I had the pleasure of being the opening keynote at the People Matters L&D conference in Mumbai this past week, with a theme of ‘disruption’. In it, I talked about some particular myths and their relation to our understanding of our own brains. Following my presentation, I sat through some other presentations. And heard at least one other myth being used to flog solutions. So, fewer myths, please.
My presentation focused on the evidence that we’re still operating under the assumption that we’re logical reasoners (which I pointed out, isn’t apt). I mentioned annual reviews, bullet points presos, unilateral decisions, and more. I also cited evidence that L&D isn’t doing well, so it is a worry. Pointing to post-cognitive frameworks like predictive coding, situated & distributed cognition, and more, I argued that we need to update our practices. I closed by urging two major disruptions: measurement, and implementing a learning culture in L&D before taking it out to the broader org.
In a subsequent presentation, however, the presenter (from a sponsoring org) was touting how leadership needed to accommodate millennials. I’m sorry, but there’s considerable evidence that ‘generation differences’ are a myth. The boundaries are arbitrary, there’re no significant differences in workplace values, and every effect is attributable to age and experience, not generation. (Wish I could find a link to the ‘eulogy for millennials myth’ two academics wrote.)
Another talk presented a lot of data, but ultimately seemed to be about supporting user preferences. Sorry, but user preferences, particularly for novices, aren’t a good guide. There was also a pitch for an ‘all-singing, all-dancing’ solution. Which could be appealing, if you’re willing to live with the tradeoffs. For instance, locking into whatever features your provider is willing to develop, and living without best-0f-breed for all components.
Yes, it’s marketing hype. However, marketing hype should be based on reality, not myths. I can get promising a bit more than you can deliver, and focusing on features you’re strong on. I can’t see telling people things that aren’t true. My first step in dealing with the post-cognitive brain is to know the cognitive and learning sciences, so you’ll know what’s plausible and what’s not. Not to PhD depth, but to have a working knowledge. That’s the jumping off point to much that’s the necessary disruption, revolution, that L&D needs to have. And fewer myths, please!
Bethann Grella says
As usual, great post, The Economist posted an article titled “Myths about millennials:
Businesses should beware of dubious generalisations about younger workers” as far back as Aug 1st 2015. I referenced this in a paper a few years back and the article is on my desktop by chance.
Finally, thanks for sharing your insights. I have your books on my shelf and I always feel enlarged reading your work!
Nate Sonnenfeld says
Thank you for sharing! Agreed – fantastic post as always.
Absolutely – generational differences have been such a pervasive myth that even some colleagues that will identify and point out learning styles etc. as myths still buy into it. It’s been hard to shift the conversation toward a more nuanced look, although a couple references I’ve been pointing toward recently include Leadens (2020) and Kriegel (2013).
I’ve recently re-read Anderson (1991) and your point about the assumption that humans are logical reasoners also hit home. From this view I think I’ve really started to share that frame that cognitive systems function function not logically but *rationally* in terns of cost/benefit – to such an extent that human behavior can become illogical and maladaptive to the observer. It’s also been interesting to see how the same concept takes on so many different names across different fields and schools of thought.
Looking forward to passing your post along, and would love to view the keynote if you have a link! Thank you!
Anderson, J. R. (1991). The adaptive nature of human categorization. Psychological Review, 98(3), 409-429. https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1037/0033-295X.98.3.409
Kriegel, J. (2013). Differences in learning preferences by generational cohort: Implications for instructional design in corporate web-based learning [Dissertation manuscript, Drexel University]. ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. https://www.proquest.com/dissertations-theses/differences-learning-preferences-generational/docview/1336030330/se- 2?accountid=10003
Leadens, R. (2020). Pilot perception of automation use: A generational assessment [Dissertation manuscript, The University of North
Dakota]. Theses and Dissertations. 3106.
Shekar Mani says
All products designed have limited application and they have to depend on existing myth or create a new one. I had been follwoing a L&D leader who kept comming with new frameworks and ways of perceiving L&D and there was no real grounded stuff. He has made a name and his got his money the whole lot of followers are holding to previous framework which is not working . You know he will come up woth another next year. These kind of leaders have to reflect.