Learning from life

This month Michelle Parry-Slater tells us what she learnt from getting an electric car and the pleasure of having acquired new knowledge and skills of finally ‘going alone’

Until last autumn we were driving around in an 18-year-old Volvo XC90 with nearly 200K on the clock. Aware of the environmental impact – we needed to be the change we want to see in the world – we started looking for an EV.

EV – there was our first learning, an electric vehicle has its own language, complete with obligatory acronyms. In L&D we are regularly accused of talking in riddles – LNA, LMS, LXP – the list goes on. When we were trying to navigate the language of the EV world, we felt excluded and quite stupid. Fortunately, we found a really nice car dealer who kindly led us through the challenges of the new landscape. Are you that caring with your learners? Do they feel daft when they cannot understand the language of learning? Personally, I advocate speaking the language of your organisation, not the secret code of our profession. If you work in a customer centric organisation, you need to be able to show your value in customer language for example, net promoter scores. Or if your organisation is all about the EBITDA, make sure you know how your work impacts that.

Language was not our only anxiety-inducing challenge in buying an electric vehicle. There was the challenge of learning about which car to buy: we looked online, we checked out magazines, we asked around, we noticed cars on the road, and eventually we went with the trusted dealership salesperson. This is typical of how we learn in our private lives; we are pretty astute at curating content, reviewing assets with discernment, and finding mentors around our learning needs – and all without using any of that somewhat inaccessible language.

When working in a profession, it is important to understand the annual rhythms of it: when is it busy and when less so

By absolute chance we wandered into the dealership at the end of August, oblivious to the date and the reason why the cars seemed so reasonably priced and the dealer really busy. To those as uninitiated as us, the registration date changes on 1st September so the pre-reg cars are a bargain! When working in a profession, it is important to understand the annual rhythms of it: when is it busy and when less so. We need to plug our learning interventions into a time when they will be best received. In a car dealership that is not around 31 August, nor 28 February for the same reason. But as customers, it worked out well as we got a bargain – well mostly. Navigating new language and a busy time of year resulted in a misunderstanding about the charging cable; you would assume an EV comes with the appropriate charging cables for all scenarios, but no. People don’t like surprises which are massively inconvenient – like having to buy an additional expensive cable. Don’t build inconvenient surprises into your learning programmes.

We have been living with our EV for a few months now. It is certainly a different type of ownership to a regular vehicle. We have learnt about range-anxiety – wondering if we will make it to our destination, especially as the range is affected by the weather, which we have no control over, of course. Stopping to charge means learning where all the fast chargers are too! Our journeys are slower than before and I resented that at first, but I have come to appreciate the journey, not just the destination. There is a ‘letting go’ we have had to embrace. I can’t help but make the direct comparison to how our learners feel – anxious about the unknown, immersed in things they cannot control, the ongoing discovery and learning, and (eventually) enjoying the journey. Helping our learners to ‘let go’ is such a privilege of our profession. Let’s make it as easeful as possible.

Read Michelle’s other blogs:

April 2023: Michelle reveals what she learnt from a bold and very exacting mentor
March 2023: Michelle relives a supermarket shop from hell and extracts some learning from the ordeal!
February 2023: In her search for a dog, Michelle finds more than she anticipated
January 2023: As a Strictly fan Michelle shares her love of the programme and the power of engaging with an intense learning experience
December 2022: Expertise, outsourcing and feedback – Michelle Parry-Slater explores what she has learnt from running her own business
November 2022: Michelle Parry-Slater explores the learning we take from our everyday experiences and activities. She starts with learning from the changing seasons

Michelle Parry-Slater is director of Kairos Modern Learning and author of The Learning and Development Handbook 

Michelle Parry-Slater

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