I'm Sick of Trends!

By Bob Mosher

Trend articles, blogs, and columns are like “New Years Resolutions”.  They come and go every January through around April.  I Googled “Learning Trends in 2019” and was greeted by 466,000 hits.  Really!  Now before I upset any of my colleagues who have offered trends, I’m not faulting the effort or sincerity of the intent. I’m just sick of trends in general.  That’s no one’s fault. It’s a fault in our industry.  A trend is defined as “a general direction in which something is developing or changing”.  That definition implies that the “thing” exists and it’s generally developing or changing over time.  Here’s my issue with our industry and trends.  They rarely truly change, and if they do it happens way to slowly. So in the spirit of bucking the trends (sorry for that) I’m simply going to offer 5 things I wish we’d just take up a leadership position with, and DO!
  1. Stop using the term “Blended Learning” when it often isn’t – Blended Learning has been around for a long time!  It started out as a way to augment classroom instruction with online materials, and frankly it hasn’t changed a lot since.  Shortening a 5 day class to 2 and using e-learning to supplement the missing 3 days is not blended learning.  The word that I take issue with is “learning”.  The word learning encompass a lot more then just the content covered in training, it covers all 5 Moments of Need.  For a learner it includes the entire journey of being trained, transferring what was learned to the workplace so it can be performed correctly, and then sustaining the information over time as it changes, and the learner matures in their ability to perform.  Designing deliverables that encompass the entire journey is blended learning, and often well beyond where our current efforts leave off.  Let’s redefine the discipline and add a host of other tools and approaches that go way beyond what we offer today.
  2. Get out of the training business and into the performance improvement business – I had a colleague recently share with me that he wanted to get his L&D department out of the “order taking” business and be allowed to do more things. If you want to take different orders, you have to change the menu.  One of the drawbacks of our success over the years, it that it’s painted us into a corner when it comes how our deliverables are perceived.  Like it or not L&D has a long history of delivery great training.  Who remembers corporate universities?  I mean brick and mortar universities.  Some still exist and do amazing things.  The problem with that success is that we have positioned ourselves as something removed from the business and offering deliverables that don’t map to the workflow.  Let’s keep offering training, but as a last resort.  That doesn’t mean training will or should go away.  It just means that our focus and engagement with the business should be dramatically different.  What if we build workflow performance-based deliverable first and supplemented with as little training as possible?  Con and I got out of the training business 10 years ago, and it’s been a rewarding ride ever since. Come join us!!
  3. Standardize on terminology – This one drives me crazy! We’re in the education business. Our job is to unclutter the cluttered, simplify the complicated, and bring structure to chaos.  If that’s the case, can we please stop renaming things, and inventing terms before we have a clue what they really mean, or how they’re best built and delivered?  If we can’t clearly explain it, how can we build it?  Case in point, AND I’m gonna get hate mail for this one, but can someone explain to me what micro-learning really is?  Not your definition, but our industry’s?  That’s my point.  I’m not faulting the power of whatever micro-learning is.  My issue is that if you visited 100 different L&D departments across the world and asked them to define micro-learning I’m afraid at what you might hear.  Again, I’m not picking on micro-learning specifically, or it’s potential. I’m anxious with our inability to standardize on terminology across our field and it’s causing some serious confusion.  The definition of Performance Support is one of my favorite pet peeves.  It’s NOT a job-aid!!! That’s the deliverable.  Performance support is a well vetted discipline that encompasses social, mobile, EPSS’s, job-aids and a whole host of other powerful tools!  Ok, I’ll stop… Rant over!
  4. Put methodology ahead of technology – We like toys and technology. We live in a time when learning technologies are growing at a rate that has surpassed our ability to keep up.  On one hand it’s the most exciting time to do what we do.  On the other hand, we’re spending millions, if not billions, on platforms we really have no idea how to use.  This is where the vendor community could really step up and help.  They create these things for a living, and most are amazing.  The problem is that we’re not in the technology business.  We’re in the instructional methodology business.  These tools are enablers, not ends in and of themselves.  We need to take a breath and better understand how to use the array of tools that exist and are coming at us at a record pace.
  5. Research and understand how to analyze data to defend what we do – Finally, data… We have TONS! Do we really know where it’s coming from, what it represents, and what to do with it?  I’m the first to admit that this is my blind spot.  Analytics, and the constructive use of them, are key to our ability to get our arms around all I’ve describe, and quantifying what we do.
Ok, there you go!  Let’s throw the gauntlet down in 2019.  Let’s move into a revolutionary time when we buck the trends and truly redefine what we do and how we do it.  The time is now and well overdue.

More resources on The 5 Moments of Need.

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