This post will be challenging to read. It will be a direct challenge to those in the profession who I respect and think are doing important work in advancing L&D. If you read this and think I’m referencing you and your mindset and attitude, then yes I probably am.
The L&D vanguard leading the light for the revolution of how people are learning at work at peddling dangerous myths that we need to carefully critically appraise. I’m part of that vanguard. I’m peddling those same myths and I’m guilty as charged.
Except I’ve not built my business model on whether or not people will buy what I have to offer on the fear of what is happening in the world of knowledge consumption, and I’m not invested in towing that particular party line.
I repeat, this is directly offensive to those who do make a business of this. They earn an honest living from doing so and are doing important work in this area to progress the understanding of workplace learning in a way we haven’t been privy to before.
Every single person who is claiming they are leading organisations where models such as 70:20:10, informal learning processes, social learning and the such like are telling you such a bag of lies I don’t even know where to begin.
Firstly, most of the people in this space are talking about nothing more than IT training. They’re most certainly not talking about coaching skills, leadership development, negotiation training, or any other high level skill set. There might be some organisations doing this and claiming they are. They might even be part of the big chip organisations many of us would be lead to believe have fully embraced these types of approaches.
But they haven’t. A population in their organisation have, and that’s not the same as everyone. It’s not having the kind of business impact many are claiming it does because most departments aren’t measuring that kind of activity. One group embracing the approach is not the same as everyone in the Finance function or Procurement team or A N Other being part of this type of organisational learning activity.
Indeed, most organisations where there isn’t an L&D or HR function couldn’t even explain how they do any of this activity, because they’re simply not doing it. They’re getting on with the day job. And before the vanguard start claiming that the ’70’ of the 70:20:10 is the day job – yes I understand that, and it’s all being done on the job – except the people doing the job aren’t setting themselves personal learning tasks and embarking on personal and professional learning journeys. They’re just getting on with the job they’re paid for and at best doing a good job of it because of the formal learning processes they’re taking advantage of.
There’s more, though. The rhetoric around a lot of what the vanguard write about is that if you’re not supporting these activities as an L&Der then you’re failing your organisation. Which is in part true, except there are plenty of organisations and L&Ders who haven’t got the first clue about what any of this is trying to promote or talk about. So, no, not all big badass companies are doing this. Some companies are – those who are enlightened enough to realise there are better ways to support workplace learning and support personal and professional development at work. One team or a number of teams in an organisation does not equal endemic practice.
Hold on, there’s more too. In all likelihood, it’s those people who have a propensity towards using social tools and sharing their learning openly who are receptive to this type of learning at work. That’s not everyone, and it’s definitely not every L&Der. L&D is representative of the population at large in that there are just as many against the use of technology to support learning as there are business leaders who are against the use of technology to modernise workplace practice. The teams or the people likely to adopt this type of approach are those who want to modernise their working practice anyway.
I haven’t finished yet, there’s even more. The vanguard are very clear on this too. EVERYONE IS AT IT. Except they are patently not. Some are, sure. But there are many more who need support and guidance on how to make this stuff work and how to make it happen.
Let me be clear, I believe that workplace learning is fundamentally changing. Technology as an enabler of learning has never been better, and we’re only just seeing how the technology can be used as such. The vanguard are trying to run their business off a culture of fear in some parts where they’re claiming that there is this enigma of learning is taking place that is hard to quantify and hard to qualify but it’s out there because their surveys say so.
Let’s be careful about what we choose to believe. And to the vanguard I challenge every one of you to be far more responsible about the rhetoric that is perpetuated and the impact on your fellow L&Ders.