Bye-Bye Trainers!

How Mint Exec’s New Company Will Teach All Employees To Teach Others

Training has traditionally been part of centralized departments—and the bane of everyone else. MindFlash is about to change that.

Whether you’re a seasoned executive or new to the workforce, the idea of spending an hour in a training class is enough to make you long for a dental appointment. Online training, which emerged about a decade ago, hasn’t improved the experience much, even if it has allowed companies to save money on travel costs.

We can’t promise that MindFlash, a new cloud-based service led by former Mint CMO Donna Wells, is going to make the average employee jump for joy. But we do think it will have a profound impact on how organizations share knowledge–including eventually making trainers out of all of us.

Traditional online training tools consist of software systems that organizations have to install and manage on local computers or servers. That’s expensive. MindFlash, like just about every other work productivity tool released in the last few years, is based in the cloud. That makes it a lot cheaper. Which means more organizations can afford it.

Add to that the service’s killer ease of use. Mint, which earned itself a $170 million exit in 2009, did the impossible: Get 20-somethings hooked on personal finance, in large part by making the service drop-dead easy to use. MindFlash, which launched last September, has to be just as simple, Wells tells Fast Company. Though the service has a slew of features–the ability to add quizes, embed video, and track who’s taken a course–the standard they’re aiming for is to enable to new user to sign up, configure a course, and invite their first student in 15 minutes or less.

It seems reasonable to predict, then, that if you’ve got more organizations using online training tools, and more people capable of using the tool, training is quickly going to seep out of centralized training departments and become the responsibility of all employees.

And that’s what MindFlash is already seeing among customers, Wells says. As organizations need to move more quickly, it’s often faster to have the person with the expertise to prepare the presentation than waiting on a training department to get up-to-speed on the subject matter. Just as more and more employees are expected to have basic multi-media skills–the ability to blog, for example, or to shoot images or videos on their smartphones–so will they be expected to have the basic ability to share knowledge with their peers.

Perfection, says Wells, won’t matter as much as speed. “The most forward thinking are recognizing that the traditional approach to centralized content development results in content that takes so long to develop that it’s obsolete by the time it’s ready.”

As it becomes easier for workers to toss together presentations for their colleagues, “training” will probably come just as often in the form of 10-minute “classes”–to transmit bits and pieces of knowledge that need to be shared quickly–as the lumbering hour-long courses we’re more familiar with.

“Training just becomes a seamless part of the employee’s day,” Wells says. “It allows you to get better information into the hands of the people who need it, at the right time, increasing the speed and nimbleness of the organization.”

[Image: Flickr user Michael 1952]

E.B. Boyd is’s Silicon Valley writer. Twitter. Email.

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