Friday, April 20, 2012

Thinking about Clearing the Cloudy Air of our Industry

The alphabet soup of the training industry continues to grow and change.  The terms get mixed in marketing materials, and confused during otherwise productive conversations.  In my role within The eLearning Guild for the last few years I've had the pleasure of many conversations.  I've met a lot of people and gotten to know some very well.  The interesting thing is that I continue to hear frustration in the tone of many conversations with many interactions turning into arguments.  It's interesting to listen to these conversations because I know the parties involved are aligned in their thinking but as they converse the words they use cloud the message.

I've been on a rather strange mission over the past several months.  It kind of feels like a Richard Drifuss, mud tower in the living room, Close Encounters, sort of obsession more than a mission.  But then again...mission - obsession, tomato -'s the words and how we use them that either help or hinder productive conversations.

I want to draw a picture of our industry.  And yes, I know others have attempted similar feats. But the problem I'm trying to solve, as I've worked through it, turns out to be multi-dimensional and quite complex.  So, I'm breaking it down into pieces and as I am thinking about certain pieces I will blog about them here.

I want and need your help.  I need your input and feedback.  There are some rules that I am trying to follow that I want you to understand.

1) The AS IS. I am attempting to create a "picture" of the current state of our industry.  I am NOT thinking about the future state. Although I am hoping we can make some fairly accurate assumptions about the future state based on the current state, and in fact, help influence that future state.

2) No JUDGING! I don't care if you hate the LMS more than life itself.  Deal with it! They exist.  They serve a purpose. And the term LMS is part of our lexicon.  And therefore it will appear in my "picture" in some form or another.

How do you view our "industry"? Through what lens do you view it? What is it that you find confusing about the terms we use?

For many of you who work in training day in and day out your sky is not clouded.  You see your world quite clearly as do your customers, peers, and colleagues.  You are EXACTLY the person I want to hear from.  I also want to hear from the those who are frustrated with the state of our industry in any way.  Let's work through it together and help others in their journey towards helping others.

Comment here or send me your thoughts. I've already discovered this cannot be done in a vacuum. I need your help.


Steve said...

Sounds like a neat project, Brent. I agree, it's a layered and complex field that is sometimes hard to define as a single field. To me, that's part of the problem. It's not really a single discipline.

The second part of the problem, in my view is interwoven with the first. I think folks honestly want to do the right thing in most cases. And in the cases where results are less than stellar or aren't considered, most of the time it's because we haven't selected the right person for the job or haven't given them the right tools to do the right thing.

As you assemble your map, it'd be nice to see not only a "geographic representation" of the different slices of the discipline and where they overlap, but the tendencies of each slice.

One tendency I see is a closed view that tends towards 1) "what I was taught" in the narrowest and least synthesized context and 2) "what I've seen before" (regardless of how well that thing worked well or whether it actually applies in the current context). We tend to reject anything that comes outside of our sphere and sharing practices with a willingness to adjust and adapt tend to be rare.

We're also fairly divided where education is concerned. Those that have it think it's the only way to attain mastery. Those without it that have attained mastery don't value the education. Both are right. Both are wrong. As professionals, in my opinion, we need to have another metric as an indicator than a graduate degree. Too many folks I have worked with don't have the affinity or passion to develop mastery, yet they have the graduate degree. If we can reach stability in that metric, we can start to culturally develop the subfields to a high level of competence and reliability.

As it stands, too many folks are coming out of school and running solo or under someone else that didn't receive great guidance. We're perpetuating poor genes through the system.

On the bright side, I think things are changing for the better. I think the industry is in for a long period of improvement as we turn away from a low period in the discipline's history towards a highly generative progression with a focus on design as a real practice, not just a letter in the title.

If you want an extra hand putting this together, I'm happy to help out.

bschlenker said...

Steve, thanks so much for your thoughtful feedback. And yes, this will be a major undertaking and, for the most part, a work in progress for the foreseeable future. I'm just glad my post about attempting it was understood by someone :)
Thanks for the offer to help as well. I will need all the help I can get.

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Catherine Lombardozzi said...

Brent - I applaud the effort, and can imagine the complications.

I suspect one of the challenges is that we don't use common language - and the words we do throw around mean different things to different people.

Another challenge is what is included in "our industry." We can narrow our industry to be about learning and development, or we can embrace OD, career development, performance support, and process improvement (among other things) as included in our industry.

I tend to view our industry with a wide lense, and what's confusing is that even within those sibling areas, we use different terms for similar things (granted, there are nuances to the meanings of different terms, but they're understood only by the people who coined those terms and their close followers).

Happy to be a sounding board to help you think through the nuances - feel free to give me a call.

dotcan said...

I am not fond of LMS however as you said they are useful. I think the biggest mistake training makes with an LMS is adding "too much too soon" to the site without a plan. Planning the use of an LMS is important. At my employment I have seen so much misuse they resemble a blog.