Episode #4: Incorporating Design Thinking in L&D – an Interview with Jane Hoskisson of the International Air Transport Association

If you are looking for inspiration on how L&D activities can foster innovation in an organization, then you will thoroughly enjoy episode 4 of the Learning and Development Stories podcast.

Jane Hoskisson, Director of Learning & Development at the International Air Transport Association (IATA), shares how her organization is driving innovation through a program that is being rolled out to some 1,500 employees in some degree. After programmatic activity that takes employees through the design thinking sequence, the teams come back and present to stakeholders who make assessments about the viability of the new ideas.


In formulating a strategy, Hoskisson convened people from across the business into L&D steering groups to identify the skills needed for the organization. “We were able to design what we needed for the organization in order to upskill so that we actually built learning that employees needed and that is relevant to real business problems.”


Hoskisson notes that employees want to engage in work that is purposeful and brings fulfillment.

“Learning can play an important role because if you invest in people you are telling them you are important to us and we want to develop you. You give them purpose – you are giving them learning that will help them be more successful at their job. We are lucky because we are a trade association representing an amazing industry so it is easy to say ‘I can see how I add value to my organization and the wider world as well.’”


On the topic of communications, Hoskisson explains: “The more I am in L&D, the more I see it is about communications and marketing. Yes it is about learning design and yes it is about equipping people. But there is no point in putting together great programs if people don’t understand why you are doing them. Last year, we invested on working closely with people who are skilled in marketing and branding. We thought it was important. People need to see a story about how learning links together and is relevant in the day-to-day. It can’t be abstract.”

Hoskisson makes it a point to link learning to organizational values. One value at IATA is the simple human touch. Hoskisson tries to incorporate this into programs by keeping it simple and making it meaningful at the individual level.

She also points out the link between communications in impactful learning experiences.

“The better you can make training for people, the more participants will tell stories for you.”


As a knowledge organization, Hoskisson believes that it is important for her team to instill knowledge awakening. “It is less about knowledge transfer but awakening people’s mind on how to apply learning in every day jobs. It is our job to create conditions for people to understand and apply this in a context that works for them.”


It can be difficult to pull the plug on a program that isn’t driving the intended change. This is one mistake that Hoskisson noted from her personal experience. She inherited a program that had been in existence for 20 years and she didn’t have a good feeling about it. Many in the business were involved in sharing their knowledge, so it was even more difficult to terminate the program. But she waited too long.

She tries to avoid this from happening in the future by constantly reviewing the performance of programs. It is important to bring a “critical eye without being jaded.”


Hoskisson notes curiosity as an invaluable resource. “If you are not curious, you are a disservice to your business. You need to know what is down the line in the business.”

A powerful example of the power of curiosity happened recently when a colleague’s 15 year old son came to work for a week of experience. He asked lots of thought provoking questions that the team hadn’t been considering.

For ongoing learning, Hoskisson recommends resources from Brené Brown and content on Tech Crunch. She also draws upon mentors in the learning space who provides inspirational thoughts.

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