Tag Archives: learning and development

Re-Thinking Learning and Development. Part 4: Do We Have it Backwards?

I invite you to check out the Khan Academy.  All of these learning modules are offered here and on You Tube for free.   I don’t know about you, but I think they are pretty good.  In his fascinating 20 minute TED talk, Salman Khan also argues that we are doing education backwards and it should be flipped.    We should, he argues, have students do the “classwork” at home.  (they can watch the video lectures by themselves in the intimacy of their own home, in their way, and as many times as they need.)  And then. . . they should do what USED to be thought of as HOMEWORK . . . IN CLASS!

So there is an idea, do the problem sets in class under the watchful eye of a teacher so that when they stumble or are confused, they can be redirected. Students can learn from each other in a much more humanized environment.

What a different idea about how to leverage e-learning not as a way to drive down the denominator of the ROI calculation, but to make the LIVE learning experience much more impactful!

Changing Educational Paradigms

To further this thought, watch this TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson about how our education system – developed during the age of enlightenment and designed to support the needs of the industrial age – must be re thought in the 21st century.  (I would argue this is relevant to us as we seek to train our adult employees, because how we prepare professional training today flows from this educational tradition.)

All too often, our current mode of teaching does perhaps nothing better than kill creativity.  This 20 minute talk explores how our innate creativity is gradually squeezed out to us as how we move through the educational process:

(If you enjoyed Robinson’s views, you might also look at this TED talk about how he believes schools kill creativity.)

To me, I think these all point to the need to ABSOLUTELY restructure our approach to educating, not only at the K-12 level but for adults as well.


  •  BE A STRUGGLE (if the answers are given too easily, then it produces superficial knowledge. We appreciate things more when we have to work at them.)
  • LEVERAGE TECHNOLOGY in a HUMANIZING WAY (not solely to reduce cost.)
  • RECOGNIZE THAT IT IS NOT SO MUCH ABOUT TEACHING AS IT IS ABOUT CREATING LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES (we are all born with the ability to learn.  Our goal as educators should not be so much about telling others what we have learned, but about creating environments within which our students can learn largely by their own labors.  That’s what makes it stick.)
  • START WITH THE IDEA THAT WE ALREADY HAVE TOO MUCH “EDUTAINMENT” OUT THERE (and there is absolutely no need to create more.)
  • START BY DEFINING NEW BEHAVIORS WE ARE SEEKING (you can’t design an effective learning strategy without considering first, how you want participants to think, feel or act differently as a result of the training.)

We (at XLC) may not have all the answers.  But this topic is vitally important to all of us who feel that we must continually to develop the abilities and patterns of thought among our workforce.

We believe that a constant spirit of experimentation is helpful if we are to create learning that sticks, and has lasting impact.

What about you? What training experiences were the most creatively engaging for you? And was the learning that resulted sustained?


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Re-Thinking Learning and Development. Part 2: Do Fewer, Go Deeper

In our first post in this series, we looked at the pressures on learning and development officers to produce better ROI’s by managing the cost side of the equation.

We can appreciate how this happens: companies have many people to be trained, and have many competencies on the list. However, we want to challenge the quantity vs. quality mentality.

It is reasonable to consider productivity when thinking about the ROI calculation for Education (ROEI).  So if we deliver more training sessions to more people within the enterprise, doesn’t that deliver more value?   I guess you could make that argument.

Or, you might think about benefits of learning in terms of their impact on people and the organization (what the original Kirkpatrick Model challenged us all to think about back in 1959).

So the notion that we should concern ourselves with impact on peoples’ behaviors and on business results  are big ideas – just as elusive today as when Kirkpatrick initially developed his call to arms.

It seems to me that the first challenge we face, is that learning does not really occur in the classroom.   We can deliver the concepts to program participants (the intellectual elements), but until those participants apply these concepts in their own world, do the concepts sink in?

For example, let’s say we teach you a new approach to planning and managing performance appraisal discussions.   If the ideas are new to you, we can hope at best, that you might be inclined to try them on your own at the time of your next performance appraisal session.

When you do, if the outcome was a “good” one, you might be encouraged to try the new methodology a second time – or even a third (if the 2nd went well also).  Then gradually your confidence grows and the new behaviors become your new norm.

But what if your outcome using the new method was not a positive one?   In this case, I think most of us would be quick to abandon the new idea in favor of our historical behaviors (EVEN if we believed our past practice produced mediocre results.)

Without some means of ongoing reinforcement or coaching, the new behavior is likely to fall by the wayside.   This coaching could come from your boss, co-workers, or a trained facilitator (it doesn’t matter which). But the act of coaching is essential. This is why our hypothetical 12 hour MBTI workshop described in part 1 of this series was broken into 4 sections – allowing participants time to experiment, to share their results with the class, and to experience that vital coaching opportunity.

So, let’s recap what we have concluded thus far.  Here are some important points to consider when developing effective learning and development strategies:

  • WHEN PRACTICAL, TRAIN WHEN THERE IS AN URGENT NEED (we are MOST receptive to learning new things when we are trying to solve a problem where we recognize the need for new skills.  The best way to teach Lean or Six Sigma is when your group has a process they want to improve.  Teach MBTI when people are already frustrated with some of the human interactions they face.  Teach Project Management when you have formed a new project team.   This creates a built-in mechanism for immediately applying what is taught.)
  • DO FEWER, GO DEEPER (if budgets are limited, doesn’t it make sense to reduce the number of topics covered, so that we can actually work on changing behaviors?)
  • THERE MUST BE AN EXPERIENTIAL COMPONENT (most of us do not learn in the classroom.  Some of us have to see it with our own eyes to get it.  And others of us have to actually DO IT.)
  • If we do not have good outcomes when we try something new, THERE NEEDS TO BE REINFORCEMENT AND COACHING for the learning to stick.
  • TRAIN AROUND ISSUES THAT ARE OF STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE to the enterprise.   (Many HR people develop lists of “leadership competencies” and train to them.   While these may be good, another way to think about it is to focus on the main initiatives that the C-suite is interested in, ask what skills or attitude gaps exist, and then train to those. This approach is more likely to enlist senior management support.)

In Part 3 of this series, we will consider why we need to rethink the entire way we conventionally design learning experiences to make learning stick.

What about you? Have you had an experience where a crisis or significant opportunity “forced” you to embrace training? What was the outcome?

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