50 big ideas to change L and D

Photo Credit: tashland via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: tashland via Compfight cc

I was struck by a post on the always interesting TeachThought again yesterday.  I’ve referenced their work before and the post didn’t just impact on me; Jane Hart also saw it and in the spirit of celebrating the positive, this post is my nod to what they’ve done..

The post lists 50 ‘crazy’ ideas to change education. Some easily transfer across to workplace L&D, some not so much.

What I’ve done is use them as the basis of a new list of 50 big ideas. Our task is to take those 50 ideas and explain how and why we can/have/should make it happen. Alternatively, why they shouldn’t.

So, the big 50

  1. Make connectivity and sharing a catalyst for all learning.
  2. Stop claiming every person will be competent.
  3. Have people design their own quality criteria, and develop frameworks to help them understand how.
  4. Celebrate learning by celebrating performance.
  5. Don’t require people to come to a course.
  6. Stop using the words and phrases best practice, and learner engagement.
  7. Have a group of successful professionals in your workplace document the 10 most important things they know, and the 10 most important skills. Then compare and contrast them with your workplace standards.
  8. Let people use smartphones at any place in work.
  9. Mobilise learning by mobilising people in communities they care about.
  10. Make any space in the workplace into a learning space.
  11. Make learning resources entoirely visible – literally open all your content to everybody.
  12. Ditch L&D function “filters”; remove the hurdles like pre-qualification.
  13. Be honest when things suck, are boring, or are wastes of time. Stop rationalizing, making excuses, or using confirmation bias.
  14. Transform your learning function to a 21st century cultural centre with cutting edge experts, thinking, and support.
  15. Stop encouraging people to go on overpriced courses that fail to improve their performance, and that perpetuate a system that stifles innovation and equity.
  16. Make your learning function about creativity.
  17. Make learning at work about self-discovery, accountability, and how to find and evaluate information people care about.
  18. Make your formal support about participation in networks.
  19. Support your learning function as a business.
  20. Treat the people who learn best like rock stars: Give them reality shows, endorsement deals, and huge contracts.
  21. If people underperform, hold them accountable. Find a way to make support meaningful, social, and knowledge-based.
  22. Make people accountable to one another, not the L&D function.
  23. If we don’t celebrate performance in the the way we do level 1 evaluation sheets, let’s stop being surprised when businesses consider us to be superficial.
  24. Review your formal professional systems. Every L&D member is an expert in something. There’s your Personal Development team.
  25. L&D – Stop patronizing learning tech like brand fanatics.
  26. Don’t set benchmark tests that reward 15% error rates with a pass.
  27. Make learning budgets entirely transparent to everyone in your organisation.
  28. Throw out test scores forever. Test in the workplace with performance as your yardstick.
  29. Stop asking so much of trainers and instructional designers.
  30. Help your business understand what training, learning and development are for.
  31. Make sure anyone in a L&D function understands what it means manage commercially.
  32. Promote learning through networks, not curriculum.
  33. Make performance support and the ability to ask the right question at the right time the criteria by which we measure a L&D function.
  34. Stop testing to count learning, and measure performance.
  35. Rebrand learning the same way Apple has done with computers, Starbucks has coffee, and Nike has jogging.
  36. Stop criticising managers for their lack of support for your formal learning interventions.
  37. Push the language of learning – learners, pedagogy, etc – out of learning spaces completely.
  38. Design complex mentorship and apprenticeship support.
  39. Use support based around thinking habits, and the ability to know what’s worth understanding rather than “content.”
  40. Create support based on the ability to self-direct and design their own learning pathways.
  41. Require Subject Matter Experts to design and deliver learning support.
  42. Stop training–this is a push-pull action; instead, promote learning.
  43. Use YouTube channels instead of handouts.
  44. Eliminate educational language in your learning function – you are not a school (unless you’re a school).
  45. Use social media and ESN instead of email.
  46. Make learning resources more like app stores with support that excites people –that they want to use.
  47. Create support that functions like a playlist, and that browses like Google search results; require people to document their own understanding.
  48. Allow people to decide what they do and don’t want to learn; insist only that the learn something to support their performance.
  49. Treat the goal of learning as performance.
  50. Design your learning function as a think tank to understand and address your business problems.

So what now.  Well, it’s likely that there are certain points on there that you agree with, you disagree with, don’t understand, wish to develop.

Help me out – pick a number, tell me what you think in the comments. If you don’t, I’ve got a list of 50 big idea blog post topics to write…

78 responses to “50 big ideas to change L and D

  1. It’s a very interesting and thought provoking read. To be critical for a moment, I’d say there’s duplication in the list, 50 is way too many, and some of them are out there and well established, so perhaps not big ideas.

    Ones which I think would have most impact are 8, 19 and 42.

    Great stuff!


    • Thanks Michael; I agree that some are similar but that’s because they’re focused on the same areas. Some are process changes – changing the way we work. Some are people changes – changing the nature of our relationships. Some are personal changes – changing the way we think and approach what we do,


  2. Great post, Andrew. There’s plenty that I like in that list but to take just one for now I’m choosing no.46. Learning should be fun and its look and feel familiar to many – like the App Store example you give.


      • This is the one I was going to comment on too. I love apple stores and how they make me feel – enthusiastic knowledgeable staff, I can book in for 15 minute genus bar support when I need it for help with what I need, and I get what I ask for. 15 minutes later I’m out of there and invariably have learnt even more than I hoped I would, things I can immediately use. It’s pull not push, just as you write about.
        Creating that kind of access to the right support when and how people need it, with the learner in the driving seat is that I aspire to do…
        Thanks Andrew for the nudge yesterday when we met in person and for giving me here more to ponder and get stuck into.


