#Chat2lrn is delighted to have a guest post from Clark Quinn. Clark Quinn, Ph.D., is a recognized leader in learning technology strategy, helping organizations take advantage of information systems to meet learning, knowledge, and performance needs. His approach is learning experience design, combining what we know about how people think and learn with comprehension of technology capabilities to meet real needs. He combines a deep background in cognitive science, a rich understanding of computer and network capabilities reinforced through practical application, considerable management experience, and a track record of strategic vision and successful innovations. He is a well regarded speaker and author on human performance technology directions. You can follow Clark on Twitter: @Quinnovator. See more of Clark’s views on this subject in his book Revolutionize Learning & Development.
Is Learning & Development achieving what it could and should? The evidence says no. Surveys demonstrate that most L&D groups acknowledge that they are not helping their organizations achieve their goals. It’s worse than the cobbler’s children, because they at least got others shoed, but here we’re not getting ourselves effective enough to help anyone else. Where are we falling apart?
My short answer is that we’re trying to use industrial age methods in an information age. Back then, one person thought for many and our training was to get people able to do rote tasks. There wasn’t a real need for knowledge work, and we were happy to filter out those who couldn’t succeed under these conditions. In this day and age knowledge work is most of what contributes to organizational success, and we want to foster it across the organization.
To succeed, there are a few things we need to get into alignment. The simple fact is that much of what is known about how we think, work, and learn isn’t being accounted for in L&D practices. We use courses to put information into the head, but there’s clear evidence that our thinking is distributed across information in the world. It’s also hard to get information into the head. So we should be focusing on putting as much information into the world as we can. We also now know that the way to get the best outcomes is to get people to work together, and that silos and hierarchies interfere. If we want the best outcomes, we want to facilitate people working and playing well together. Finally, we know that learning should involve models to guide performance, be emotionally engaging, and have sufficient, appropriate, and spaced practice. All of this is antithetical to so-called rapid elearning.
Underpinning this is the fact that we’re measuring the wrong things. We’re out of alignment with what the business needs; when we’re measuring how much it costs per seat per hour, we’re worrying about efficiency, and we’re paying no attention to effectiveness. It’s taken as a matter of faith that ‘if we build it, it is good’, and that’s empirically wrong.
Quite simply we need a revolution; a fundamental shift in what we value and what we do. It’s not redefining what we do completely; e.g. courses are still a viable tool, but they’re just one part of a bigger picture. There are two things organizations need: optimal execution of those things they know they need to be able to do, and continual innovation to adapt to the increasingly complex environment. Courses are only a part of the first, and essentially irrelevant to the latter. We need to incorporate performance support for one thing, and sponsoring innovation is about facilitating communication and collaboration. That comes from using social media (all of it, not just technology) in appropriate ways.
The upside is big. We can, and should, be the key to organizational outcomes. We should be designing and fostering a performance ecosystem where people can work in powerful ways. We should be shaping culture to get a workforce that is motivated and effective. If we do so, we’re as fundamental to organizational success as anything in the business. I suggest that this is an achievable goal and emphasize that it’s a desirable goal.
To get there, you need to ‘think different’. You need to shift from thinking about learning and training, and start thinking about performance. You need to take development to mean facilitation. L&D should be Performance & Development, or even Performance and Innovation. That’s the promise, and the opportunity. Are you ready to join the revolution? Your organization needs it.
Let’s discuss in #chat2lrn this week. See you on Thursday, May 7th 8:00 am PDT / 11:00 am EDT / 4:00 pm BST.