Editor’s Note – Introducing Six Questions: Earlier this year, I interviewed several leaders in the field of learning and development to get their perspectives on, among other things, what they foresaw for 2020. This was before COVID-19 fundamentally affected the way that we live our lives, including how we train and the modalities by which we learn. Still, there is a lot here that continues to be relevant, even in this time of stay at home orders, social distancing, and working from home. So, for this first discussion, we kick off with Clark Quinn.
Kevin discusses learning and development with recognized leader in learning technology strategy Clark Quinn. Clark Quinn is the executive director at Quinnovation, where he consults on performance systems architecture and strategy. Clark is also the author of numerous articles books, including Millennials, Goldfish & Other Training Misconceptions: Debunking Learning Myths and Superstitions. Clark holds a PhD in cognitive psychology from the University of California, San Diego.
Kevin: It’s January 2021. What’s different in the field of learning and development now from 12 months ago? Why did the change happen that year, instead of the year before or the year after?
Clark: As I wrote in a Learnlet, I don’t like predicting the future, it’s liable to go awry. Things change slower than you think, and there’s always an unanticipated hiccup that disrupts trends. Instead, following Alan Kay, I think the best way to predict the future is to invent it. So, I focus on what I want to happen. So what am I working towards?
Two things – thinking beyond the course, and better learning design when we do a course. What I hope we’re seeing is more interest in learning science and going beyond the hype and digging into core technology affordances. There’s so much potential we’re seeing being realized in other fields that we could, and should, be tapping into.
Kevin: What’s one thing you’re going to do differently this year? Why make the change?
Clark: Write more. It’s both dictated by circumstances (e.g. two columns with regular deadlines) and desire (working on my next ‘project’). However, on principle, I believe strongly in learning ‘out loud’, and feel I should practice what I preach. I also will think afresh about new ways to have an impact.
Kevin: When talking to your fellow learning professionals, what is the number one thing you’d stress that we need to do that we’re not doing now?
Clark: We need to start measuring real performance. You hear about it, everyone nods, and it doesn’t happen! It’s hard to make change when you’re unaware that your efforts are not having an impact. If we measured, we’d likely start trying to do the things that have demonstrably yielded results, instead of just what we’ve always done (which Beer, et al, in The Great Training Robbery, note has about a 10% success rate).
Kevin: When talking to your fellow learning professionals, what is the number one thing you’d stress that we need to stop doing that we’re currently doing?
Clark: A bane of our existence is ’taking orders’ for courses. We aren’t investigating the real problem, and aligning solutions. Of course, we also need to move away from information dump and knowledge test, but these are coupled.
Kevin: When talking to your clients, what’s the most important conversation you have? Why?
Clark: The important question is “what does success look like?” How will you know your outcome has achieved the desired goal?
Kevin: When talking to people not in the learning field, how do you describe what you do?
Clark: “I help organizations perform better by aligning with how we think, work, and learn.” Which isn’t as good a solution as I’d like, but…I couldn’t ever even convey to my parents what I actually do ;).
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