Lost in translation: the battle for survival in the world of learning solutions

Businessman find a solution drawing on a whiteboard.

Andy McConville urges those marketing their learning solutions to tone down the complex language

Finding a place to market, sell and get repeat business in learning and development is more challenging than ever. A LinkedIn search finds 8,200 potential suppliers of “learning providers”. Change that to “learning solutions” and you can add 2,000 to that list. Okay some of them may be the same companies, but, this is just one way that we can see why L&D practitioners and vendors are having to try and find more and more inventive ways to innovate, adapt and reinvent just so they can stand out.

Can we agree to stop making this sound so overcomplicated to the people and industries we serve?

They’re trying to carve out their place, working with restricted budgets and often trying to appeal to a broad range of current and potential clients.

I also would be naïve, remiss, or just plain stupid to ignore the AI juggernaut affecting and disrupting our industry. I’ve heard the phrase ‘another learning fad’ bandied about but I don’t see this shrinking into the background anytime soon. It makes sense that this becomes part of what we can offer in a solution rather than as a replacement.

Everyone has to make a living in this flooded market. I want you to be a success, I want you to be able to make your offering commercial. I get it, you have to stand out in a very big crowd.  

But, at the risk of upsetting some of my colleagues and respected practitioners in L&D, can we agree to stop making this sound so overcomplicated to the people and industries we serve?

Stop introducing and using unnecessary and complex language to explain what a solution does. Stop layering up language with hyperbole to tell me what I’ll learn, how fast and how superhuman I’ll be at the end of it. (Am I a hypocrite for using the word hyperbole?)

Less is more

Stop using that same language to explain the theory and science of what and how I’m learning. As L&D professionals we’re trusted to make solutions practical and as simple as possible, but it seems to me the more the industry tries to reinvent itself to stay on trend, solutions are being wrapped in layer and layer of complexity.

This is so much so that I can’t see what the actual solution is supposed to do anymore, let alone how to do it. If your marketing message is supposed to be that it “does exactly what it says on the tin®”, you are going to need a bigger tin.

How does this impact the learner?

We’re in danger of expecting people to learn a new language before they can learn any content. It’s removing or delaying the acquisition of new skills. We’re tapping into additional resources in the brain as the learner must interpret words that could be much more simply put or… just not used at all.

I’m not advocating a removal of building knowledge. I love the science and theory that surrounds learning as much as the next practitioner but because of the use of unnecessary and complex language, too much effort is put into rebadging, rebranding and rewording theories. This results in the learner going through theory with the new words and then lapsing where it comes to answering the question “so how do I apply this to my role?”.

I’m an advocate of how we, as learning professionals, can bring practical solutions to life. I’ve been through my fair share of courses where the rhetoric is that it’s my fault if the solution doesn’t work when I put it into practice – but nobody did the diagnostics in the first place to understand what happens in the day to day.

I’m not a new voice in this area, but if more of us don’t take action and make a commitment to change this, especially in the age of AI, then we’ll lose sight of what really makes a learning solution practical for our audiences.


Andy McConville is Leadership Development Manager at ResQ

Andy McConville

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