What’s the big idea?

Photo Credit: Pedro Moura Pinheiro via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Pedro Moura Pinheiro via Compfight cc

When I wrote 50 Big Ideas to change L&D I didn’t expect it to create the reaction that the blog post got. It was, in my mind a big reaction.

This creates a problem though…I mean, what’s big?

I haven’t used this blog for anyone else; it’s my space that I can put ideas, find a place to create sense of my thinking and find a way to connect with people. For this little blog that churns through 1000 views a month to suddenly get that number of views for one post within a week is big. It surprised me enormously and I thank each person who read, commented, redistributed and discussed the post.

To me, it was a big deal. For some people, 1000 views on a blog is a morning’s work.

So, what’s big? I think it’s relative.

Some people have suggested that there are some repeated patterns within the 50 big ideas. You’re right. There are. The patterns are because each of the 50 big ideas is based on one of 3 facets of practice which I think we need to change. They are:

  • Process
  • People
  • Personal

The ideas which require process change are the easiest to spot, the simplest to initiate, the quickest to measure. They’re about changing a system, re-engineering a way of working to make things simpler/easier/more authentic, etc. These are the quick wins – the ideas you can initiate which will come at little cost but will create a value which can be measured almost immediately. People who’ve read the blog like these. Mostly because they’re simple. And they’re not THAT big, relatively speaking. Number 11 is a process change:

Make learning resources entirely visible – literally open all your content to everybody.

People ideas are a little more complex. These require the L&D professional to think about and change the relationships they have with groups or individuals. You can’t change someone else’s behaviour but you can change the way you work with other people. These big ideas are a little riskier as you have to have buy in from other people to make them work. However, the rewards when people respond in the way we hope carries an almost immeasurable value – once they’ve changed they’ll stay changed. Number 10 is a people change:

Mobilise learning by mobilising people in communities they care about.

The last group – personal – are the hardest. These challenge the core of what we do in L&D. They challenge our raison d’etre, the way we’ve done things but, more importantly, our beliefs. If you’ve thought that replacing your L&D tumble dryer on a regular basis is a waste of time then these big ideas aren’t so big – you already have a belief structure in place to make them happen. Number 14 is a people change:

Be honest when things suck, are boring, or are wastes of time. Stop rationalizing, making excuses, or using confirmation bias.

So, what’s the big idea? The easy one that creates impact or the one which challenges your beliefs?

Comments, as always, entirely appreciated and encouraged.

4 thoughts on “What’s the big idea?

  1. I agree BIG is relative. I also think some of these ideas are “small” but I catagorize them as BIG if i see the potential for BIG results.
    I think with very little rewording (replace L&D with other words) your list of 50 Big Ideas can be applied anywhere. I think any type of business thinking or leadership thinking would benefit by the majority, if not all of those ideas.
    (i.e. #25: L&D – Stop patronizing learning tech like brand fanatics. Leaders in general should stop patronizing the “flavour of the month” and jumping aboard “What’s new and cool”)
    many others that sound specific to L&D can be easily transformed into something I believe leaders should focus on doing.


  2. Andrew – you are right on target! I think the biggest idea is the change of mindset that, in general, a fair amount of L&D people need to run through the washing machine. I was speaking with a colleague recently who was frustrated about a training program she had created, that leadership claimed was “a huge training need”, but people weren’t using. To me it was clear, a conversation needed to happen – the training program obviously wasn’t a “a huge training need” if no one was using it. She needed to sit down and have a conversation, without bias, without defensiveness, and without fear, to get to root issue. Until L&D can put on their big-boy pants and do this, we will continue to spin in circles. You clearly touched a nerve! Keep up the great work.


    1. Thanks Shannon. Those personal big ideas are, to some people, too big to comprehend. I was speaking to someone recently and suggested that counting bums on seats was a wasteful activity. They looked at me as if I was a Martian, snorted, and muttered something unrepeatable under their breath.

      Touching nerves might be my new tagline.


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