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June 16, 2009

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Michele,

You write: "I also think there's a general reluctance to train staff because knowledge and skills are portable and with people having the flexibility to move to other jobs, companies are understandably reluctant to train their future competitors."

Perhaps we are approaching a point in time where companies need to accept that this is going to happen and stop trying to avoid it. Using the music industry example, it's like the record companies trying to ignore the impact of digital technologies and the network. Those who understood the disruption to come, and made the leap, had a head start on the rest - most of whom are still trying to catch up.

Back to a sports analogy: most pro teams know that their star players, maybe all of their players, will eventually move on to other teams, either as a free agent or as a trade. This doesn't stop them from trying to make sure these athletes are the best trained and prepared athletes on the field.

Not sure how exactly these examples can be leveraged to answer the question at hand, I just thought they might help shed a different perspective on the challenges ahead.

This is a very interesting concept, and one that certainly fits with the 'everyone is a free agent' mentality. I have often bristled at organizations that like to state 'employees are responsible for their own development and career planning', but then offer pre-selected training opportunities that may or may not align with the individual's goals at all. Great post, and this is certainly a trend to watch for in the future.

I think this trend has started. For example the whole idea of the "unconference" is participants setting the agenda and doing the presentations. No formal preset agenda. The expertise in the room talks. Meetups are potentially another example of this in the face-to-face environment. People taking responsibility for their own learning at low cost.

In formal training, I always found it interesting that the most energy in the room was on coffee breaks -- that's where participants are engaged.

Different industries and regions may vary in how much formal instruction they require. People also vary in their capability for self-directed learning.

Your analogy to health care is very relevant -- though I wish it wasn't so.

A thought on Brett's analogy to teams and star players -- this would require businesses to have coaches on their teams that were responsible for the performance of their team. I think this is a great model -- but requires a rethinking of the business organization. Regardless, the role of the training organization shifts and becomes more aligned with the business needs.

Love the post.

@rani,

The idea of coaches is something I've explored on my blog, both for individuals and teams, and was the basis for my comments here. There is no doubt that this would require a rethinking of organizations, and it probably wouldn't work for some (many? most?).

In this concept I see the role of the training organization shifting from a combination of identifying training requirements and executing those requirements to one of simply identifying the requirements, with the execution left to the line organization and their "coach".

Thanks for your post Michele
Three 1st impression ideas (which seemed to be centered on organizational learning):
1. Strategy must play a stronger role where learning is part of the organizational narrative not just an afterthought or add-on.
2. Focus learning activities on building organizational intelligence with individual learning. Individual learning becomes organizational intelligence when it changes processes, shared understandings or artifacts (like the organizational narrative).
3. Organizations need a learning infrastructure. Six Sigma is one example, except that it could be more broadly focused beyond quality.

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