L&D should shift gears from ‘training people’ to ‘being with people’!


Because that’s where great insights lie.

Mingling with people helps watch them up close, empathize with their challenges and understand their varying degrees of knowledge. These insights trigger a reflection on what can be done further to help them perform better.

Helping them perform better is THE key, but as obvious as it might seem, this happens to be the most elusive factor in the entire gamut of Learning & Development. Not surprising then that ‘only 8% of CEOS see biz impact of L&D, and only 4% see ROI’ as reported by Linkedin.

It’s fast transpiring that there’s a tremendous void in the very understanding of purpose L&D is supposed to serve. The stubborn silo outlook quarantined from reality and cocooned in its own sweet interpretation of learning pushes managers hard to put their entire focus on content. Not on people.


It convinces SMEs to assiduously collate the most relevant material and present it on a platter without caring much about whether the ‘takers’ of this spread would relish consuming it.

This negative practice has a cascading (side)effect also on learning tools employed to disseminate the planned knowledge. E-learning, for instance, slips into a state of suspended animation gasping for breath as it chokes in the clutches of some meaningless stuff put together under the disguise of ‘meaningful activities’.

IMHO, it’s time L&D engages the reverse gear and back out of this ‘training the people’ funda and instead drive towards ‘being with people’… and, experience the sheer excitement of pumping the learning adrenaline into their systems. After understanding their real performance needs, that is!

This comprehensive report from Deloitte University Press says, “The concept of a “career” is being shaken to its core, driving companies toward “always-on” learning experiences that allow employees to build skills quickly, easily, and on their own terms.”

And, it adds, “At leading companies, the L&D teams help employees grow and thrive as they adopt the radical concept of a career described in The 100-Year Life.7 New learning models both challenge the idea of a static career and reflect the declining half-life of skills critical to the 21st-century organization.”

Clark Quinn is quite incisive here… “L&D could and should be a big contributor to organizational success. If they were adequately addressing the optimizing performance side of the story, and ensuring  the continual innovation part as well, their value should and would be high.”

Am extremely eager to reflect on the positive role L&D could play in bringing about a transformation in the learning landscape in the next post.

So long…


‘Behavior Change’ happens in the brain first! Only then does it manifest!

…which means, the focus goes straight to what happens ‘inside’ when a learning experience is in progress. Does this experience strike the needed neural connections inside the brain for the brain to change ‘physically’?


Does the brain change physically?  

I was quite intrigued by this question and started looking around for insights. What I discovered was one of those most obvious things, but it nevertheless turned out to be a revelation for me.

Just observing the way children’s brains perform as they – the children – grow is good enough a proof for us to appreciate the fact that the little brains do change physically. They do so to accommodate new impressions that keep coming in through various channels. They are also like clean slates registering whatever comes their way without having to contend with any of the previously formed impressions. This is understandable because these impressions aren’t simply there.

Now, this is where we have a bottleneck with grown-ups. The adult brain’s acquired knowledge (stored in the hippocampus) creates a conditioned reality. Some of the impressions created by this reality are correct and some of them incorrect.

Correcting the incorrect impressions to bring about the needed behavioral change is so easier said than done. Seth Godin enunciates on this rather abstruse angle so well in this article.

That probably explains why (some of) the adult brains slow down when it comes to adapting to new environments and why sometimes they even resist changing their behavior as demanded by changing contexts. Which means, the new stuff presented to them needs to be so convincing (among various other things) that they find it easy to spontaneously correct/fine-tune/enhance their existing impressions.

So, when we take adults through a set of fresh skill sets we want them to acquire, the first thing we need to do is, find out what they already know. See how much of what they know is correct and how much of it is incorrect. And, turn our focus on the latter by setting up appropriate learning channels that will help them experience a smooth course correction.

The key is to let them also realize where they are going wrong.  Once we get them convinced on the need to correct themselves, we would be on our way to achieve the needed behavioral change.

Here’s an excellent repository of insights from Clark Quinn on how we can help people learn to learn.

Learning is PHILOSOPHICAL. It happens on REFLECTION.

Enter any work zone. We find different kinds of people there.

Those who look bored and disengaged, who come to work because they have to. And, those who look tensed, anxious, exhausted and overworked, who desperately wait for that much-needed break.

For both these classes, work is far from inspiring. There’s nothing to look forward to. There’s nothing new to learn. There’s nothing to take home as ‘experience’. It’s just humdrum they need to put up with.

But, amidst this crowd, we do find another breed… souls that are quite excited, that are constantly on the run. Not because they don’t fail. Not because they’ve mastered their game. But because, for them, work is learning. For them, learning happens when they experiment, when they push themselves out of their comfort zone… ’cause, that would demand ‘new mindsets and behaviors’ to handle the un-comfort zone comfortably.

And, this personal growth mindset comes full circle when it takes its experiences also seriously and reflects on them because there’s so much to be learned from them as well.

Arun Pradhan puts it so wonderfully in this inspiring post of his, “Without a reflective process, the experience that lies at the centre of this model would be relegated to being ‘stuff that happens’”.

He also adds, “The process of listening to one’s ‘internal voice’, which is representative of mindset, and positively engaging with and redirecting that voice, requires a deliberate and sustained reflective process (not to mention buckets of patience and self-compassion).”

I just love this phrase ‘buckets of patience and self-compassion’, because we are limited beings, we come with our own baggage that conditions us to think in a particular way. ‘Challenging one’s mental models’ and going beyond them takes time. But, “over time, such an open reflective process might call into question things we assumed to be true, as old and new mental models fight for their place in our minds. In such cases, the process of unlearning and letting go of redundant mental models, is just as important as developing new models moving forward.”

All that’s discussed so far is at the individual level… where people are committed to their own personal growth. But, how does this work from an organization perspective? What should the organization do to achieve the same reflection based learning amongst its employees?


Here are some of my reflections… things I (would) love to do when I’m with my colleagues.

Spotting excited souls is probably one of the easiest things we could ever accomplish. Because they stand out clearly from the rest of the crowd.

Pick them up. And, start small. Give them all the support required. Help them learn and grow. And, use them as the showcase material for others to emulate. Basically, lead people by examples.

While doing all of this, empower these talents with other real-life traits such as taking on challenges bravely and coming through them successfully, because creamy, smooth situations are never perennial. And, through all these ‘enaction’ scenes, let them know they are not alone. Let them know that they have our full support.

As I see it, when we start our proactive people measures this way, we can feel confident that we will move towards making our organization a learning organization.

For more thoughts, check out Arun’s yet another post on Workflow Learning.