Creating space to think

I think this is what we’re meant to do in L&D.

We’re not performance consultants. You know who knows about performance? The people doing the job required of them.

There’s a narrative around being performance consultants that I’m really uncomfortable with. I explored this in a previous post where I explored what it is that L&D is for.

I think L&D is about providing people a space to think.

It’s not about content delivery – not necessarily. If it were, work from the likes of Harold Jarche, Jane Hart and John Stepper wouldn’t prove to have value. People want and appreciate and engage in dialogue. When we have dialogue, this is where thinking evolves and learning takes place.

L&D shouldn’t be focused on delivering models, theories or content. Not exclusively. That’s not where the learning occurs. The learning occurs with discussions, depth of thinking and application of the learning.

On a recent programme, I designed in coaching calls to take place after the workshop itself. I did this because one of things we know too well is that any ‘course’ is only effective for the day it’s delivered. After that day of learning, it is highly unlikely someone will continue their application of their learning. Feedback from the delegates completing the coaching has been they’ve valued being able to re-visit their thinking on the topic, with dedicated time and space to think about what they learned, how they’re applying it, and the specific contexts they operate in.

Of course, this sustained learning and reflection can happen in a multitude of ways. Asking delegates to journal / blog about their ongoing learning. Asking delegates to form coaching pairs. Asking delegates to come back together for action learning sets. We’re not short of sustainment activities.

It’s giving people time and space to think. In session as well as ongoing. Models / theories / etc have their place. It’s very rare someone in a direct interaction with someone else remembers the model / theory / other. They are more likely to reflect on what they’ve experienced in a previous situation and act in a similar way. If they’ve been exploring how to think differently / better, they’ll be likely to try a different interaction. That doesn’t tend to come from ‘performance support resource’ or ‘job aid’.

I also get stuck, because there is a place for training. There is a need and a purpose for asking someone to impart their knowledge to others so they can use systems / tools / techniques. If you’re a therapist, an engineer, a physician, a technician, and any other number of jobs, they do require training. Being sat down and taught. There are right and wrong ways.

And this is different to giving people space and time to think. To trust them to arrive at their own answers. To allow them time to reflect on their practice. To offer them support with their thinking.

I think this is what L&D is about.

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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.

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