Earlier this year employees of mobile communications operator TalkTalk were treated to bite-sized chunks of training served up in a variety of workplace locations: how to do an elevator pitch (taught in the lift), personal branding (explained in the cloakroom) and a quick digest of corporate mission values (dished up in the canteen). The lessons were accessed by staff members pointing their smartphones at an icon containing a Quick-Response code, which invoked the pithy tutorials.

It was a witty demonstration of how knowledge and expert interventions can be delivered to physical spaces not normally associated with corporate training. Anywhere, in fact, where workers are equipped with a mobile device and access to the internet. Known as “skill pills”, these bite-sized chunks of learning are proving a powerful way of making expert interventions in operational situations; currently they are delivering child-safeguarding material to workers on board rescue vessels in the Mediterranean.

Save the Children is the charity deploying mobile learning to improve best practices among its workforce in the Mediterranean and other global, sometimes crisis-stricken locations. Other sectors, including oil and gas companies, healthcare and engineering, are discovering that a 2-10 minute video lesson is an invaluable support tool for traditional classroom training. Conveniently, such lessons can be downloaded on demand at oil rigs, hospitals or other customer locations.

The combination of cloud plus storage is fundamentally changing our concept of the workplace, especially how and where knowledge and training are stored and distributed.

Together, these technology capabilities have disrupted the way knowledge has traditionally been learned and applied, maintains Gerry Griffin, founder of digital learning and business consultancy Skill Pill. “Cloud storage can be a metaphor for the way humans learn, in the sense that we no longer need to store stuff in our memory, but we can subcontract that to our phone,” he says.

In everyday life, the benefits are well used and numerous, says Griffin: “If we have parked a car in the airport car park, we take a photo of where we’ve left it — we use the phone as a reminder to it. GPS satellite navigation is the same; all we need to do is learn how to use the system, and then it will take us on roads that we don’t necessarily need to remember ourselves.” The corporate world is similarly starting to exploit and access these capabilities to redefine the workplace.

At TalkTalk, the skill pill exercise was an important way to demonstrate that the workplace and its activities are being re-imagined by digital, confirms Jo Taylor, former Human Relations director at the mobile operator. “Staff used their phone[s] in the communal area to pull down learning content on strategic influencing, and networking in the elevator,” explains Taylor. “The idea here was to create a relationship between physical environment and learning in order not to see learning as something done differently in time and space from the actual work.”