Friday, February 2

February Big Question: What Questions?

The February Big Question goes to the root of what The Big Question is all about. It is a topic that has bothered Tony for a while. In a session on Informal Learning by Jay Cross, Harold Jarche and Judy Brown at ASTD TechKnowledge, you could easily see great questions getting raised by both the presenters and the audience. "How can I help my organization improve the quality and quantity of conversations?" and “How can I create informal learning experiences for new managers in my organization?" These questions offered a fantastic opportunity for discussion and understanding of the subject.

Tony’s revelation was that one of/if not THE biggest questions facing us is that we don't know the right questions to ask in a given situation. Sometimes we’re asking a question when we should be asking a different one.

So, this month, The Big Question is...

What Questions Should We Be Asking?

Please answer this question by posting to your own blog or commenting on this post.
(For further help in how to participate via blog posts, see the side bar.)

Point to Consider:

  • Feel free to list questions from lots of different perspectives and at lots of different levels.
One last note. Don’t worry about answering the questions you suggest. Perhaps we’ll do that in future.

Participating Blogs:
The form for February's Big Question has been closed. If you have a post in response to the February Big Question, please contact the Blogmeister by using the Dear Blogmeister form which can be linked to from the top of the sidebar.

Clive Shepherd
Clive on Learning
The big question for February: what questions should we be asking?
Tony Karrer
eLearning Technology
Clive Sheppard What Questions
Adele Lim
learning & development
Feb Big Question: What Qs should we be asking?
Karyn Romeis
Karyn's blog
February's big question
Matthew Nehrling
mLearning World
The February Big Question- What Question?
Tom Haskins
growing changing learning creating
Asking the right questions
Clark Quinn
Asking Good Questions
What Should We Be Asking
Karl Kapp
Kapp Notes
Questions, Questions and More Questions
Ray Sims
Sims Learning Connections
What Questions Should We Be Asking?
Mark Oehlert
The Big Question about Questions
Dave Lee
asking questions
Brent Schlenker
Corporate eLearning Development
The February Big Question
Anil Mammen
Discursive Learning
A Question of Questions
TIS Corporate Blog
What Questions Should We Be Asking?
Valerie Bock
Collaborative Learning
What Questions Should We Be Asking?
Terrence Seamon
Here We Are. Now What?
The Power in Asking Questions
Jay Cross
Internet Time Blog
Big questions about big questions
Geetha Krishnan
Simply Speaking
Questions, questions
Tony Karrer
eLearning Technology
Is the Big Question Half-Full or Half-Empty?
Jacob McNulty
What's in a Question? Our Future
Tony Karrer
eLearning Technology
Action on Informal Learning - Leads to Great Questions
Tony Karrer
eLearning Technology
Continuing Thoughts on Questions


Harold Jarche said...

Dateline 2040: As a learning professional, what were doing at the turn of century to help the world during its greatest time of need for innovative thinking?

Clark Aldrich said...

What question should you be asking? That is obvious. The question you should be asking is "what question should we be asking." And the answer? "What question should we be asking?"

Tony Karrer said...

Clark - that's clearly a foul. :)

And both of these questions - including the question itself are too big on their own to be helpful. Would trying to answer your own question provide more interesting questions for us to consider?

Anonymous said...

Ok, here is my big question: Why do some people insist that we can measure the unmeasurable?

When are we going to face the fact that ROI is nothing more than smoke and mirrors to placate the executive and financial people?

Dave Lee said...


Welcome to The Big Question. You picked doozy to join us on.

I think much of the argument revolves around how you define measurement. If ROI is either your only means of measurement or is emblematic of the kinds of measurement we are expected to use to determine our success, then I'm in total agreement with you.

But I don't believe that strict financial measures are the only means for bringing some sort of accountability to the learning function.

We can agree with our stakeholders on measures that we mutually deem appropriate as targets for learning. Two examples might be the number of employees earning certification in the use of a new financial system or successful completion of tasks previously not within the capabilities of the target population. If these targets are aligned with our stakeholder's overall goals and they agree that acheiving them will advance their efforts, then we should feel confident in using them as measures of our success.

While these measures may not gain approval from the Board of Directors for new capital investment in an LMS or other learning infrastructure, they do gain us credibility and support from middle managers and potential executive sponsors for other projects. Either of which are worthwhile goals for any learning organization.

Karl Kapp said...


You ask an interesting question, is it really not measurable...?

Let me ask a question ...why should every other department in an organization held accountable for results (ROI) (operations, marketing, sales, etc.) and the learning department be immune?

If you work for a business, they want matter what department. We need to provide it or be irrelevant.


Tony Karrer said...

Clearly Mark's hit on a question that sparks some discussion. So that makes it a good question!

And in Mark's defense - while I'm a person who general favors going after things have you can measure and using the measurement to drive the project, there are lots of things that are not easily measured or not desired to be measured. In many cases (possibly as high as 80%) there is no desire to have measures on projects even if we could.

Anonymous said...

The original thrust of my question was that in trying to attempt Kirkpatrick Level 5 evaluations (which was not actually created by Kirkpatrick) we are kidding ourselves that we can measue ROI in terms of increased productivity.

I attended a ROI seminar during my local ASTD chapter annual conference. i forget tha man's name, but he is a big name in the ROI training field. When he stated that you begin with an "assumption" about how much training will increase produtivity, and extrapolate from there.

While I agree that there are measurable goals, performance measures and the like, I find it borderline unethical to tell executives that productivity increased 300% due to training that occured six months ago. We can not demonstrate a causal link.

If I own a widget factory, and I buy a machine that deos the wrok of three people, I can directly measure the ROI.

If I train someone to make widgets, I can't directly measure how effective the training was in the obtaining of necessary skills. The trainng MAY be directly responsible, or it might not have had any impact whatsoever. The answer, I suspect, lies in the middle. But we can't measure that.

Mark V. Schwier