The marginalized training function

Tony Karrer clarifies his comments about traditional training becoming “marginalized”, which is worth a full read but I’d like to pick up on this comment:

If you look at what makes a good situation for formal learning:

  • Large Audience
  • Similar Level / Needs
  • Known/Stable Content
  • Few Out of Bounds cases

How many organizations have these conditions and are they increasing or decreasing? Are there many “large audiences” of “similar needs and levels of experience” in your organization? How about content that is known and stable? Even compliance training changes as new regulations try to counter every unique case.

I have little doubt that most knowledge work is becoming more complex if for no other reason than the fact that we have squeezed out most redundancy in our systems and have automated any tasks we can. The only good-quality, high-paying work that is left requires contextual knowledge, problem-solving and creativity for those “out of bounds cases”. Training, other than in basic processes, does not address these skills.

cynefin and training

Knowledge workers need to learn from the emergent processes they  continuously create to deal with a complex environment. That means making things up (creativity) based on best guesses and collaboration and making parts of these processes tangible enough to pass on for their ever-shortening half-lives.

I would agree that training is getting marginalized but someone (or some department) in the organization will be taking responsibility for getting work done. For instance, at  Intuit, training is part of marketing and involves the customer directly. Your own organizational experience in the next few years may differ, but dealing with complexity will definitely be part of it.

7 Responses to “The marginalized training function”

  1. Tony Karrer

    Great post Harold.

    “Training, other than in basic processes, does not address these skills.” — To clarify this – when you say basic processes – I think you mean things like PKM, methods, etc. My believe is that there are gaps in many concept workers skill sets where some level of training makes sense.

  2. gminks

    Just curious, what do you mean by make things up?

    That is actually a problem I see, and a place where the training function could provide guidance. In a corporate setting, you may be able to make things up but you have to stay inside certain parameters.

    How do you learn what the parameters are? What if the parameters are — it depends?


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