Friday, March 16, 2012

Who's learning is it anyway?

The CPLP(TM) certification cycle goes ever on. A couple of weeks ago, the latest cohort of Work Product submissions went in and the next Knowledge Exam testing window opens up tomorrow. Not ready yet? Well the deadline for registration for the NEXT window is a couple of weeks away!
One of the things that the Work Product evaluation is very hot on is the connection to the business need. In conversations with my coaches while I was putting together mine last summer I remember something that Trish Uhl said along the lines of "anyone can be a trainer. To be a WLP professional you need to be a business partner"
It's the impact on the business (or the organization if it's not a business) that we aim for. It's the highest level of Kirkpatrick evaluation. So when we are designing and delivering learning we have to keep that in mind.

But the learning does not belong to the organization. It's not the organization that is going to learn, it is the individual learner.

And that individual learner is going to learn in the way that works best for them. They are only going to learn if they get the motivation to do so. In his book Drive, Dan Pink talks about how motivation today relies on 3 principles. Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. 
If we make sure that learners have a clear sense of how they are getting better at something when the are part of learning experience we create, then the Mastery side is taken care of. But if we want to motivate them to learn we might want to hit the other two as well.
My favorite route to learner Autonomy is simply to give them the target and let them chose their own way to fulfill that target. As Thiagi puts it, there is content out there. Our job is not to create more of that but to come up with ways to help the learner interact with what is out there. The problem I always face when creating a learning event that we will sell to our customers (I work for a company that sells software and so we have to teach people how to use it) is selling the idea. Companies are reluctant to spend money on a session where we won't provide their staff with materials and step by step guides to doing the activities they want to learn about. As a result I all to often end up creating more content rather than curating the existing material. One day I'll work out a way to avoid falling into this trap, but as yet I've not managed to.
The third leg of the motivation stool is Purpose. And that is one area that I find pretty easy to work with. We know that learners trust the input they get from fellow 'customer' learners far more than what the 'vendor' instructor tells them. So I always set out the capabilities of a system and then ask them how they might use it to make their lives easier. The people in the room (or in the virtual room) who have had the most exposure are always happy to tell others what they have gained. Where there is no one with experience then they can all imagine how things could be better. Making their own and other people's lives easier always serves up a big dose of Purpose.

We can't forget who pays for us to do the work we are (hopefully) passionate about, but just because they buy it does not mean that they are the only customers we have!

Happy Learning

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