Crossing the Mindset Chasm

rope-bridge-363372_640The responses to my last post, The L&D World is splitting in two – whether left on my blog or on Twitter – have been enlightening!

Those who agreed with it have been very encouraging. For example this comment came from Andy Tedd ..

“Hopefully this post signals a start to a large section of the industry realising that employees, as citizens and consumers, learn how to do complex things and run their lives every day, without any assistance from formal learning, LMSs, competency frameworks, leadership guff and HR neuro drivel”

.. and this tweet from @RockerDown

“good read and totally agreed. Folks miss the point on how people are used to learning. Small. Fast. Ground up.”

But it is also clear that those who disagreed with it, have either misunderstood and/or misinterpreted the points I was making – which only goes to show for me, that there is a gaping mindset chasm between the Traditionalist approach on the one hand and the MWL Practitioner approach on the other that needs to be crossed.

What is more, crossing that chasm may well prove to  be a scary experience for some, because it means leaving long-held beliefs behind, as Donald Clark points out …

“I’d add the idea that the new group has abandoned old theory – learning styles, NLP, Myers Briggs etc. I’d even venture that Leadership courses, long doses of compliance, & Kirkpatrick are on the way out.”

But I have personally been very inspired by those – like Nick Shackleton Jones – who have done so and who are moving their organizations forward.

“In answer to your final question ‘How can we help L&D folk become MWL practitioners?’ – we have been tackling this problem for some years now, and eventually developed a ‘Learning Innovation Toolkit’ which goes some way towards describing the change that people need to make. Whilst we weren’t able to share this, I have tried to share elements – such as the CTR model and the 5Di process on aconventional. For those only interested in the headline, the shift is about the application of design thinking to learning. It changes everything!”

However, I do feel the pain of those who have crossed the mindset chasm themselves, but are still working in Traditionalist organizations ….

@JeffWren1966: “Have uphill struggle with culture that only values classroom training and must have a certificate as proof of value?

@WildFireSpark “At least it’s a step beyond the measure of bums on seats I despair”. #L&DChintz

@JeffWren1966: “Not by much and next few weeks heralds the joy of releasing 5 Mandatory e-learning course on Corporate Governance.”

. . for as Brian Washburn pointed out in a blog comment …

“it’s not just a mindset for two sets of diverging L&D philosophies, but rather, managers/supervisors also seem to fall into two similarly diverging mindsets when it comes to workplace learning.”

You just need to have the courage of your convictions, as Fleur Mouchemore explains ..

“As someone who will be looking for a new job in L&D in the future I am a little disheartened when I see that the majority of job ads have a traditionalist bias. However I feel positive that those of us who subscribe to the MWL approach can continue to disrupt the world of L&D and instead of complaining about it (as I have been of late!) we can demonstrate that another way is possible …”

For those who want some help to cross the chasm, my new book Modern Workplace Learning: A resource for L&D is available, as well as a supportive community, the MWL Association, to help you in your new work – as too the 2016 L&D Challenge.

FOLLOW-UP POSTLearning in the Workplace in more than training or e-learning

10 thoughts on “Crossing the Mindset Chasm

  1. Ken Chase

    Thank you Jane, this has got the neurones going, what little is left.
    At the risk of being taken for a complete old world fuddy-duddy, these are my thoughts.
    The whole mind-set change “chasm” metaphor does not work for me, here’s why :
    – I believe in the evolutionary process: you can’t get to homo sapiens before getting mammals. This is an evolution. As my wife justly remarked, we are all products of the “old world”, the “new world” is always created from the foundations of the old. We do not throw things away, we build on top of them, that is also part of the learning process. This is much less a chasm than it is a pyramid; we are building the future on the foundations of the past, from what we were. This is our story.

    – It’s not really a mind-set change dividing into the “have” and the “have not”, we’ve done this all before. It’s like realizing finally that eating healthy food is actually good for you. Did we not always know that fruit and vegetables were good for you? We just forgot because that greasy junk food tasted so good, and was good for the economy, for a while. Now that we have scientific proof, technology, we are “waking up”.

    – The key quote here on top: this is what humans have been doing for centuries: “employees, as citizens and consumers, learn how to do complex things and run their lives every day, without any assistance from formal learning, LMSs, competency frameworks, leadership guff and HR neuro drive”. When we discovered fire, the wheel and that the earth was not flat, we were ALREADY doing all those things “by ourselves” and there was no LMS, for sure. Yes, there is the technology, but there has always been technology, even though now one purports that this is a quantum leap and that digital changes everything. I’m just wondering if Einstein is actually the one who changed everything and he did not even have a computer.

