Who is addicted to training?

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Written by Paul Matthews on 21 May 2014
Actually, a lot more people than would admit it. After all, who wants to admit to an addiction? Isn't that about drugs, and heroin, and other things that ruin your life? I bet you would never do that!
I speak to a lot of people in L&D, and I have to say the idea that many are addicted to training is a thought that has often popped into my mind. I have ceased to be surprised when people talk about their desire to incorporate the 70:20:10 philosophy into their L&D strategy, to stop spoon feeding their people with learning content, to start doing more to support people at their desk, and yet still predominantly deliver training.
One large organisation I spoke with had a focus on making sure that all their learning interventions incorporated elements that encouraged and provided for informal learning, both experiential and social. This focus, which had been in place for over a year, was underpinned by the desire to implement the 70:20:10 model. When I asked them what they were doing in practice, there was actually little change from what they had been doing before the supposed change in strategy. They were still mostly delivering training, although some of it had been tweaked to give the illusion of adding elements of 70:20.
For all the talk out there in L&D land about change, there is much less in the way of action. It reminds me of people who say they will start their diet tomorrow, or stop smoking tomorrow. That's what got me thinking about addiction.
Here is a definition of addiction...
“Dependence on or commitment to a habit, practice, or habit-forming substance to the extent that its cessation causes trauma.”
And here is another...
“The condition of being habitually or compulsively occupied with or involved in something.”
One of the sad things about addictions is that they are ultimately destructive, and I see an addiction to training as also ultimately destructive. We know that L&D needs to change. We talk about it a lot, and yet for most it is the equivalent of saying they will start tomorrow, because today they are under pressure and there is so much to do.
Reliance on an addiction is what many people do under pressure, under stress. It is a 'safe' place that is known, and today at least, it does not appear immediately dangerous. “Just one more hit now, and tomorrow I will get my act cleaned up.” But tomorrow, and the day after, and next year? Eventually an addiction catches up with people.
Don Taylor, chairman of the Learning and Performance Institute, talks about the training ghetto as the ultimate destination of L&D departments who don't step up to the changes they need to make. The training ghetto does not sound like a nice place to be. That is where the addicts end up.
“I admire addicts. In a world where everybody is waiting for some blind, random disaster or some sudden disease, the addict has the comfort of knowing what will most likely wait for him down the road. He's taken some control over his ultimate fate, and his addiction keeps the cause of his death from being a total surprise.” 
― Chuck Palahniuk, Choke
Are you a training addict? 
Do you talk about new ways of delivering in your role as L&D, and yet still mostly deliver training in response to training requests from the people in operations?
If so, do you really want to be an addict?
I found this on a website about addictions...
"For many people struggling with addiction, the biggest and toughest step toward recovery is the very first one: deciding to make a change."
What are you going to decide to do?
Make a change, or through inaction, end up with the other addicts in the training ghetto?
About the author
Paul Matthews is the founder of People Alchemy. He can be contacted via www.peoplealchemy.co.uk

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