(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?
David Rubeli says
I’ve been reading a lot in the field of experience design, recently, and the examples you cite from Europe reminded me of one of the ideas that Thomas Wendt addresses in Design for Dasein. Wendt cites Bruno Latour’s example of the hotelier who attaches a cumbersome keychain to the doorkeys to prevent guests from taking the key outside the hotel and losing them because interpersonal requests didn’t work and semantic signage didn’t work. Wendt makes the case that Latour’s example presents how designers download accountability for enforcing social and cultural norms onto non-human objects and practice. To your comment about the need to reflect on not only our actions and the actions of others, I would add the need to consider the system of non-human and human actors and things that interact and co-create local learning experiences.
I wonder whether, by embracing experience design methodologies, its concerns for human-centred practice, situated learning, context, and learning and development might reframe its value propositions to organizations and learners. Getting reflective practice, reform, and change processes right is the tricky bit.
What I see, admittedly as a curious peripheral observer in the learning and development community, is a myopic fixation on technology-as-solution and organizational alignment of performance without a broader consideration of learning and development as offering value within the lifeworlds and situations of target worker groups and individual workers. How might learning and development interventions be multistable across the contexts and situations in which workers might engage them?
Thanks for stimulating my thinking.
David, nice point, I’m a fan of experience design. I do like ‘forcing functions’ (what Don Norman would call those large key fobs, I believe). And I do think design encompasses more than digital technology. Ideally, our design creates experiences that are distributed around the world to create an ongoing development path, with tools, resources, as well as mentoring, coaching and more. We want to consider a performance ecosystem, not just a course, and we do want to consider the flexibility of our designs meeting performers ‘where they are’. Per the original sparking article by Charles Jennings, there’s more value when the learning is embedded.
Brian Ward says
Interesting thoughts. I believe we need to get out of our L&D classroom and technology fixated worlds and enter the worlds of our clients. Asking a few simple questions, in their language, will get us to a deeper understanding of their world and how we might effectively “intervene” in it. Those questions are formed around what I call the 4 Ms of change, which I have recently formulated and started to ask:
– Motivators: What do you want to learn and what will learning that do for you?
– Models: Which role models can you learn from, and how close in proximity are you to them?
– Mentors: Who can be a mentor to you as you learn?
– Mastery: What mastery experiences will you need to undertake to acquire the competency, and how available are those experiences to you?
Not once do I mention classrooms, classes, workshops, eLearning, mLearning or the likes. These four elements, and the questions surrounding them, tell me a lot about the client and shift me from order taker to performance and change consultant.
It doesn’t always work, as some clients just “want a course” and insist on it. But I believe we have an obligation to them to persuade them to go through the questions and engage in adequate inquiry and reflection with us in order to get to the root of the issue/problem/challenge.