Repurposed from another use.
In today’s increasing rate of change and competition, coupled with growing ambiguity and uncertainty, L&D just can’t be about delivering courses on demand. Optimal execution, the result of formal learning, is only the cost of entry, and continual innovation will be the necessary element for organizations to thrive. Organizations have to move faster, be more agile, and adapt more effectively. And it’s here that L&D has a true opportunity, and imperative, to contribute. It’s about thinking strategically.
That means, intrinsically, that L&D has to start thinking about how to move forward.. People are learning on their own more and more. The tools to access information are quite literally in the palm of their hands. L&D can no longer be about controlling content. Instead a new role is needed.
How does L&D cope? The answer involves a couple of major shifts, from familiar to challenging. The first is that courses go from an event model to an approach that better reflects how we actually learn. We need to have spaced, distributed practice to truly master our skills. This is harder than the ‘information dump and knowledge test’ that too often characterizes organizational learning, which brings up two issues: 1) formal learning should be reserved for when it absolutely, positively has to be in the head, and 2) putting information in the world when possible.
That latter is referring to performance support, the first step in broadening the L&D perspective. The point is that we too often use courses when cognitive skills are not the problem. Performance consulting is a process to identify the real problem and cause, and provide appropriate solutions. Performance support is often a solution we can use instead of a course! Note that this is a first step out of the comfort zone, as it means engaging with our stakeholders, the business units we are tasked to assist. But it’s past time!
Doing courses the right way, coupled with performance support, are the key to optimizing execution. But that’s just the starting point. The key to organizational improvement will be the ability to learn. And that should be L&D’s role. But this means we have to again step out of our comfort zone.
We need to branch out into informal and social learning. Employees do learn on their own, but the evidence suggests that they’re not particularly good at it. There are lots of folk stories about what works that just aren’t aligned with what science tells us! Assisting the individuals and the organization to learn, independently and collectively, is the new opportunity. Assisting the organization to innovate means moving to the core of competitive advantage. And that’s a valuable place to be.
Wishful thinking isn’t the answer. It takes both knowing the bigger picture, the performance ecosystem, and working strategically to get from here to there. That’s what’s on the table. It might be scary, but the opportunity offers a brighter future for L&D. I’m excited about the prospects, and hope you’ll be making the move. I’d welcome the opportunity to assist, as well.