How times have changed – or maybe not? Having just spoken at the CIPD’s ‘HRD 2011’ on the topic of ‘How accurate and necessary is ROI for L&D?’ (based on my CIPD book) I was trying to compare it to my last big CIPD conference session (Scottish 2006), entitled “The ROI from Human Capital”, when I suddenly realised I had been typecast.
So what has changed? Well obviously not the subject matter – no I was thinking more along the lines of the application of technology to individual and organisational learning. For a start, this was the first conference I have ever spoken at where apparently my every utterance was being tweeted, every couple of minutes, such as -
“The purpose of evaluation is to establish evidence that your organisation is creating value by learning.” (11.41 precisely)
- and I ask myself, is this where the technology was meant to take us? Is this what the great technological revolution was all about? All the organisations I know, who have been relentlessly moving towards something they call ‘e-learning’, is this what they had in mind – twittering? Is the great white hope of social media the answer to anything?
If you do follow tweeters what were you supposed to make of these disconnected, 140-character snippets? If you look at Lesson 7 I will at least provide one practical lesson that you can take away and use. Then when you get stuck – comment here, drop me a line, call, or email and I will offer a possible answer to your question. Now, out of all of that activity, which bit did the technology help with? It can certainly disseminate data faster to more people. What it doesn’t seem able to do is offer an answer to the most difficult problems in individual and organisational learning – how we discriminate between what is worth knowing, and what isn’t, and then how we manage to apply what we have learned in a human organisation that doesn’t necessarily want to learn.
Of the 140+ people, who crammed themselves into the seminar room on Wednesday, I wonder what they learned from my session? More importantly, if they learned anything at all, how have they applied it? What I hope they took away was this (my first slide – tweeted at 11.25 precisely) -
“ROI doesn’t have to be accurate and isn’t always necessary”
This was not only a straight answer to a straight question but one I could only offer, with absolute confidence and 20 years experience, because I know ROI isn’t the main issue here. The main issue in learning is human relationships. There are huge barriers to learning in the human condition, especially humans drawn together, willingly or otherwise, in organisations.
The IT industry have always told us that ‘information is power’ but they are wrong. Partly because they usually provide data, not information (the data has to be processed by a human brain for it to be called information) but even if they do manage to get that far they should have realised that it is not information that is powerful but knowledge and wisdom. Moreover, it is a reluctance to share knowledge, because it is so powerful, that stops organisations learning what they need to know: those with power are usually reluctant to let it go. People play politics in preference to playing the learning game and trying to get someone to admit their ignorance, the first step towards enlightenment, usually means they fear losing face. So you had better have superb skills in helping people to feel good about themselves while they are learning.
So where does ROI fit in with all of this – well you should have come to hear me speak instead of reading tweets or, failing that, you might learn something from reading Lesson 7, or even my book, but none of this beats developing a proper, warm blooded relationship where we can continuously learn from each other in a safe, constructive and mutually supportive environment – and if you already reside in such a place then you are truly blessed.
For personal development linked to this topic visit the Consummate Professional Series