Mirror mirror, on the wall

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Image courtesy of Pixabay

I wrote last time about the session which I was going to run at the CIPD L&D Show in Olympia.

I admitted that I wasn’t sure how it would run and only had the first 30-40 minutes clear in my head. So I dove into the topic and asked a ton of questions of the people in the room. .

I learnt a lot from the session. Firstly, I was reminded of people’s capacity to consider ideas which are new to them. This was a 3 hour session with a clown at the front of the room telling them that there was little value in their management programmes, they shouldn’t lock down content, and induction was rarely useful. Without exception, everyone contributed brilliantly to the conversations and activity that I wove into the space.

I was again surprised by the lack of recognition of ideas, concepts, authors and resources that I consider to be core elements of my toolkit. People recognise the names but don’t necessarily understand the connections between them and how to use them to create a meaningful and coherent strategy and approach. This is one of the bigger challenges within L&D. As new ideas come to the fore, as models and modes are developed and adopted, making sense of them, putting these together in a practical, pragmatic, usable and relevant (to the individual) way becomes tougher. As one participant said to me afterwards:

This isn’t rocket science, it’s common sense. But people don’t want to talk about common sense at events like this; they want to go back to their office with the new next big thing

I also picked up a hint of fear, as Julian Stodd put in his excellent review of Day 1. It didn’t feel like fear in terms of lethargy to me; more fear of how this would be received if people were to try it when they get back to their office. It was also the fear of change but not fear of change itself, but the fear of what people lose as a result of that change.

I facilitated conversations and tried to help inform ideas; this was through short information pieces and longer reflective, collaborative, conversational elements.

The last part of the session was about identifying some of the challenges and ideas that would need to be addressed and adopted to develop a more autonomous learning offer in their organisations. This part was based around five lenses that I asked the group to consider:

  • Strategic change – what business aims and objectives needed to be factored into developing a different offer
  • Relationships and people – who and how would these relationships change
  • Systems and process – what would they need to start, and stop, doing
  • Skills and expertise – what skills and competence did they need, and what gaps were there
  • Culture, beliefs and customs – what ways of working, thinking, and valuing within an organisation might need to change

Over the next few weeks I’ll delve into the group’s output from these 5 spaces; this means the workshop becomes a catalyst for ongoing activity and a reminder of the group’s thinking in the workplace for the participants. In addition, it allows space for me to consider their thoughts and an opportunity for people outside the session to contribute.

The most popular space was culture – almost a third of the group went to there first. The least popular (initially at least) was skills and competence. For that reason my next post will start where the group didn’t want to – looking at the skills and expertise that they thought they were missing.

If you were in the session have I read the mood correctly? If you weren’t there, can you second guess some of the outputs? Comments welcome as always.

10 thoughts on “Mirror mirror, on the wall

  1. […] Andrew Jacobs admitted that he didn’t really know how he was going to run the first 30-40 mins of his workshop but in the end he figured it out anyway:  I think we all spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to make something happen but once we get in a room with people and start talking, things just start happening.  Thanks Andrew for the reminder. […]


  2. Hi Andrew.. it was my pleasure to be present at your session.. so firstly THANK YOU for a thought provoking and challenging discussion. You are quite right to recognise a hint (!) of fear in the room- I think the recognition has to be that different mixes will work in different environments- As a member of the HE community the question of autonomous learning is a loaded one with existential implications! I look forward to following the outputs in detail from this excellent session.


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