August 26, 2015

Why learn? When knowing is enough

By David James |

Why learn? When knowing is enough

Homer Simpson: “Is it done yet?  Is it done yet?” / Marge Simpson: “Your meatloaf will be ready in eight seconds, Homer.” / Homer: “D’oh!  Isn’t there anything faster than a microwave?”

Modern technology has increased our expectations of immediacy.

These days, we’re disappointed if we’re waiting a couple of seconds for connectivity on our smartphones, even if, and in the words of Louis CK: ‘It’s going to space! Can you give it a second to get back from space?’

That’s the age we live in and speed is a competitive advantage for business. However, in the world of Learning & Development, the time between inception and execution of an initiative can still be too long:

“You’ve got a need? Ok, well let’s start with a meeting to discuss it. I’ll do some research and go out to market to find the right external supplier, who’ll take a brief and… Oh, you don’t have budget? Ok, well I can spend some time getting up to speed and designing something inhouse. When do you need it by…? THIS YEAR!?!?”

In relation to this point, and in his fascinating blog, Nick Shackleton-Jones (Director of Learning Innovation & Technology at BP) made the point that “the most common mistakes in learning today stem from not being able to see beyond learning”.

Funnily enough, employees already know this. When they need to know something to help them with their jobs (and depending on which studies you look at) more than 70% will perform a web-search to find out what they need to ‘know’ for their jobs – and then continue with their work.

So, what if we reassessed and questioned whether ‘learning’ is really necessary and when ‘knowing’ is enough?

There’s an interesting take on this in a TEDx talk by Tom Chi where he describes knowing as the enemy of learning – because it’s impossible to be in a state of learning and a state of knowing at the same time. However, he goes onto say that ‘the time and place for knowing is in situations where you have problems that have already been solved really well’.

So, I’ll ask you: What problems have already been solved well in your organisation? What is currently packaged as ‘learning’ that could quickly and more easily be made available to employees at their moments of need?

  • How have my peers successfully sold product (x)?
  • How have people successfully navigated their careers in the organisation?
  • How do I prepare for a difficult conversation with a team member?
  • What do all budget holders need to know about fiscal year-end?
  • How should people use [insert name of internal system]?
  • What activities do people need to complete around performance review time?

These are hardly the most difficult ‘problems’ to solve – but I’ve seen each addressed with ‘training’ before now.

If you can identify where – and by whom – a problem has already been solved, then you can amplify this knowledge or know-how across your organisation, quickly and easily. This will free up time and attention for those skills that do need to be learned and honed.

Commissioning learning initiatives can be both a lengthy process and often unnecessary. Business moves fast – and people move faster – so sometimes we just need to find ways of helping people get from not-knowing to knowing in order to perform.

This post was written by David James, former-Director of Talent, Learning & OD for The Walt Disney Company EMEA and now Learning Strategist with

July 22, 2015

The IT Gap that’s Damaging L&D

By David James |

The IT Gap that’s Damaging L&D

If you’re like me then you’re using your mobile devices to keep you on track, to help you collaborate with colleagues, connect to peers, stay informed with what’s going on, and be inspired to learn. On a daily basis I’m in Evernote, Google Docs, Google+, Slack, WhatsApp, Trello, Twitter, Newsify, and Flipboard – each of them offering me valuable services that improve the efficiency of my work and my general productivity, in ever more intuitive ways.

This is in contrast to my experience of corporate life where, for me, there seemed to be an internal tussle between old-world legacy systems and the new-world of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and the habits, preferences and motivations of the owner of that device.

I’ve been talking for some time about the ‘IT Gap’, which is what I call the gap between the work and personal IT experiences, the conflict it creates between employee and employer, and its negative impact on L&D.

In short, and for anybody who wasn’t working during the 1990s, we used to experience superior IT at work, in terms of hardware, software and (later) internet connectivity. I remember not having access to the Internet at home – only at work – and that doesn’t seem too long ago!

Then, towards the end of the last decade, personal computing – and especially mobile – gave us intuitive, connected technology, right in our hands. And now for many of us, the IT experience at work doesn’t match up to what we’ve come to know and rely on, creating an IT Gap that only seems to be growing.


June 8, 2015

Performance Support: How are you Supporting your Learners at their Moments of Need?

By David James |

performance support

Web-searching at our moment of need has changed the way we learn – both at work and at home.

That’s whether we’re:

  • Looking for a tasty new Macaroni Cheese recipe;
  • Figuring out how to replace a bicycle tyre; or
  • Finding out how to prepare for that tricky Performance Review conversation

Learning at the moment of need (or even at the moment of apply) is what Gottfredson and Mosher called ‘the sweet spot of performance support':

“When people are at this moment, when they need to actually perform on the job, they need instant access to tools that will intuitively help them do just that -perform.”

In most cases now, the L&D initiatives we provide see the learner removed from the workflow in order to learn, and then they’ll wait for the situation to arrive… and then apply it (perhaps months later). This is the same for training, coaching, e-learning or other formal learning events.

In contrast, performance support is ‘pulled’ by the learner at their moment of need. It will help them to bridge that gap between ‘not-knowing’ and ‘knowing’ – as efficiently as a web-search (if not more-so if it’s content that you’ve provided for them).

How do L&D provide Performance Support?

Firstly, the technology is available right now to help you quickly and easily create trusted performance support that replicates the way we search and learn – at our moments of need – on the web.


April 25, 2014

Make Your Brain Work by Amy Brann

By David James |

make your brain work

Make Your Brain Work is an introduction to the practical applications of Neuroscience and it’s usefulness in a business context. With her background in medicine, Amy’s writing is credible and challenging: integrating stories that set the scene, science that goes behind the scenes and tips to manage your brain and gain insights in professional situations.

The book is split out into three sections that each build upon one another. Firstly the book looks at ‘You’ and what’s going on in your own mind as well as tips for overcoming common habits. Then it looks at ‘Your Colleagues and Clients’ before finally what Neuroscience means for ‘Your Company’. (more…)