In the rather brilliant film Room, a 5-year-old boy grows and experiences life from the confines of a shed. His entire world is what he can see and touch; he has no concept of a world or experiences outside of the four walls surrounding him. The walls have no windows, the door is locked, the only natural light comes from a skylight in the ceiling, out of reach but a window to the sky. Our understanding of his world is that they are the walls of a prison, but to him, they are the extent of his reality.
In the room there is a TV. To help explain his world to himself he says:
There’s room, then outer space, with all the TV planets, then heaven. Plant is real, but not trees. Spiders are real, and one time the mosquito that was sucking my blood. But squirrels and dogs are just TV, except lucky. He’s my dog who might come some day. Monsters are too big to be real, and the sea. TV persons are flat and made of colors. But me and you are real.
This idea that people are wedded to their single version of a reality has been challenging me for some time. In my session at Learning Live last week I focused on showing people my version of reality; how the L&D support that people can produce for their organisations doesn’t have to be the formulaic and clichéd content and approaches which we have relied on in the past. To achieve a change in this, we need a different motivation to the shopkeeper mentality we have adopted in the past. We need a different skill set with a stronger focus on business and negotiation. We need to understand the resources we may require won’t necessarily be solved by a single silver bullet. We need to be authoritative within the business and within our community.
This last point was highlighted in two pieces I saw the other day. In an opinion piece for Training Journal, Donald Taylor suggests that the next tranche of leaders in L&D need to be smart and agile and I believe, it infers they may not be around. As a counterpoint to this piece, Gail Radecki, an L&D professional in Milwaukee suggests that there are many examples of social leadership in the L&D space who just haven’t been recognised.
My third way to this discussion is that many are in their own room. They are in their own world, working to their version of a reality based on the tropes and experiences which their organisations, sectors, professional bodies and peers have established. I think the role of anyone who is lucky and able to peer into many rooms through speaking at events and being connected to others both within and without the industry, is to help open those doors and show people that they have many different realities and their leadership is necessary, valued and relevant.
As our hero in Room says
There are so many things out here. And sometimes it’s scary. But that’s ok. Because it’s still just you and me…