Redbean - I am being lured back to the world of Learning and Development. Not against my wishes but possibly against my better judgement. Two reasons why that is:
1. learning and development is stuck in a rut…
regardless of the problem, the need, the capability, the possible solutions all learning and development implementations invariably end up in some form of stand and deliver training event. There are notable exceptions of performance -based learning, experiential activities and action learning or brilliant use of interactive-technology and learning support. But mainly most organisations have little imagination when it comes to learning so they just roll out another training program. And apart from the minor innovation of eLearning ten years ago there has been little innovation. And I say minor because most eLearning is really just digital publishing.
We are obsessed with training. Why? Because it comes from a long history of authoritive teaching that we and our ancestors have been subjected to, all our lives. Teacher knows best! Alternatives where the learner takes control are viewed with suspicion. Yet autonomous learners, not sponges, are what good organisations strive for. (See my article on the - Corporate Learning Maturity Model - ( Download the PDF -
2. learning and development has little respect and hence ‘voice’ in the business.
Lately where I have been working is more in the area of Organisational Learning and Business Improvement/Transformation and not so much in Learning and Development per se. What’s the difference? Well the former works ON the business while the latter works IN the business. Hence L&D is seen as a service and necessary cost. In the mediocre organisations it fulfils a need and satisfies, what I argue, are the low expectations of the shareholders and management.
Few managers that I have spoken to really believe that better/more training will contribute to the bottom line. It may improve customer satisfaction and it certainly reduces risk and satisfies compliance needs, but training comes well behind raising prices, cutting costs or product/sales/marketing improvement when it comes to improving the business.
And it is hard to argue with the bean counters but I do believe that quality learning can contribute to the competitive advantage of an organisation in ways that the above, mainly financial, factors can not. Competitive advantage is more than just running a smart business model with lowest cost resources/people. Good companies have an intangible advantage, that je ne sais quoi, that only comes from having a switched on, learned and engaged workforce.
So trying to convince organisations to stop seeing training as a cost and instead see learning as an investment has been one of my mantras for some time. How am I going? Don’t ask…
The problem I have is that it is hard to shift the mindset of an organisation if all they’re going to end up doing is unconfidently running yet another under-resourced training program and hoping for the best. That will not improve the business and the prophecy that training makes little difference, is therefore self-fulfilling. True organisational learning and a culture of innovation (which most organisations will swear they want) requires investment, not lower cost and mediocre services.
The L&D function and HR are responsible for this situation but only partly. They let themselves get kicked around by the business managers and change managers who use them as a cheap internal resource. Yet these same managers are also to blame for not educating themselves on what is possible, and hence demanding, superior learning and development services and outcomes. Their ignorance just sees them asking for yet another training program and they lack the insight and guts to try something different. So with no change in the demand the supply remains the same!
In my experience the organisations who can break this cycle are typically sector leaders. So, ironically, to improve organisational effectiveness, and if you want your organisation to be competitive, innovative and a place where people are lining up to work for you, then I have one bit of advice:
And start providing Learning and Performance Support.
This requires a 180 degree shift in your mindset about how to improve people’s capability, skills and response to change. Here are three steps required to transform and revitalise your organisational learning:
1. STOP Training and shift responsibility for learning to the learner/team;
2. provide the requisite tools and resources that support learning and performance;
3. get out of the way (but stay close enough to nurture, support and reward).
It is well researched that to develop organisational learning we need to develop organisational learners. That means helping them break the years of education system conditioning which has turned them into passive sponges and help them develop and mature as autonomous learners who take responsibility for their own learning outcomes that contribute to the organisational effectiveness.
John Seely Brown describes the existing model as the Cartesian View of learning which is based upon knowledge as a substance and pedagogy as knowledge transfer. He, and I, consider we have to develop the Social View of learning which is based upon a socially constructed understanding and shifts our focus from content to activities and interactions.
Obviously there is a lot more to this than simply giving the learners the keys to the library and a blog. All learners require guidance on what the organisation needs, how they can best contribute and which are the priorities. And ‘training’ services don’t need to be withdrawn totally or immediately. But by developing alternatives you will be developing the organisation’s capability, intelligence and resilience.
And the only thing you need to change is your mindset! How easy is that?
This is a big topic and I look forward to your comments to continue the discussion. But the STOP Training campaign starts here!