Conversations with Clark

Posted by Rich Mesch on Oct 21, 2009 5:19:00 AM



by Rich Mesch

I’m blessed to know some of the smartest people in this industry. My friend Clark Aldrich pinged me today to take a look at the new post on his fantastic blog, Clark Aldrich On Simulations and Serious Games. I’m glad he did, because it’s a good, provocative read. Take a look, here:

Clark suggested that “I am sure my newest entry will offend just about everyone!!”
With Clark's permission, I wanted to share my response to him. I think some of what Clark is writing about is going to define the future of organizational learning. Here’s what I had to say:
Well, THAT made me go and read it!
If it offends people, I think that’s only the nature of speaking truth to power. I think I may benefit from not coming from a formal training background (but having worked with formal training people most of my life), but pretty much everything you said rings true to me. The inherent problems are that:

  1. T&D Departments sometimes exist to perpetuate themselves, not to improve performance in organizations (there, that should offend someone)
  2. Techniques are lagging indicators, not leading indicators. T&D, on average, does what worked ten years ago, not what works today.
  3. Culturally, we have to break out of the notion that learning is something that is done to you, or something you do to achieve an external goal, as opposed to something that helps you live your life.
  4. Most of all, training designers are NOT supposed to be meeting their personal goals, they’re supposed to be meeting the needs of their audience.

You’re just speaking truth. The great schism of learning is going to be the formalists versus the informalists. You and I have been in this game long enough to see that the stuff that people really retain, really apply, really use rarely comes in the form of formal curriculum. And while we were having this discussion, the five billionth person on earth logged onto the internet and learned something informally. He didn’t need the permission of the Formal Learning Cabal. He doesn’t even know it exists. So humans are going to behave this way whether we like it or not. The only question is, who’s going to be smart enough to recognize that?
Okay, we're back in real time here. I thought about editing some of that, but I decided to leave it as is. The one thing I didn't say was: what's really going to work is going to be a mix of the formal and the informal. The challenge of knowledge transfer and knowledge application won't go away. But right now, we do too much as transfer, and not nearly enough as application.

However, I encourage you to disagree with me-- that's what the comments section below is for!

Topics: Emerging Technologies, Performance Improvement, Informal Learning