Today in the learning industry, we talk a lot about building “engaging” learning or “bite” size and micro learning because as we all know, regardless of industry few of us have time to learn. Micro learning in the form of individual documents, SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) or videos have become a favorite approach because making any learning more granular with an easier path to update is definitely an advantage. It’s been mentioned that the millennial generation is the main driver to this trend but all industries and employee age ranges are having this experience. The issue all employees face is they have as little as 24 minutes a week or 1% of their typical workweek available to learn new skills or the skills they need.[1]

Natural language processing to the rescue? “Hey Google, what’s the capital of Iowa”?

Natural language processing (NLP) utilizing Artificial Intelligence the power behind Google Home, Amazon Echo and Apple Siri points a way forward. In the last months we can buy these appliances for as little as $49, synch them to our phones in seconds and by using nothing but our voice have them perform searches via Google, connect to our phone apps, shop online, play music, get instant weather reports and control smart-home products. Its not hard to imagine having these at work and instead of Google as the data source have a connection to our corporate structured data such as documents and videos and even unstructured data such as Slack discussions or even team emails.  Such work based AI driven appliances could deliver the right document or answer to performing a specific job skill based on any question asked.

We’ve come a long way in the last few years. NLP has evolved from taking many minutes to analyze a sentence to where we are today enabling millions of webpages and documents getting processed and a semantic understanding gained in seconds.[2] What’s driving us forward is not so much new algorithms or approaches, but from sheer low cost processing power that we now have available which makes it all practical.

What does this mean for employees? Now the bottleneck could be removed between the existing “right” answer, document, course or email to keep employees moving by answering their question.  Instead of asking their colleague or searching through Sharepoint, Box or their company G drive, the right answer is instantly delivered. Imagine the time saved as employees do their jobs, especially while on their own for the first time after on boarding or anytime when a pressing question needs to be answered.

There will no doubt be a host of new NLP driven learning systems and content solutions coming out. One of the larger content management providers, Box.com announced[3] they will be applying NLP and AI approaches to their 30 billion files they manage and store for their customers. The happy side effect for those future employees learning a new skill or trying to get an answer to their job question might come as easily as asking Google Home what is the capital of Iowa.

[1] “The Disruption of Digital Learning: Ten Things We Have Learned”, Josh Bersin, March 27, 2017 – http://joshbersin.com/2017/03/the-disruption-of-digital-learning-ten-things-we-have-learned/

[2]  “Recent Trends in Deep Learning Based Natural Language Processing”, Tom Young, Devamanyu Hazarika, Soujanya Poria, Erik Cambria, Aug 16, 2017, ArXiv – https://arxiv.org/pdf/1708.02709.pdf

[3] “AI will fundamentally change how we manage content” Ron Miller, Techcrunch, August 26, 2017 – https://techcrunch.com/2017/08/26/ai-will-fundamentally-change-how-we-manage-content/