In finding ways to meet these new challenges and take advantage of new opportunities, it sometimes seems that l&d professionals are pushed from pillar to post. They are confronted by a dazzling and never-ending parade of bandwagons, each trumpeting their over-hyped claims and each damning their predecessors as out-dated and ineffective. Here are just a few of the unnecessary face-offs we’ve had to endure:
off-job v on-job learning
the classroom v e-learning
just-in-case v just-in-time learning
instruction v discovery learning
formal v informal learning
In each case, the implication is that there must be a winner and a loser; one is right and one is wrong. The falsity of this position is a fundamental cornerstone for this book. We don’t want to see any more babies (some of which to be honest are actually quite grown-up by now) thrown out with the proverbial bathwater. The 21st century l&d professional needs to be able to integrate all these possibilities, in the right proportions to meet their learning requirements, the needs of their audiences, within their particular constraints and taking advantage of their particular opportunities. They cannot achieve this if they are swinging wildly from one extreme position to another, trying one potential panacea for a little while and then moving on to another.
Training has for too long endured the unnecessary battle between the rationalists and the romantics, the ‘left brainers’ and the ‘right brainers’. Each camp is firmly entrenched in their positions, too busy ‘sneer leading’ to try and see the world from the perspective of their so-called enemy. Change will not be brought about by overcoming the enemy, nor by negotiating a ceasefire. It will come when we recognise those with differing views as the colleagues they undoubtedly are, doing their best just like you to make things work in difficult circumstances. Trainers shouldn’t just preach diversity, they should practise it too.
It’s time for some whole brain thinking. Less new-age voodoo. Less analysis paralysis. More learning and development.
Meanwhile, learners certainly have no doubt that changes are in the offing as the SkillSoft survey clearly demonstrates: “Traditional classroom training doesn’t have a large presence in the future according to those employees surveyed. Only 16.2% expected to be learning in a traditional classroom environment at an off-site location and only 33.4% expected classroom courses in the workplace to continue.”
But there is some scepticism that this change will be brought about by the old guard of the l&d profession, the dinosaurs. There are parallels in other fields, as Max Planck suggests, “An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way by gradually winning over and converting its opponents. It rarely happens that Saul becomes Paul. What does happen is its opponents gradually die out and the growing generation is familiarised with the idea from the beginning.”
I’m much more optimistic. It is natural for people – and that includes trainers, of any age – to resist change if this is thrust upon them. But they will engage wholeheartedly if they understand why change is necessary and if they are part of the solution. The alternative is not an attractive one, as Jack Welch points out: “When the rate of change outside exceeds the rate of change inside, the end is in sight.”
The Future of Learning, SkillSoft, 2007.
Great Thoughts About Physics by Max Planck, 2006, quoted in Knowing Knowledge by George Siemens.
That concludes chapter 2. We move on to chapter 3: Part 1: Learning=Adaptation
Return to Chapter 1
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