Where’s the new shiny?

I’m always one for looking out for the new shiny. My new phone is a good example of this. I only got my HTC Desire HD a year back, and with new smartphones available I was thinking I was behind the technology curve, so got the HTC Sensation XE (which is a very good phone that I’m a little bit in love with). Yet, if I look at my job and what I do, there is no new shiny, and this troubles me. Yet, the problem isn’t that it troubles me, the question is – why is there no new shiny?

The new shiny I’m talking about in this instance, is advancements in learning and development. We just don’t seem to be advancing. It’s much of the same. We’re using theories and models that have been developed by some very clever people before us, and trying to use these to help us develop something meaningful for our client base.

Developments in car engineering and technological development is an interesting comparator in this instance. The new range of Ford cars are boasting keyless entry to the car. Which is impressive, except BMW had this available on their cars eight years ago. What was the last big thing to happen to L&D in recent years? E-learning? Social learning? Difficult to say right? NLP? Possibly even emotional intelligence? And this leaves our profession standing quite still. We might be a forward thinking group of people, capable of delivering interesting solutions to people problems, but we’re using very little in terms of new models or theories to help us get there.

Take a moment and think about what the default models and theories are that you fall on when developing a new course or solution. They’re going to be the same, tired and tested things most people in the industry are familiar with. And I don’t know if this means our profession is lazy, or we’re just not as bright as we might like to think we are. Even worse, most of what we use is written by someone else, and it’s our best interpretation that helps us to make sense of it.

The question, in my mind, becomes > is this good enough for L&D? As a profession we are experts at engaging a group of people, understanding what solutions we might be able to provide, and design something impressive to fit the bill. But we’re just not being bold enough to break free from the teachings we’ve been given, and we’re not brave enough to come up with our own thinking. It’s too risky and too difficult to be that creative. Which is why I applaud the many consultancies that are out there that try and create a product and hold on to the IP so they can make their money from it. At the same time though, they’re doomed to failure. Mainly because the new products are so niche only the few will ever understand them. The beauty of concepts like NLP and EQ have been that they were broad enough for anyone to take an interest and become an expert.

It’s topics like this which get me thinking about what’s good enough for our industry, and it’s topics like this that I want to discuss at the L&D Connect Unconference. Come along, and be part of the conversation, it will be well worth your time.

Published by

Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

7 thoughts on “Where’s the new shiny?”

  1. Wow what a challenge to the profession.

    I am not sure we need new and shiny. I am sure new ideas will emerge and i am sure that many of those will be in neurology areas that may well challenge our thinking.

    I am well aware that I use some tried and tested models and theories and I make no apology for that where they still fit with todays context and situations that leaders face.

    Personally, I feel its more about how we use the various models and theories that is possibly the “new shiny”. My comparison would be schools. I am a school governor and really passionate about the developments in teaching in “learning to learn”, and that its less about teaching and imparting facts.
    I wonder if this true in the L&D world, and I know it informs my practise, and that is about giving our “clients” ways of potentially exploring and explaining their world, context and situation.

    We are purely mirrors on their world, and a mirror is a mirror how ever fancy the frame!

    (rather pleased with that one, impressed myself!!)

  2. I’m very much with Ian on this.

    My view is that learning and development is not new &/or shiny. We’ve been doing it naturally for a very, very, very long time.

    What we haven’t been doing for a long time is supporting diverse and changing groups of people with differing interests in how to gain knowledge & skill very quickly for commercial gain… feels like this is where the problem lies doesn’t it?

    The challenge perhaps is that the new & shiny is being created around us and is seductively attractive. Yet we still don’t understand the archaic & magical that we call humanity… is this good enough for L&D?

  3. Sounds like a consensus building…..

    For me, it feels like mediums change but people less so. Is delivery the new shiny? I mean everything now is social media led, a few years ago e-learning was king, before that Powerpoint and so on and so on.

    I’d echo the points above around learning to learn and also providing training which takes in to account a diverse audience. To me, humanity is still very much humanity. If one understands the people and their needs then one can deliver learner centred training & development. Enough with corporate sheep dips, enough with interactive whiteboards and worrying if you have the right app on your iPad to post lesson plans to Scribd. Let us go back to the learners, honour their needs and maybe that will be the new shiny that everyone wants to do…..

  4. Thought provoking stuff. Thanks!

    Thinking about it as an avid learner I think the new shiny bit is in the delivery not the content. To follow your analogy, I’ve got several gadgets that do e-mail and circumstances dictate what I use. Underneath the cover they do the same thing.

    The challenge I see is to provide consistent material across several methods and media to suit the learner. Sometimes I’d like to receive it on broadcast (youtube?) sometimes a lecture, sometimes one-to-one.

    Perhaps this makes the new shiny an agile communicator.

  5. My problem is whenever I read about a new shiny I can’t help but think “is this snake oil?”

    My RSS feed reader is crammed full of stories telling me how “x” (which has been around since I got into L&D a few years ago) is “going to go big this year!”

    But I also keep reading things where people say “I remember when people were saying that x would revolutionise learning, but everyone forgot about the learner/content/making it effective”.

    That’s not to say that something new and shiny can’t be good, just that I don’t automatically feel the need to embrace it. But chatting about it with fellow like-minded professionals, and saying “hm, what’s this about? How can we use it? Do we need to use it” is definitely worthwhile.

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