Are you Smart enough To Manage Learning in the Age of Google?
Dr John McGurk considers how L&D professionals need to embrace the new frontiers of learning knowledge to be truly impactful
I recently presented on our ongoing Steady State to Ready State research at HRD exhibition. I was asking the question “What do we know and use of the growing insight and evidence base on how people and organisations learn?” I am conducting the research with organisational learning expert Professor Eugene Sadler-Smith of Surrey University. Part of our approach is to ask what practitioners do now. We call that the “steady state”. The stuff we rely on without thinking too much. Our 2012 L&TD survey shows that established tools like Myers Briggs, Belbin, Honey and Mumford and “Plan do act” were used frequently by about 15%. Though useful, we think these models are over-used and this crowds out the use of other more forms of insight. These we define as the “ready state”, the stuff you should know about to inform your L&TD work now and in the future.
For example, golden nuggets from neuroscience and creativity research like the 10,000 hour “deep practice” rule are very rarely used. The concept of brain plasticity where our brains reconfigure for learning tasks, were also rarely used. The concept of flow as outlined by the Czech psychologist Czhiczhentmihalyi was only used by about 6% This concept is vital to our understanding of both engagement and learning yet clearly not enough L&TD practitioners go with the flow. Why worry about “Go with the flow”?
Well suppose your HRD goes to one of those big events in the HR calendar. There she hears the VP of Learning and Knowledge for a US pharma company explain how they employ neuro-scientific insights to help improve sales team performance. This increases sales above norm by 18% and above competitors by 10%, it also lifts margins and customer retention. Well do young think that HRD is going to see neuroscience as pointy headed and theoretical rather than practical and useful? Of course, there are many intelligent questions which might be asked about the approach but suppose your HRD knocks on your door as head of L&TD brimming with enthusiasm. “What do you know about this stuff and how can we use it?” If you look clueless or say “let’s get the consultants in” how long before she questions what you do? It it’s not just technology companies employing the cognitive elite. See the excellent new book by William Poundstone “Are you smart enough Work at Google?”, and listen to our Podcast for more about the issues.
You might say these are big corporate scenarios. But if you work in a cash-strapped housing association or police force and you are asked to prove the worth of L&TD, linking these new frontiers of knowledge in a usable and impactful way will surely help.
As our forthcoming HR in SMEs research shows, every organisation needs new insight and new ways of thinking, especially when learning is about helping people to integrate what they know with what they do. A few L&TD people are doing this now. But we need to lift the numbers. In a tough market for professionals of all types, L&TD people who are clueless about these issues might make others curious of their role. Watch out for a key project on how we’ll help you do this but for now, what are you doing to smarten up?
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