Of late, there seem to be a rising number of claims: for X or Y, or against Z. This, by the way, happens outside L&D as well, so feel free to extrapolate. Here, however, I want to talk about the necessity of, and some practices for, reality checks.
The problem is that people have vested interests in particular views. Many of the claims that are pushed generate revenue for them, directly or indirectly. They may want you to buy their product, avail yourself of their services, or more. And I get it; I too need to keep the wolves from the door. However, there are ways legit and less so to do it.
So one of the first reality checks is: what does who stand to gain? What’s their angle? Just as when I criticize something and you should rightly query why I’m raising the issue, similarly you should be asking the same of the claim. What’s their angle?
I’m pretty clear that I want our industry to be solid, and yes I want to be someone you might bring in to assist you in avoiding the pitfalls and hew to the best outcomes for your org. Similarly, the folks I’m critiquing might have an angle. They may have a tool, for instance, that they want you to use. Find out what their personal benefit is!
This looking at both sides is a second reality check. I recently heard a colleague claim that when he looks at something new, he immediately looks for contradicting evidence. That’s pretty smart, given that our cognitive architecture has a confirmation bias. That is, we’re inclined to look for information that supports our beliefs, and discount any other. I reckon it’s worth keeping an open mind.
This is a way you can go deeper. What do others say? Are their trusted folks who are supporting the view, or are they leery? What’s their expertise? Some folks will allude to some relevant expertise only for it to be shown that it’s tangential. Similarly, what’s the data say? Is there data? How valid is it? Is it relevant to you?
Ultimately, I want you to stay curious! I reckon that we all can learn more, and should. Learning more doesn’t mean just accumulating information, it means being willing to be wrong, admitting it, and improving. You need to be running your own reality checks on what you, and others, believe. Here’s to a steady increase in the reality of our field!
Duquesne Dave says
It’s true and troubling. I always remember Dr. Thalheimer’s blog post about a situation where a presenter – I assume you based on context – correctly called out a particular practice as bunk and feedback to the convention was basically “this goes against what we sell, so if I have to keep hearing this maybe we won’t sponsor your show anymore.”
This is one of the biggest reasons those ‘zombies’ keep showing up. Someone has a vested interest in keeping them alive. So if the concepts are zombies, the companies that perpetuate them are effectively necromancers, yeah?
‘Necromancers’, love it!