(in the future)
Dr. Melik: You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies? Or hot fudge?
Dr. Agon: Those were thought to be unhealthy, precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.
In Woody Allen’s Sleeper about someone who wakes up in the future, one of the jokes is that all the things we thought were true are turned on their head. I was talking with my colleague Jay Cross in terms of why we’re not seeing more uptake of the opportunities for L&D to move out of the industrial age, and one of the possible explanations is satisfaction with the status quo. And I was reminded of several articles I’ve read that support the value of rethinking.
In Sweden, on principled reasons they decided that the model of prosecuting the prostitute wasn’t fair. She was, they argued, a victim. Instead, they decided to punish the solicitation of the service, a complete turn around from the previous approach. It has reduced sex trafficking, for one outcome. Other countries are now looking at their model and some have already adopted it.
In Portugal, which was experiencing problems with drugs, they took the radical step of decriminalizing them, and setting them up with treatment. While it’s not a panacea, it has not led to the massive increase in usage that was expected. Which is a powerful first step. It may be a small step toward undoing some of the misconceptions about addiction which may be emerging.
And in Denmark there was an experiment in doing away with road signs. The premise was that folks with regulations will trust the regulations to work. If you remove them, they have to go back to assessing the situation, and that they’ll drive safer. It appears, indeed, to be the case.
I could go on: the food pyramid, cubicles… more and more ideas are being shown to be misguided if not out and out wrong. And the reason I raise this is to suggest that complacency about anything, accepting the received wisdom, may not be helpful. Patti Shank recently wrote about the burden of having an informed opinion, and I think we need to take ownership of our beliefs, and I think that’s right.
There are lots of approaches to get out of the box: appreciative inquiry, positive deviance, double loop learning, the list goes on. Heck, there’s even the silly and overused but apt cliche about the definition of insanity. The point being that regular reflection is part of being a learning organization. You need to be looking at what you’re doing, what others are doing, and what others are saying. Continual improvement is part of the ongoing innovation that today’s organization needs to thrive.
Yes, we can’t query everything, but if we have an area of responsibility, e.g. in charge of learning strategy, we owe it to know what alternative approach might be. And we certainly should be looking at what we’re doing and what impact it’s having. Measuring just efficiency instead of impact? Being an order taker and not investigating the real cause? Not looking at the bigger picture? Ahem. I am positing, via the Revolution, that L&D isn’t doing near what it could and should, and we are via the Manifesto that what it is doing, it is doing badly. So, what’s the response? I’ve done the research to suggest that there’s a need for a rethink, and I’m trying to foster it. So where do we go from here? Where do you go from here? Steak, anyone?