Update: This post is featured on The Working/Learning Carnival along with several other interesting articles.
Marketing and training have certain similarities – gaining attention; getting your message across; and changing behaviour. When Seth Godin says that mass marketing is dead, I ask if mass training is far behind:
Marketing had an arc, one that started with personal, local interactions between real people and rapidly morphed into very corporate anonymous actions aimed at the unwilling masses.
Mass marketing really came into its own after the Second World War, and most prominently in the US:
With the foundations in place [high rate of savings, few consumer goods, end of war, interstate highway system], the “mass” aspects of marketing came into existence in the form of mass demand, massive stores, and mass communications.
Compare the rise of mass marketing to mass training. The wars (1914-1945) brought about the systems approach to training, the basis of instuctional system design (ISD), still used by the military and emulated by much corporate training. Both of these mass, one to many, systems appeared at about the same time. They were used to achieve economies of scale and depended upon good one-way communications systems. Both marketing and training at the mass level depend on a limited number of “channels” available to the individual. That has changed.
Why does Godin think that this is the end of mass marketing? Social media:
Social media’s growth in the last three years, though, gives marketers an inkling that there may be something else going on. Sure, they can run
spamads on Facebook, but they don’t work. Social media, it turns out, isn’t about aggregating audiences so you can yell at them about the junk you want to sell. Social media, in fact, is a basic human need, revealed digitally online. We want to be connected, to make a difference, to matter, to be missed. We want to belong, and yes, we want to be led.
Since many (most) people can easily connect with people and information, and are starting to find ways to make a difference in their learning, why would they want to follow a pre-set training program designed in a one-size-fits-all fashion? It actually goes against human nature. Each one of us wants to be unique.
Good trainers know how to personalize and contextualize their sessions, but social media can reinforce this continuously, not constrained by time or space. Successful organisations will move from a training focus, and even beyond a performance improvement focus, to a connecting and facilitating one, with tools such as social media to do this. In an always-on, totally connected work environment, how else could you help people to work and learn? You could design a new course, but that may no longer be a viable option in the near future.