Being brilliant

When thinking about the state of learning and development in businesses, I get both excited and feel despair. There are some very good, very learned, and very skilled L&Ders around. What they help their businesses achieve is impressive. Activities like management and leadership programmes, inductions, elearning, talent development, social learning networks – these are all good things to be taking place. They make me feel like the profession is adding value and helping businesses to really focus on its people.

And then you get businesses that ask their L&Ders to do the wrong things or become involved in the wrong activities. Things like “deliver this training next week”, or “Bob needs assertiveness training, make it happen”, or “Bella needs to feel part of the team, training will help her, right?”. Oh, how I despair at these conversations. They’re just awful. What makes them awful is the absolute lack of understanding of what it means to think about learning and development.

L&D is not restricted to training, or on the job learning, or sourcing an external provider to deliver training. The brilliance of L&D happens when people are brought together to share their fears, share their concerns, talk about new ways of thinking, and do something about it. This is what we are capable of achieving and doing, and this is what makes me excited to be part of this profession. We talk to so many departments about their needs and their day to day language that we develop insight into the business which is quite unique.

We’re given permission to discuss new ways of thinking about work, about projects, about culture and a host of other things because we’re already talking about how to support the business achieve its goals. Beyond this, the best L&Ders I’ve known have started talking with the business about how to develop its thinking on its products, on its services, on its brand, on its recruitment, on its sales because they’ve been part of regular discussions anyway.

Where does this lead? Well, to very interesting challenges, problems and opportunities, the likes of which we wouldn’t have expected. The L&D strategy of the business is largely dependent on the skill of the L&Der to decide what this looks like. The playing field is theirs to determine, and that’s a very interesting place to operate from. As facilitators of knowledge, sharing and collaboration, we can help a business be the best version of itself.

Yes, it helps if the CEO, Exec and senior management team are on board with all this, but when they see how the L&Der is making things happen across the business, it becomes a compelling place to be. You’re starting to be allowed to talk to and direct this group based on your observations and your insight into what the business is achieving, and where they can be engaged in helping more to happen.

This is the excitement of the role and the job which I’m glad to be part of. The parts of where this can fall into despair, is where I hope through sharing and collaboration, we can help and support each other to achieve our best. This is part of my thinking behind wanting to create a community of folk around #ldconnect on Twitter, and for holding our first unconference. There’s ample opportunity for a lot to happen in our profession, and we all have ideas about what we can do to get there, so I hope to help that happen through the community.

UPDATE: Rick sent me this link to a post where he highlighted the kind of conversation I have described above.

Let’s Connect, L&D

Last year I had some thoughts bubbling away off the back of various #connectinghr activities such as the launch of the site, the unconference earlier in the year, and tweetups. It’s genuinely great being part of this community, which Mervyn Dinnen described as being a family. There’s a lot of folk willing to share, help, and support where it’s necessary.

What I was left feeling from it, was that L&D needs something like this. The HRD event hosted by the CIPD, is great at bringing a whole host of thinkers, facilitators and experts in the field together. The L&D 2020 sessions by Training Journal have been very interesting in helping to understand what the future of L&D looks like. And the Learning and Technologies conference is very useful for bringing together technology and how it can help bolster what L&D produce. What’s been missing, for me, from all this is the opportunity to connect and have proper discussions a la #connectinghr.

Cue an email to various L&Ders that I know, and the rumblings of an event were starting to form. I didn’t think it would be an unconference to start off with. I didn’t know what it would be to be honest. I just wanted a space for L&Ders to be able to come together and get all geeky about L&D. You would’ve thought things like this exist already, right? Well they do in various ways. Stella Collins runs a set of Brain Friendly Learning Group meetings, and I’ve heard there are others – I just don’t know about them. Particularly in the London area.

So my hat goes off to Natasha Stallard, Margaret Burnside, Martin Couzins, Debbie Carter, David Goddin, Stella Collins, and Doug Shaw for at least indulging my early musings. They then helped crystalise some thoughts and the next thing I know we’re having an unconference aimed at the L&D community, and I’m terribly excited by it! It’s been a soft launch, and in the two weeks since setting up the eventbrite page, we’ve had ten bookings. TEN! I mean, this means there’s a market, there’s interest, there’s potential for doing more – this could really be something.

I’m cautious to let it be known, I have no desire for this to be a profitable event. It’s space for L&Ders to come together and help each other do more. We are charging for attendance, and beyond covering some costs, any surplus will be donated to charity. Also, I had the initial idea, but this really does belong to the team above. I’m grateful to have been heard, and to have a group of supportive folk who thought together we could achieve something. And so was born L&D Connect.

So here it is, the first L&D Connect unconference, and it’s happening on Tuesday 24th April, from 1300-1700 at LBi. If you’re interested, you can book here, and join in the conversation on Twitter using the hastags #ldcu (L&D Connect Unconference) and #ldconnect. If you’re in L&D and want to reach out to the community, come find us, we’re here waiting to build our connections and support each other. There is a LinkedIn group where discussions will take place, and a Twitter account @LnDConnect (logo is on its way). Soon, I’m hoping we’ll be launching a blog too.