selling workplace learning to the HSP

Highly successful people (HSP) don’t need help making sense of their days.

“What if you could rely on others in your life to handle these things and you could narrow your attention filter to that which is right before you, happening right now? I met Jimmy Carter when he was campaigning for president and he spoke as though we had all the time in the world. At one point, an aide came to take him off to the next person he needed to meet. Free from having to decide when the meeting would end, or any other mundane care, really, President Carter could let go of those inner nagging voices and be there. A professional musician friend who headlines big stadiums and constantly has a phalanx of assistants describes this state as being ‘happily lost’. He doesn’t need to look at his calendar more than a day in advance, allowing each day to be filled with wonder and possibility.” —Daniel Levity, in The Organized Mind

The rest of us have to figure out some other way to manage our daily lives, as well as how to stay current in our fields. The idea that HSP’s live a different life from the rest of us helps to understand why it is difficult to sell cooperative and social learning to senior executives. They may understand that non-HSP’s need compliance training, and that skilled workers need training. However, it is likely they don’t internally understand that many people need to keep up with as much new knowledge and information as HSP’s do, but the rest of us do not have the staff to outsource our cognitive loads.

I was attending a lunch for senior learning and development (L&D) folks in Canada, while speaking at the Institute for Performance & Learning’s annual conference a couple of weeks ago. The subject of conversation was a recent report on the state of L&D. One of the questions that was posed to the group of about 30 professionals was how to convince organizational leaders of the return on investment (ROI) for workplace learning. I proposed that if executives ask for the ROI of an initiative, it really means that they do not believe in it. If they think something is important for the business, they don’t ask to see any ROI.

If those in leadership positions are to really promote workplace learning (not just compliance courses) they have to believe that it is good for them. HSP’s have to be practicing cooperation in knowledge networks to develop emergent practices, in order to truly understand any inherent value. Selling the concept of cooperative workplace learning for non-HSP’s does not relate to the special life of the HSP. In order for executives to believe in workplace learning and support frameworks like personal knowledge mastery, necessary for the rest of us, they have to see it for themselves. All of the effort put into preparing business cases for organizational learning initiatives should instead be focused on getting the leadership to adopt new practices. After that, there is no longer any need to sell the idea. Justifying ROI is selling to the wrong part of the HSP brain.

 

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