Monday, July 30

Let's stop pretending

I think I may have mentioned this before, but I work with researchers - people who spend time living in data and coming up for air only when they have actionable insights in tow. In some ways this has been a bracing change of pace for me, and for the most part it has been very interesting to witness. I don't think any of my colleagues in Rosslyn would put it this way, but I like to think that the unspoken refrain in this kind of work is:

look -- really look -- at what is in front of you.
stop pretending that things are otherwise.
act accordingly. 

Rinse. Repeat.

I like this idea a lot. I think I like it so much because we are living in an age of unprecedented access to data and potential analysis. It's flooding into our living rooms, our classrooms, and our conversations, threatening to knock over our television viewing habits and aborting our actor sighting arguments into trips to IMDb. Never has it been easier to elicit the right answer, even taking into account the number of wrong answers that doggedly flank our prey. In the interests of taking stock of the world in which we're working - in light of all of this (and inspired by this unconference update) - let's stop pretending.

  • Let's stop pretending that the answer to 70-20-10 is to double down on formal learning hierarchies.
  • Let's stop pretending that 'social learning' is something new (or something that can only be achieved using social media).
  • Let's stop pretending that what you're collecting with your LMS has a lot to show in terms of learning analytics, ROI, or business intelligence.
  • (While we're at it, let's stop pretending that you need an LMS at all to capture information about meaningful learning experiences.)
  • Let's stop pretending that online learning can only be canned, disembodied public access TV-style instruction with no connection to universities' missions and students' needs.
  • For starters, let's stop pretending that live instructor-led or online education are the only (let alone ranking) games in town.
  • Let's stop pretending that the university will be killed by online education.
  • Let's stop pretending that we don't know (better than most) that the ones most responsive to change will survive.
  • Let's stop pretending that the solution to crafting excellent learning experiences is going to come from Silicon Valley.
  • ...or from a tool.
  • ...or from a tool.
  • ...or from a tool. (it bears repeating.)
  • Let's stop pretending that tools are anything more than tools.
  • Let's stop pretending that elearning and mlearning should exist as terms.
  • Let's stop pretending that we even know how to spell eLearning e-learning e-Learning elearning.
  • Let's stop pretending that any part of our value comes from shrouding our methods and knowledge in mystery.
  • Let's stop pretending that the transparency of a common language for what we do is anything but potential #winning.
  • Let's stop pretending that any of this is about anything other than GTD.
  • Pelo amor de deus, can we please stop pretending that catering to learning styles is something that we should be talking about in 2012?
  • Let's stop pretending that bowing to business pressures from stakeholders is helping anyone, in the long run.
  • At the same time, let's stop pretending that we are not in a business of production.
  • Let's stop pretending that some part of us didn't wish that we could please everyone.
  • Let's stop pretending that we don't have the scars to prove that much of our value is in our spirited, educated opposition.
  • Let's stop pretending that, somewhere along the way, we didn't allow marketers to make us look kind of dumb.
  • Let's stop pretending that we can get away with not knowing how to work with visual and user experience design teams.
  • Let's stop pretending that we have nothing to learn from visual and user experience design teams. (for starters, they tend to be more comfortable with the concept of design thinking than we.)
  • Let's stop pretending that badges = fun.
  • Let's stop pretending that this game from 2006 isn't more engaging than a fair lot of serious/educational gaming.
  • (While we're at it, let's stop to marvel at our breathtaking getting-schooled-ness at the hands of a motivated social change organization and a clever ad firm.)
  • Let's stop pretending that content curation isn't already a core competency.
  • Let's stop giving the impression that we as a people have this social media thing figured out. (This is me, standing on the free soil of Google+land, staring disapprovingly at you all trying to make it work in Facebookistan. Let's get it together, my people.)
  • Let's stop pretending that, at one point or another, we haven't for a moment wondered if we deserve to be marginalized.  (Opinions on learning are never short supply.)
  • Let's stop pretending that what we do is to be relegated to the corner of any business or institution. What we do is central to life -- or at least, living full throttle. Let's make everyone else realize that, too.

Craig Wiggins has been helping people create and manage learning experiences for the last 10 years. He is the eLearning Instructional Design Strategist for the Corporate Executive Board's Corporate Leadership Council, where he manages the creation of meaningful distance learning and performance solutions. Craig holds a B.A. in anthropology and an M.Ed. in curriculum development, and spends a lot of time thinking about how to sneak usability, accessibility, and proper task analysis into the mix. In his natural habitat, he is usually storyboarding on wall-sized whiteboards or pontificating on Google+.


Anonymous said...

Let's stop pretending that a pre/post test measures *anything useful* in the vast majority of implementations.

Dave Ferguson said...

Let's stop pretending that organizations exist so that the people working in them (a) can ignore their personal goals and lives entirely while on the clock, or (b) can justify whatever they want to do under the rubric of learning without connecting it in any way to the organization's goals.

Jane Bozarth said...

Let's stop pretending that most "learning and development" efforts have any connection to anyone "learning" anything.

Unknown said...

Let's stop pretending we don't have to understand how business works to develop effective and meaningful learning experiences.

Steve said...

Love, love, love this post, Craig! We suffer as a discipline if we can't confront and challenge a worldview that most of us agree is broken.

Let's stop pretending...

- ...level 1 evaluations matter anywhere near as much as we think they do.
- ...level 2 evaluation results represent anything resembling meaningful change.
- ...higher level evaluations that might illustrate a link between effort and real business effects belong in the "too hard locker"
- ...L&D needs to focus on L to the detriment of D.
- ...adding another ineffective course to a stack of ineffective courses isn't a waste of effort we could better spend on solving real problems with real solutions.

