The biggest challenge to L&D is…


Picture this – a room full of learning practitioners,  sitting in a circle ready to  begin.  One comment from the room “How am I supposed to write anything with no desk”?

The conversation unfolds…the facilitator begins by telling us he is not the expert on the topic  and he will be interested to hear what we have to say.  After a few key questions and some stilted discussion someone from the room says “I’m here for you to tell me about the topic so I can write some ideas down, that’s why I’m here”  Several nods of agreement come from the room.  The facilitator again reminds us that he is not the expert.  Someone leaves the room.

The conversation continues…a group of participants share amused glances and smirks as the facilitator speaks.  They appear to be unhappy with the way things are going.  Someone poses a really interesting comment from left field, the room is quiet…there is no desire to explore new paradigms here.

If we, as learning practitioners, are to survive in this era where innovation is the new currency, where collaborative learning is the new approach and  where the learning experience is more valuable than the content;  we need to,  in the words of Gandhi, “be the change we want to see”

Anything else will see us become obsolete.



The L&D Olympics

and they’re off…L&D consultant number 1 is looking good as she delivered 6 sessions and had a total of 30 participants, but wait…L&D consultant number 2 is catching up fast, no wait, she actually had 10 people not turn up to her session and what happened to L&D consultant number 3 – she only managed to run 4 sessions, everyone turned up but numbers were down.  Looks like the gold goes to…L&D consultant number 1.  Congratulations!!!

Why has learning and development become a numbers game in some organisations?  I recently saw a spreadsheet that one organisation has prepared for its L&D consultants to record the sessions they delivered during the month, the numbers registered, the numbers who attended and the numbers who advised that they wouldn’t attend.  Sounds like a lot of work for the consultant doesn’t it?  What does it all mean?  Where is the value in collecting this type of data and what does it prove?  In what way does this data address the quality of learning programs?  Finally, who is this data capture about?

I refer you to the quote below by the wonderful Steve Jobs.  Have a read of it now…

“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the
technology. You can’t start with the technology and try to figure out where
 you’re going to try and sell it…..we have tried to come up with a strategy and
a vision for Apple, it started with “What incredible benefits can we give to the
customer? Where can we take the customer?” Not starting with “Let’s sit down
with the engineers and figure out what awesome technology we have and then how
are we going to market that?” And I think that’s the right path to take.”

I know that the topic is around technology but this idea can be applied to any organisational concept.  It must be about the customer, always.

The example provided above is about the organisation, specifically the L&D function who are trying desperately to justify their existence.  You see, it doesn’t matter how many people turn up to a learning session – that means absolutely nothing (unless you have no one turn up and then you need to look at how relevant your programs are!) what matters is the quality of the program and the post learning impact on the individual, team and ultimately organisation.  If you want to capture something, capture that…

If you work in an organisation where data is captured on a regular basis, take a look at the data being collected and ask some questions around the relevance of that data.  Ideally, you need to be asking “Who is this about” and if it’s not about the client or customer then stop doing it.


A trained monkey OR an active learner?

I send my daughter to school mostly for what she can learn in the playground.  I stopped believing long ago that school could teach her the really important skills in life so I look after that at home.  Most of what happens in school is “training” – ramming kids heads full of irrelevant content they are expected to be interested in and retain.  It doesn’t get much better at tertiary level either. Remember how you crammed (trained yourself) for exams only to forget everything once the exam was over?

Real learning takes place in the playground as my daughter is exposed to a variety of personalities and behaviour that she needs to manage and moderate, including her own.  She has learnt leadership, problem solving, negotiation, influence, communication and creativity in the playground.  Skills that will take her through life.

You can imagine how excited I was when I came across this article which looks at real learning and how it can be gained more from interactions with others than from formal lessons.  Read it now and see what you think…

This has implications for workplace learning.  I think the nature of learning is changing in workplaces to involve a more collaborative, participative approach and use of social media is leading the charge.  So, let’s stop using the word “training” and move to a culture where learning is championed and occurs right when you need it in a meaningful way.

Do you consider yourself a learner?

Are you training your children or are you letting them learn?

How does your organisation approach learning and how can you influence that?