalizing their platforms in the consumer sphere, Docebo is leading the charge in filling the vacuum in the learning industry.

To what extent do you think the learning experience can be personalized to each learner?

I think the more you train the intelligent systems that you’re using, the more personalized they become. LMS or learning technologies are no different.

Let’s take the example of iTunes vs Spotify. When iTunes launched, it was the industry leader. You could upload all of your albums, buy all of your music, and search in iTunes a little bit. It wasn’t bad and you could find some music that you liked.

Then you’ve got Spotify, where users say, “I don’t really know what I want to listen to”. And Spotify says, “I think that based on what you’ve already been listening to, you’re going to like this”, and it starts learning your innermost desires and wishes.

Our industry is rapidly investing in personalization, so I would say 10 years from now, you’re going to be able to talk to Siri, or Google, or Alexa, or whoever it is, and say “Hey, Alexa, I need to get learned-up on these five things”. Alexa will then present them in the way that you prefer to learn, track it, and then stamp you as having learned those things. So I think it’s going to get crazy personalized in the near future.

How can L&D departments start to personalize their learning content?

Stop buying off-the-shelf, generic crap! No, but seriously, in my opinion, L&D departments really need to shift their mentality from being librarians to proactively trying to solve problems.

I think a lot of it is that the whole concept of learning has taken a huge step back with rapid authoring tools. People are still thinking that they can build a PowerPoint presentation, record some narrations over the top and call it a course.

From an L&D standpoint, you really need to understand what problems you’re trying to solve and how those solutions fit within the employee’s lifecycle.

One idea of how to personalize the learning experience would be this concept of learning in the flow of work. Learners can say, “I’m trying to sell something but I don’t know how, so I need to learn this right now as I am sitting in front of the customer”, and they should have access to the materials that they need.

In your conversations with learning professionals, how receptive are they to the idea of leveraging technology for personalization and AI?

Most of my clients are currently in the midst of trying to figure out a digital transformation. AI is a part of that, but they’re not looking at it as the silver bullet.

I think that looking at AI as a silver bullet is missing the bigger picture. AI is another tool in your utility belt, and eventually it will become the major tool, but we still have 5-10 years before we’re going to have super intelligent AIs that will handle everything for us.

So, how do you plan your organization for the next 5, 10, 15 years? I think the most important thing is to think about how you embed learning as a necessary requirement for your overall organization. The CEO down to the janitor need to be aligned on the upskilling of their workforce at all times, because skills change, skills disappear and automation is eating them.

So is AI the ‘magic sauce’ that’s going to solve everything tomorrow? Yeah, tomorrow, but tomorrow is going to be a few years away, so think about what AI can do for you today.

What can attendees expect to take away from your session?

I’d like everyone to realize that if they want to stay in their role for more than 2 years, they need to keep updating their skills (and we have a great platform to do that!).

I did a talk a few months ago and I asked the audience how many of them were preparing for the age of automation, and upscaling and reskilling into new areas? Only 20% had their hands up. This needs to change!

The thing is, a lot of what’s going to happen in the near future is that all of the button-pushing jobs are going to be done by AI. All of that stuff is going to happen in the background, so you’re going to need to reskill to keep up.

What preparation should attendees do prior to your talk?

For my sessions, what I really want to do is have a dialogue. I want to engage the audience and get dynamic feedback.

We’re letting people know what’s on the roadmap as an industry, so as far as actual preparation for this, I’d suggest to prepare some questions. I’ve spent numerous years thinking about these things and working on cool projects with AI for over 15 years, and I’d love to be able to give some insight. And I’ll be the first to admit ignorance if I don’t know something. And please call me out on my BS – I’ll say “good job!” and buy you a coke or a beer.

What is your take on this year’s DoceboInspire theme of ‘Defining Technology Through a Human Lens?

I think it’s really cool.

If we’re taking it from the approach of AI, I would say the real worry has been that it will cause this mass layoff, where it starts automating all of our jobs and we have no way of making money. But if we can get out of this fear-based, defeatist thinking, we can make it work for us.

We’re in the dawn of the next revolution, right? So, none of us lived through the Industrial Revolution, but we’re in the middle of the Internet Revolution. We’re about to go through a revolution even more significant in terms of disruptions to humanity, so how do we make it work for us?

We should think of AI not as something to be afraid of, but rather see the potential of what it could do and where it could lead us. When we look at AI as a tool, or a partner on this journey of exploration, conquering new galaxies, or whatever we’re trying to do, then it gets awesome. I think the new jobs are going to be given to the people who ask, “how can I be an AI wrangler?”. So if you’re thinking of things like that, then it gets super exciting and the paradigms change.

I’m an AI cowboy – I think I need to change my job title!


Josh Squires has over 18 years of experience in business processes, technology, and organizational structure, and joined Docebo six years ago. Josh works with Docebo to help large enterprise accounts understand their infrastructure requirements from both a technical perspective and a pedagogical perspective. With his experience positioned at the nexus of learning and technology, Josh is constantly looking at ways of accelerating business efficacy and advancement in the learning field.

Join Josh and other industry leaders in the heart of Atlanta from September 16-18 for DoceboInspire 2019. Learn from the top minds in the business and share future-forward insights.