Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

8 May 2014

Beyond Talent Development

Clark @ 8:27 AM

On Tuesday, with a big presentation, the American Society for Training & Development announced a rebranding. The new name is the Association for Talent Development, going from ASTD to ATD. And while this is a necessary move, I think it wasn’t the best change they could’ve made.

ASTD needed the change, for two reasons. For one, ASTD has membership in, and runs events, around the world. There may be other orgs (e.g. CSTD for Canada), but the 800 lb gorilla is ASTD. Second, training, while still a large proportion of what ASTD does (rightly or wrongly), is increasingly being joined by other approaches such as coaching and mentoring.

The first reason resonates, but I have a problem with the second. To put it another way, I believe that the change to Association makes sense, but Talent Development doesn’t.  As I stated in Revolutionize Learning & Development, I believe that the necessary direction for organizations is to couple optimal performance with continual innovation. What’s required from Learning & Development, then, is to support all manners of performance and develop continual innovation.

What’s involved is not only to support training when it needs to be ‘in the head’, but using performance support when we can. And we need to develop and facilitate organizational innovation. The latter means not only developing individual (and group) ability to interact constructively, but to facilitate useful interactions of all sorts.

And here’s the rub. I see Talent Development as developing people through training, mentoring, and coaching, but I see the potential role for the folks in what now is termed L&D to be not only the development of people’s ability, but their ability to perform, even if it isn’t developing the person. That is, using performance support when it makes sense should be part of the unit’s responsibility, even when it doesn’t develop the person. Similarly, I see facilitating constructive interaction (curating resources, removing barriers to interaction and supporting tool use, etc), whether it develops people or not, as a vital role.

That’s the reason I chose to suggest, in the book, that the unit should be renamed Performance & Development; supporting both optimal execution and continual innovation in all relevant ways. The opportunity is to be the strategic organizational resource to ensure that all the intellectual resources of the organization are contributing.

And that is the reason I have a problem with Talent Development. To me, Talent Development is focused only on developing people instead of facilitating overall organization performance. And I think that’s falling short of the opportunity, and the need. Don’t get me wrong, I laud that ASTD made a change, and I think Talent Development is a good thing. Yet I think that our role can and should be more.  I  wish they’d thought a little broader, and covered all of the potential contributions.  So, maybe, Association of Performance & Development or APD. Regardless, it’s a dynamic organization that offers a lot. I just wonder who’s going to fill the gaps.


  1. Well said!

    And applaud your guts and integrity for saying so!

    And they could have climbed the ALPs (Association for Learning and Performance).

    Comment by Will Thalheimer — 8 May 2014 @ 1:38 PM

  2. ASTD has always been focused on people. Changing its name to ATD doesn’t alter that. Human performance is only one piece of the performance puzzle and ASTD/ATD has never had much to do with the other pieces. ISPI has long been concerned with the full performance picture. ASTD’s narrowing of its focus is doubtless seen as good news at ISPI. I agree.

    Comment by Fred Nickols — 9 May 2014 @ 3:05 AM

  3. I enjoyed reading your post. I found it to be insightful and reinforcing of many thoughts and ideas. Of note was your final comment, “I just wonder who’s going to fill the gaps.” It’s an easy answer for me, ISPI. Who else? It is focused on performance, measurable results, and the integration of the worker, the work, the workplace, and the impact on the world.

    Comment by April Davis — 9 May 2014 @ 4:32 AM

  4. […] Nachtrag (10.05.2014): Jay Cross findet die Abkehr von “Training” überfällig, traut aber “Talent Development” im Zeitalter der “extended enterprise” auch nicht so richtig: “I suspect that talent is jargon that will go out of favor when a more apt term comes along. I give it five years.” (”ASTD no more”)  Clark Quinn kommentiert auch und hätte lieber eine “Association of Performance & Development” gesehen (”Beyond Talent Development”). […]

    Pingback by ASTD has a new name | weiterbildungsblog — 10 May 2014 @ 3:39 AM

  5. Fred & April, not sure I agree that ISPI’s the answer. While they have the performance optimization, I haven’t seen them incorporate the development side of performance & development in the sense I mean and orgs need, e.g. PKM and social networks for informal learning. I don’t see continual innovation as within ISPI’s scope. Happy to be wrong.

    Comment by Clark — 11 May 2014 @ 7:36 AM

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