Cammy Bean said...

Let's stop pretending that our sole purpose for being is for learning and not performance.

Unknown said...

you guys are awesome. i wish I could collect these and 2.0 this thing.

oh! and i totally forgot to lay into so-called 'localization/internationalization' of elearning

Cate said...

OMG!! I'm not alone!! There are other L&D geeks out there who get "it" and don't know how to get "it" to "them".

Love what Cammy said about our sole being revolving around performance....not necessarily improved performance, mind you, but performance. Git er' done!! and if you can do so and blame "training" for it, so much the better.

So, where do we go from here, team? With such a big group of professional development junkies how do we find the cure for the cancer of ignorance that is eating L&D efforts?

Kevin Thorn said...

- Let's stop pretending organizations have real online learning strategies that focus on real performance.
- Let's stop pretending one design is right for all delivery methods.
- Lets stop pretending that just because your org has mobile devices doesn't mean they come preloaded with a mobile learning strategy.

ellen said...

Nicely done, Craig

kcwood said...
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Helen said...

Love it Craig! Good work!

kcwood said...

Let's stop pretending that if we ignore the tsunami of change that it will go away.

Let's stop pretending that we have can solve performance issues with a training event.

Great post, Craig.

Kathy sierra said...

Let's stop pretending that we have problems for which "more engagement" is the solution.

Dave Ferguson said...

Note to Cate:

More than half the people who've commented here have blogs, are on Twitter, or are otherwise pretty easy to find... in fact, most of the names are hyperlinks to one of their online presences.

So you're not alone, and I can tell you that my own professional fire gets stoked because of interacting with people like Craig, Julie, Jane, Koreen, Steve, Cammie, Kevin, and Ellen.

Drop 'em a line.

Tracy Parish said...

I feel a T-shirt movement coming on, but then again....let's stop pretending that anyone really reads what our shirts have on them.

Anonymous said...

Let's stop pretending someone can learn a skill without practice and feedback. Lots of practice and feedback.

Unknown said...

Happy to see familiar 'faces' in here, and a few that have been hidden for awhile.

Cate: basically, what Dave said. There's a cavalcade of formidable learning exponents running through this comments section.
If you haven't already, i'd suggest checking out #lrnchat on Twitter (actually, go to for more info).

Quick aside: In addition to Dave's list of folks, I'd like to point out Kathy Sierra, who commented here as well. Kathy was one of my earliest inspirations - she's not a 'learning person', but I've recommended her talks and her Creating Passionate Users blog ( to many younger associates.

Unknown said...

And just to make sure that it is easy to reach me (at the very least - again, more worthy names in this comments section to study):

Google Plus:
Facebook: no.

Preservation Nation said...

Let's stop pretending that Death by PowerPoint is anything more than a voice box exercise for the presenter.

Eric Matas said...

Fun to read this post...made me remember "anaphora."

Ironic that pretending is a great way to learn. :- )

Unknown said...

Can we stop pretending in ADDIE?

Heather S. Davis said...

Pretending assumes people know better and behave otherwise. It's been my experience that most people don't know better and I endeavor to educate them by showing them how it can be different.

criticallearner said...

Thanks for this post, Craig. One of the best I've read in years.

Let's stop pretending that putting more data into bad decision processes will produce better decisions.

Graham said...

I agree on almost all points, but tools are important. As long as we recognize that we are the artists, and its how we use the tools that matters, then it's OK to get excited about new ways to create content.

Barbara Nicolls said...

let's stop pretending that our students will become independent and autonomous lifelong learners if we assign a a self-directed learning task without modelling or scaffolding

Steve Howard said...

let's stop pretending that the iPad solves *everything* ;-)

ray ban sunglasses said...
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Fredia said...

I agree on almost all points as well. I too work with researchers - the kind that have their training records checked by international, Federal, state, and local regulatory agencies. Sadly, most of these agencies (or the people checking) could care less if the researchers and their staff KNOW anything from the courses they are forced to complete. As long as they aren't non-compliant and a box has been checked beside a training course that they completed it, all is well. Let's stop pretending that mandated (forced) training really works and start teaching what they need to know to do a great job.

Dick Carlson said...

Let's stop pretending that our "assessments" actually measure anything meaningful. At best, we're just showing how well students can memorize a list of facts and regurgitate them on command, and at worst we're measuring whether or not they enjoyed lunch.

True assessment of learning and application of knowledge requires a huge amount of work over a long period of time, and scares most of us silly. What if people found out that we really had no idea what we were doing?

Unknown said...

Ley's stop pretending that we are pure and only do things for the achievement of learning objectives. Sometimes you have to compromise, despite what the pundits are telling the working pros.

Let's stop pretending that we "know" what works, we have an idea and we can try it. How it sticks depends on how well we understand the culture of the organization, the business and how people change.

TrainerLam said...

Let's stop pretending that there is such a thing as a "training emergency"

Karl Kapp said...

Let's stop pretending that there is no research in our field about what is effective for learning and what is not.

Luke718 said...

Wow. It's a wonder we all manage to remain positive, dedicated, and committed to figuring this 'learning' stuff out. A neophyte reading all these posts might think we're all about to jump out the window!

Let's stop pretending we don't have a deep vein of irony running through us!


child learn said...
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Ali Shahrazad said...

This is amazing! Thanks for posting

edCetra Training said...

Good job Craig. You clearly hit on something within our industry that many of us are working to change.