    – Sure, this blog is on L&D, but L&D is just a reflection of society, that’s the purpose to become effective, for society, the mission. The real mind set change is societal and dividing L&D into the old and the new boils down to dividing society into the have and the have not. This has been done before with dubious results.

    Therefore, may I timidly propose that there is not really a mind-set “chasm”, but a mind-set stepping stone to the future? The picture of this article may be more meaningful in the evolutionary and social sense if there were more solid, large stepping stones for all and less the wobbly bridge over an abyss only for the sound and fit ? We cannot get to where we want to go without having been where we were: is that not what learning is all about?

    1. Jane Hart Post author

      I believe you either get it or you don’t. Those who are changing the world are not shilly-shallying – they are just doing it!

      1. Ken Chase

        I believe that the point is how you change the world is just as important, even sometimes more important, how do you spread the word and lend a hand to others. Would we communicate that to cohort of learners “you either get it or you don’t” and then divide them into 2 sub groups, taking the ones across the bridge and leaving the others to fend for themselves ? Or perhaps we could encourage a mix of those groups together, the ones that get it working side by side with those that don’t, helping them across ?

        1. Jane Hart Post author

          Thanks for posting, by note by calling people “learners” you are see learning in Traditionalist ways, people are people – who learn everyday in everything they do, not just in a formal context.

          1. Ken Chase

            “People who learn”, are by definition learners. The definition of a learner is “a person who is learning”. This is English, not a view point.
            We see learning every way in every context all the time, that’s the point, humans are always learning, always have been learning all the time in self organised ways, this is not new nor modern, it is simply understanding that workers are human, it has been going on for a long time. The formal or informal context is a completely artificial debate: we learn anyway in all of the contexts, should we say, despite them ? We are both basically saying the same thing, in different ways; we only ask to consider that dividing people into “those who get it” and “those who don’t” fails to recognise the fundamental nature of humanity:
            Even those who “do not get it” are people, and therefore can learn, just as much as those “who get it”.

    2. Pete

      Ken, I agree wholeheartedly with your response. Indeed, I think that dividing any body of knowledge into two may in fact slow the evolution of ideas. People start to take positions, tribes emerge and much energy is wasted in one side explaining why the other side is wrong.
      At the moment I am getting deeply into Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset theory, while not directly related to learning approaches (well it is, but in a different context), this experience serves to illustrate my position. A superficial examination of her ideas would suggest that people are Growth or Fixed mindset, and that anyone who is ‘fixed’ should aspire to develop a Growth Mindset.
      At the moment, I am in discussion with a very enlightened L&D department in one of the worlds largest organisations who are charged with implementing Growth Mindset across the organisation. One of their biggest fears, and they have evidence their fears are manifesting, is that the terms are being use to complement / disrespect others. This is inappropriate for many reasons, not least as it trivialises a very interesting and powerful idea. It becomes a currency for exchanging positive and negative strokes, not for exploring deep held beliefs about intelligence and abilities.

      Interestingly, Dweck, in a recent interview, made the point we are all a mixture of both and will always be, that true insight into Grwoth mindset comes from understanding our Fixed mindset triggers.

      So this is my rather long-winded attempt to suggest that to progress perhaps we shouldn’t label ourselves as one or the other, but examine any learning program through the lens of ‘how well is this program serving the learning / performance needs of the learner/ sponsoring organisation’. I think we need to have the courage to insist that the impact of any program is really explored for its effect and look for ways to improve (incrementally) the quality and effectiveness of what is made and delivered. Incremental evolution, based on validated feedback, control groups and other ways of really finding out what works.

      1. Jane Hart Post author

        Thinking in terms of “programs” is the traditionalist approach to understanding workplace learning, my point is that the world has moved on and L&D needs to support ALL the ways people learn at work – and most of them are self-organised and have nothing to do with L&D.

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  3. Brent Mackinnon

    I agree with you Jane.

    Outside the L&D world there are those that “get it” and those that don’t. Getting it at a minimum is listening deeply, reflecting on personal and external impact and thinking about how to incorporate new awareness into practice.

    I’m really glad you published your post. Making a clear distinction (get – not get) helps me focus my energy on workplace learning, not the dissenters or those unable or unwilling to openly consider new learning possibilities.

    Change does happen incrementally over time but you need a conscious, open mind set to create change in yourself and your work.

    Well done!!!

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