When I wrote my last post on a message to CxOs about L&D myths, I got some pushback. Which, for the record, is a good thing; one of us will learn something. As a counter to my claim that L&D often was it’s own worst enemy, there was a counter. The claim was that there are folks in L&D who get it, but fight upward against wrong beliefs. Which absolutely is true as well. So, let’s also talk about what CxOs need to know about the org learning myths they may believe.
First, however, I do want to say that there is evidence that L&D isn’t doing as well as it could and should. This comes from a variety of sources. However, the question is where does the blame lie. My previous post talked about how L&D deludes itself, but there are reasons to also believe in unfair expectations. So here’s the other side.
- If it looks like schooling… I used this same one against L&D, but it’s also the case that CxOs may believe this. Further, they could be happy if that’s the case. Which would be a shame just as I pointed out in the other case. Lectures, information dump & knowledge test, in general content presentation doesn’t lead to meaningful change in behavior in the absence of activity. Designed action and guided reflection, which looks a lot more like a lab or studio than a classroom, is what we want.
- SMEs know what needs to be learned. Research tells us to the contrary; experts don’t have conscious access to around 70% of what they do (tho’ they do have access to what they know). Just accepting what a SME says and making content around that is likely to lead to a content dump and lack of behavior change. Instead, trust (and ensure) that your designers know more about learning than the SME, and have practices to help ameliorate the problem.
- The only thing that matters is keeping costs low. This might seem to be the case, but it reflects a view that org learning is a necessary evil, not an investment. If we’re facing increasing change, as the pundits would have it, we need to adapt. That means reskilling. And effective reskilling isn’t about the cheapest approach, but the most effective for the money. Lots of things done in the name of learning (see above) are a waste of time and money. Look for impact first.
- Courses are the answer to performance issues. I was regaled with a tale about how sales folks and execs were insisting that customers wanted training. Without evaluating that claim. I’ll state a different claim: customers want solutions. If it’s persistent skills, yes, training’s the answer. However, a client found that customers were much happier with how-to videos than training for most of the situations. It’s a much more complex story.
- Learning stops at the classroom. As is this story. One of the reasons Charles Jennings was touting 70:20:10 was not because of the numbers, but because it was a way to get execs to realize that only the bare beginning came from courses, if at all. There’s ongoing coaching with stretch assignments and feedback, and interacting with other practitioners…don’t assume a course solves a problem. A colleague mentioned how her org realized that it couldn’t create a course without also creating manager training, otherwise they’d undermine the outcomes instead of reinforcing them.
- We’ve invested in an LMS, that’s all we need. That’s what the LMS vendors want you to believe ;)! Seriously, if all you’re doing is courses, this could be true, but I’m hoping the above
- Customers want training. Back to an earlier statement, customers want solutions. It is cool to go away to training and get smothered in good food and perks. However, it’s also known that sometimes that goes to the manager, not the person who’ll actually be doing the work! Also, training can’t solve certain types of problems. There are many types of problems customers encounter, and they have different types of solutions. Videos may be better for things that occur infrequently, onboard help or job aids may meet other needs to unusual to be able to predict for training, etc. We don’t want to make customers happy, we want to make them successful!
- We need ways to categorize people. It’s a natural human thing to categorize, including people. So if someone creates an appealing categorization that promises utility, hey that sounds like a good investment. Except, there are many problems! People aren’t easy to categorize, instruments struggle to be reliable, and vested interests will prey upon the unwary. Anyone can create a categorization scheme, but validating it, and having it be useful, are both surprisingly big hurdles. Asking people questions about their behavior tends to be flawed for complex reasons. Using such tools for important decisions like hiring and tracking have proven to be unethical. Caveat emptor.
- Bandwagons are made to be jumped on. Face it, we’re always looking for new and better solutions. When someone links some new research to a better outcome, it’s exciting. There’s a problem, however. We often fall prey to arguments that appear to be new, but really aren’t. For instance, all the ‘neuro’ stuff unpacks to some pretty ordinary predictions we’ve had for yonks. Further, there are real benefits to machine learning and even artificial intelligence. Yet there’s also a lot of smoke to complement the sizzle. Don’t get misled. Do a skeptical analysis. This holds doubly true for technology objects. It’s like a cargo cult, what’s has come down the pike must be a new gift from those magic technologists! Yet, this is really just another bandwagon. Sure, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality have some real potential. They’re also being way overused. This is predictable, c.f. Powerpoint presentations in Second Life, but ideally is avoided. Instead, find the key affordances – what the technology uniquely provides – and match the capability to the need. Again, be skeptical.
My point here is that there can be misconceptions about learning within L&D, but it can also be outside perspectives that are flawed. So hopefully, I’ve now addressed both. I don’t claim that this is a necessary and complete set, just certain things that are worth noting. These are org learning myths that are worth trying to overcome, or so I think. I welcome your thoughts!