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chairman, Learning and Performance Institute @DonaldHTaylor

Donald H Taylor E

very year for the last three years I have run a one- question survey to test

what’s on the minds of people in L&D. Respondents are given a set of 15 options and can choose up to three which they think will be ‘hot’ in workplace L&D the following year. Te brevity of the poll makes it easy to answer, meaning that for last year’s survey I had more than 900 people vote from 52 countries. And despite it consisting of just a single question, the survey always reveals interesting results. Sometimes, those results can be troubling. In last year’s survey, the top five

options garnered an overwhelming 49 per cent of the votes. Tat sounds like a uniformly strong poll for those options, but looking closer, I was struck by the unusual distribution of the votes. Te top ranked option overall,

❝ ‘collaborative/social learning’, was the

This month, Don expresses concern about L&D’s divided view on the importance of the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of their roles

be hot? Tere are several possible explanations. Te charitable one is that they are already doing it, so they see it as business-as-usual. Another explanation is less chari-

table and, I think, more realistic. Many in L&D would rather see a technology like ‘mobile delivery’ (fourth overall) as hot than a core competency such as ‘consulting more deeply with the business’. After all, doesn’t consulting sound a little dull against the shiny promise of some of the great new technologies we have in this field? But there is a further interpretation

worth considering: perhaps there is some truth in both these possibilities? For ‘consulting more deeply with the

The survey always reveals interesting results. Sometimes, those results can be troubling

most popular option in 10 countries, and the second most popular in eight. And this pattern repeated across four of the top five – they were all the most popular, or second most popular, option in many of the countries participating. But the third place in the final table

was an exception. It was the most popu- lar in only one country, and the second most popular in just four. It achieved third place overall because enough people picked it worldwide, even if only one territory rated it very highly. Te option was ‘consulting

more deeply with the business’. Why would so many people in L&D not consider ‘consulting more deeply with the business’ to

business’ to have reached third position, plenty of people must have voted for it. Tey did: 167 of the 922 voters worldwide. To me, this presents a disturbing prospect – that we are a divided community. It gives the sense of a substantial minority focusing on engaging with the business, while the majority is more concerned with the tools of the job. Is there, in short, a divide in L&D between those concerned with the ‘why’ and others more interested in the ‘how’? Some may argue that it does not matter if we are divided, that we will always need both planners and doers. I would argue that it matters profoundly, that whatever one’s role in L&D, it is always essential to have a view of the bigger picture. If we do not understand the ‘why’ of our work, the ‘how’ becomes irrelevant.

Donald H Taylor is a 25-year veteran of the learning, skills and human capital industries. He blogs at

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