Stop Wasting Your Organization’s Money If You’re Not Delivering Learning
The past few months have been a whirlwind for us speaking at one conference after another….and it’s starting again. It is truly a privilege to speak at these excellent learning and performance conferences. What is disappointing, however, is the lack of learning that actually takes place both from the participants and from the many conference speakers.
Yes, we want to address the “elephant in the training room”. We’re going to state what many Learning professionals and leaders are thinking (and afraid to say aloud). From our vantage point as conference speakers’ there are two significant concerns. First, participants look as if they are always seeking a “quick fix” rather than a sustainable solution. This is very disconcerting since workplace learning efforts are a process not a “fix”.
Second, and more worrisome, is the lack of innovative thinking or discovery from many of our speaker colleagues. This is general statement and we don’t necessarily want to lump in some very forward thinking speakers that seek to discover innovative and interesting ways to develop lasting learning solutions. Regretfully, these speakers, in our opinion are in the minority. Trust us that making this statement is not making us friends and will get us push back.
Second, and more worrisome, is the lack of innovative thinking or discovery from many of our speaker colleagues.
But resistance is good. You want to shake things up…if not, why are you in the learning profession in the first place? We are learning professionals and learning experts so it is incumbent upon us to seek out the unknown and build bridges to get to the new reality. Last we checked, learning was about discovery, not status quo. Fundamentally, this is it! This is also what people expect from a “professional”. And here lies the problem.
While we applaud the dedication conference organizers put forth to deliver an innovative learning experience the problem rests solely on participants and invited learning subject experts that share their knowledge.
The “Quick Fix” Mentality
It appears that the participants we meet, albeit anecdotal, come to sessions with a checklist. This is simply a shopping list of items that will either magically resolve their issues back at work or quell their bosses concerns about spending money to go to the conference in the first place. If you take offense then you are genuine about why you go or…you are guilty of one or both of these reasons.
You won’t (and shouldn’t) find a quick solution at a learning conference. It’s a learning event! If you come with a “quick fix” mentality then prepare for disappointment. These events are to stimulate discussion and critical thinking that will lead to new learning experiences and discovery. Ultimately, the experiences lead to lasting solutions requiring diligence and patience whereas quick fixes focus on the now.
Miracles at a learning conference are in very short supply.
Miracles at a learning conference are in very short supply. So, while most speakers, like us, hope you discover an elusive “ah-ha” moment please keep in mind that learning takes work. Every organization’s learning situation is unique and finding a solution requires your total focus. But to actually believe you will leave the conference with a solution that will immediately resolve a problem is foolish and irresponsible.
Lets be blunt. If you come to a conference to justify to your boss that it will help the business then either prove it or stop wasting your time. If you come to find a “quick fix” then you are not only cheating what you can gain from the conference you are also cheating your organization from the benefits of a learning solution.
Your learning moments will come only if you approach possible solutions from a holistic context rather than a narrow one. Discover the connections and the effect it will have addressing the issue in the short and long term.
Same Old…”Don’t Worry…They Won’t Notice”
Did you notice the real elephant in the room at these conferences? No? Well, we did and it’s not pretty. It is actually embarrassing and this is going to get us unwanted attention. But we’re ok with that.
Our responsibility as learning professionals and as thought leaders is to push people to challenge the status quo. But it is safe to say that many of the speakers we encounter at every conference simply rehash the ‘same old’ and well-worn thought process. At times we’re guilty of doing the same (stating this for the record before our colleagues accuse us of bias).
It’s really ok if some of our peers challenge our perception. This will accomplish a couple of things including, calling them out for their complacency, questioning their contempt towards participant learning expectations, and neglecting their responsibility to move the learning profession forward.
While participants may get away seeking a quick fix it’s unacceptable for thought-leaders to recycle the same topics year after year especially at a learning conference. There is no place for complacency. There may have been a time when these topics were leading edge but after several conferences the same topics become irrelevant. This is especially true in the current constantly evolving business environments.
These speakers…keep re-hashing the ‘same old’ topics hoping participants won’t notice that their work is, in reality, useless.
What’s more disturbing is the hubris these speakers have towards the conference and participants. They keep re-hashing the ‘same old’ topics hoping participants won’t notice that their work is, in reality, useless. It is even more impressive that they also continue to expect praise for the (irrelevant) contribution they’re making to the advancement of the learning profession.
The workplace learning and performance discipline often neglects is own “learning” and professional development. Those external to WLP expect us to provide innovative methods to acquire, transfer, and apply knowledge and skills that allow people to be more effective in their roles and produce tangible results.
This means we must be self-critical. It falls on the shoulders of both workplace learning professional (you) and workplace learning experts (us and our colleagues) to discover not only our own skills gaps but to push the boundaries of what we don’t know and to challenge the conceptions we do know.
If you’re a Learning professional we call upon you to stop seeking the “quick fix” for your organization’s workplace learning issues. Rather, it is incumbent upon you to apply sustainable learning solutions that deliver tangible results.
If you’re a workplace learning expert (yes, this includes us) it’s your responsibility to continually challenge the status quo and advance the workplace learning profession rather than regurgitating the same topics year after year.
This is what learning is about. Seeking what is not known, validating if it applies, and determining how to apply the new knowledge to effect lasting results. We share one philosophy that we try to follow; “If you’re not living life on the edge then you’re taking up too much space.” So, take a step of the edge and into the unknown…this is where your learning begins.
Ajay M. Pangarkar CTDP, CPA, CMA and Teresa Kirkwood CTDP are founders of CentralKnowledge.com and LearningSourceonline.com. They are renowned employee performance management experts and 3-time authors most recently publishing the leading performance book, “The Trainer’s Balanced Scorecard: A Complete Resource for Linking Learning to Organizational Strategy” (Wiley 2009), award-wining assessment specialist with Training Magazine, and award-winning writer winning the 2014 prestigious TrainingIndustry.com Readership and Editors’ Awards for the Top 10 most read articles. Help them start a, “Workplace Revolution” at blog.centralknowledge.com or contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
August 9, 2014