The Rise of the Learning Scientists: Digital Disruption and the Future of Learning Leadership

Tuesday, 12/4   |   9:30 am – 10:45 am   |   Full Open Room

Chris Pirie

Founder, The Learning Futures Group · Former Chief Learning Officer, Microsoft

The accelerating pace of innovation in computing, storage, and connectivity has had a profound effect on our working and private lives, connecting us to billions of other humans, disrupting every aspect of how we do business, and democratizing our access to information and capital. The result is a platform for an almost exponential pace of change and has given rise to a confluence of technology breakthroughs in such areas as robotics, quantum computing, artificial intelligence (AI), and energy production that will in turn further accelerate the accelerating pace of change! Living and working in such an era will require extreme adaptability; the ability for organizations and individuals to quickly learn and unlearn will be the difference between success and failure, growth and irrelevance. 

This session will explore how one organization created a culture of learning that respects and leverages the forces of change, and aims to build competitive advantage and a measurable impact on stock price. You’ll examine four forces at work on learning professionals: the rise and the role of robots, the new cult of learning culture, the learning advantage, and Corporate Learning 2.0. In the context of these trends, you’ll discover some tools to plan your future as a learning leader. You will get a reading list and a list of questions to help you frame your future as a learning leader in the age of digital disruption and what is perhaps the most exciting time in human history.

Chris Pirie is a former chief learning officer at Microsoft, where he was responsible for the enablement and readiness of more than 40,000 Microsoft sales, marketing, and consulting professionals deployed across 92 countries during the radical transformation of Microsoft into the world’s leading cloud salesforce.Chris and his team pioneered the digital transformation of learning at Microsoft in the relentless pursuit of the highest-quality learning at global scale and internet speed. Their quest—to build a modern corporate learning approach that would create measurable value and make learning a competitive differentiator—led to innovations in sales coaching, corporate MOOCs, and business school collaboration enabled by technology and a culture of learning. It also led Chris to recognize that we need a radically new approach to workplace learning—one that draws from a number of scientific disciplines and from advancements in neuroscience and technology, such as artificial intelligence, to help the modern workforce respond to the accelerating forces of change and opportunity.

In 2018 Chris launched the Learning Futures Group to help define this new model and to help other organizations build deep learning cultures, world-class sales enablement, and digital learning strategies that connect deeply to their organizational missions. Chris has worked in the software industry for Oracle University and Microsoft with a focus on running workplace learning, computer-based education, assessment, and e-Learning business units.

He served as ATD Chair of the Board of Directors in 2012, and currently serves on the board of, an organization that serves the international and local NGO community with professional training services. He is obsessed with the digital transformation of modern workplace learning as well as the power of learning and teaching to drive competitive advantage in business and accelerate social impact to make the world a better place.

Chris has a degree in literature and philosophy from the University of Essex in England and has studied and worked with many professional development programs including Stanford University Design School, Singularity University, and executive programs at INSEAD, Wharton, and the London Business School. He currently resides in Seattle and is happy to take any opportunity to learn or to travel.