Are you useful?

A computer screen displays the text' unfortunately, we no longer need your services'. The screen is on a white desk and the desk has been masked off with black and hells striped hazard tape to stop people using the keyboard on the desk
Photo by Ron Lach on

In the film Marathon Man, Dustin Hoffman is continuously asked by Laurence Olivier ‘is it safe’? Hoffman’s character, not knowing the context and fearful of some especially painful torture is panicked, and responds with a range of answers from it being very safe, to extremely dangerous.

Asking the question without any context makes any answer supplied will be completely right. Or completely wrong.

In the Twitter #LDInsight chat last week, the question asked was as follows:

How do you know if what you do is useful?


Without context, you could argue any answer could be wrong or could be right. However, in this case, I think that’s incorrect. The context is defined for us as workplace learning professionals. We’re in the workplace, our function is learning, and (most importantly), we’re professional. And that, as so smartly put by Gemma Paterson, is this:

If we’ve defined the problem we’re solving up front, we should be solving that problem. That’s what’s useful, that’s the measure.

Gemma Paterson

Define the problem.

Identify the success criteria.

Hit those criteria.

Don’t make it tortuous to answer questions about what we do – just know why you’re doing what you do.

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