  3. I like (29) – although I like them ALL!

    At a recent #OzLearn chat the question of roles came up. Really, we are everything to everyone – or maybe that’s just what I feel. With job descriptions deliberately kept vague, learning teams are touted as trainers. But if you’re a trainer, then you must be an instructional designer too. Oh, and if you’re an instructional designer, you need to be able to consult with a client but wait, there has been no performance analysis done because the client came to you with the solution – they know the solution. Then you’re expected to fill the order, hang on, you also need to project manage the solution; be the trainer; evaluate it (at least to Level 1) – oh hang on, there’s more – it’s not just a course? In that case, we need you to act as program manager too. Hang on, there’s some e-learning design – we want you to do that as we have no budget (can’t you just do it in Powerpoint with some animations?) – what? You don’t have multi-media web development skills. I thought all instructional designers had that. Hang on, we need to promote it to our business. Can you act as the change manager too? Create some promotional and communication pieces. Oh by the way. We don’t have resources for someone in our business to own this. Doesn’t this belong to the learning team? You own it right? We have no resources or money to look after this program.

    All we asked for is a workshop, a short 2 day course to have our people on it to make them feel good and we can sign it off on our score card to say that we have delivered a great leadership program and you’re asking for analysis, design, creating something bigger than what we want – and on top of it, making more work for us…

    I could go on….


    • Thanks David – the problem with autonomy is that personalisation is perceived as being individualistic and (potentially) expensive. In addition, we struggle to balance this individuality to competencies and behavioural standards.


  4. Loved point 35 about rebranding – imagine if people saw your L&D department the same way that they saw the most innovative brands in the world! You’d be unstoppable!


  5. Great post, especially like number 17. I’m a big believer in the importance of people taking accountability for their own learning.


    • Cheers Ruth. The question has to be how we delegate that accountability and responsibility. Too many L&D teams aren’t willing to do that as it challenges the nature of the function – if people do that themselves, what do we do?


    • And being empowered to take accountability for their own learning – and those around them. Even rewarded for doing so 🙂


  6. I like number 28 – there is very little in L&D that should not be linked to overall performance of the individual and business

    my personal view on the blog is that you have lots brilliant of “whats” but not many why’s. L&D needs to be clear on the purpose it serves first then all these really cool things follow.

    this whole list need to be prefaced with two of whys:

    1: L&D need to serve the strategic and operational objectives of the business.
    2: L&D needs to serve the personal and professional goals of the individual.

    a few of your list get close like number 48, but in humble opinion not close enough.

    L&D is often as seen as irrelevant as it is perceived as a not close enough to supporting strategic objectives.


    • Thanks for your comments Alex, I’ve blogged about the why before. I put this post together as I keep hearing more how questions than why questions. That’s why there were lots referring to stopping measuring things that don’t matter and focusing on the things that do, ie business performance.


  7. Reblogged this on Missives from Sales guy in L&D and commented:
    There are some really good ideas in here that should challenge most in L&D or any support function of the business.
    My only thoughts to add are that the blog has lots of brilliant “whats” but not many why’s. L&D needs to be clear on the purpose it serves first then all these really cool things follow.

    This whole list need to be prefaced with two of whys:

    1: L&D need to serve the strategic and operational objectives of the business.
    2: L&D needs to serve the personal and professional goals of the individual.

    a few of your list get close like number 48, but in humble opinion not close enough.

    L&D is often as seen as irrelevant as it is perceived as a not close enough to supporting strategic objectives.


  8. Nice post Andy all resonated with me. 41 has always been really important in my work, being able to utilise the knowledge and experts you already have and put them in touch with others, build connected learning bonds across the orgn don’t make people reliant on L&D. But 50 was my favourite and where I’m heading I hope. Great stuff.


    • Cheers Kandy – the idea of #50 being aspirational is an interesting one. A few people have suggested the same although I didn’t design it that way. I’ll have to ponder that more.


  9. Number 42
    Competency based training is that what you describe as a push – pull action but training should be replaced by learning.
    In all case of training somebody to perform a task accurately, repeatedly and safely there is a varying degree of knowledge that has to be learnt first.
    So training is learning.
    All of the numbers resonate and a big thank you for compiling your list.


    • Thanks for your comment. Training does have a place and the accurate completion of tasks is the most common example; what too many L&Ders do is turn learning into tasks. It’s easy to do that – we even create LMS to measure the completion of these tasks for us!


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  12. A colleague shared this and I’m glad they did, a thought provoking piece. Number 46 for me with the addition of learner rated content to really light the touch paper. Also like Helen’s reply (3rd one in) a very nice summary of what is so often reality!


    • Thanks Steve; rating content is an interesting proposition. I’m not a fan of the term curation but people aggregating, sifting, filtering and then having that content peer reviewed feels like it’s a powerful way to learn.


  13. I agree with #18 “Make your formal support about participation in networks.” I believe we should enable workplace learning to mirror the learning that takes place in people’s personal life.
    When we want to learn about something while we are not at work we turn to our networks and online resources. Why should people be forced to learn differently at work?


  14. Wonderful and worthwhile resource to share with colleagues, Andrew; thanks for taking the time to produce it. Particularly enjoyed looking at your list and comparing it to the source material by Terry Heick on TeachThought (http://www.teachthought.com/learning/50-radical-ideas-change-education/); hope others will take the time to do the same and adapt this to a variety of learning environments so we can continue contributing to the improvement of learning opportunities everywhere.


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  39. With some other numbers 43 is my favourite. As a teachers teacher I love to use a list of YouTube movies instaed of powerpoints, to illustrate my point.


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  41. 48, 49 and 50 are my stand outs, but 10, 16, 22, 29, 40 and 44 also hit the mark. It’s all work in progress, and the work is never done. And that’s also why i love my work.


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