Jerry Maguire and The Things We Think and Do Not Say

Hi. How’s it going? I don’t know about you but every now and then I need to vent. Now while I normally do this over beers to loved ones and colleagues (often one and the same) I really need to have a louder voice on this one for a number of reasons. So please stick with me on this.

A good friend of mine asked me a couple of questions a few months ago and I’ve been thinking about them constantly.

Think about all the things you’ve learnt in the last 10 years. Did you learn a lot? You might have learnt to overcome a fear, how to ride a Segway (I hope not), How to cook Smoked duck breast, confit leg, boudin noir (is that a thing?), endive and quince, or learn to play Jimi Hendrix’s Little Wing (if you have, kudos and please show me). But the thing is you’ve learnt a heap of stuff right? Too many to remember most likely.

So there’s the other question which is the kicker — how did you learn it?

You might have watched some videos, practiced heaps and HEAPS, had lots of talks with people, experienced an aha moment, made some big mistakes, read a heap of books, and so many more meaningful ways that somehow meant that what you learnt stayed there and didn’t get sucked up by the memory vacuum cleaner.

Did you learn any of these things in an online module with an assessment? Or in a corporate workshop with a facilitator and a workbook? I’ll put my hand up and say I haven’t. And I’ve asked around and not a lot of people that I know have.

Which brings us to the title of this piece. In the movie Jerry Maguire has a late night epiphany and writes down a mission statement that reconnects him with who he is and why he does what he does. Sure he then gets fired for saying that stuff but bygones, he not only finds himself but also goes on to be a samurai man! The fact that it happens in another movie is irrelevant.

The point is this. The learning industry isn’t doing its job. We spend our time discussing authoring tools and SCORM and LMS’s and Kirkpatrick and other things that don’t matter that we fail to notice that a lot of learning plain sucks. Go ahead and ask your colleagues what they think of the learning they have had to endure in the workplace since they left school. It sadly won’t surprise you.

We must do better.

If online modules and workshops aren’t how we each grow and learn and love then why do we offer these as solutions when clients have a problem? Do we know how to have conversations about growth and learning without there being a certain shaped thing for it to be delivered in at the end of the conversation?

Now I get it that some topics work best in online modules when there is knowledge to be gained and risk at stake. I get that. And as long as they are wrapped within meaningful scenarios and not assessed by bullshit multi-choice tests, then even better. But let’s be clear — that’s compliance. Not learning. Not long term meaningful, memorable change.

We owe it to ourselves and the responsibility that we have been given to do better.

Think about it this way, every learning experience you physically changes your brain as new neural connections and pathways are created through meaningful experiences, while other pathways that are no longer used die away. We have the power to fundamentally alter a person’s outlook on the world, the way they see themselves, and even the genes they pass down to future generations, by the experiences we create for them.

And we recommend a workshop.

Or an online module.

Or a blended solution of a workshop AND an online module.

Really? Sorry, not good enough.

Now I’m not saying that we should stop what we’re doing and get in a massage circle for awhile but what I am saying is this — in the learning and development functions across all industries we should be asking ourselves how we can create environments and jobs where people can learn how to be Good. Ethical. Resilient. Compassionate. Brave. That’s where the bar has to be right? Not just to know an organisations values but actually discover what our own values are based on what fulfills us and gives us pride. Right?

I read a quote from the book The Road to Character the other day and it has stayed with me:

“The heart cannot be taught in a classroom intellectually, to students mechanically taking notes…Good, wise hearts are obtained through lifetimes of diligent effort to dig deeply within and heal lifetimes of scars…you can’t teach it or email it or tweet it.”

But you can create an organisation or culture that grows good people. And the people that represent the most honourable vocation of learning must lead from the front in designing that culture.

So I’m going to do my best to have meaningful learning conversations in the hope that one day the solution won’t involve an online module or a workshop, or anything disruptive or gamified or responsive. And that learning will happen because one day a person with learning in their job title decided to swim upstream and design learning from the inside out and not from the outside looking up from the bottom of the cliff.