My plea to L&D

Whether (as individuals or a profession) we like it or not we are in a position of authority. When we are stood in front of a room, curating content or even sending a tweet, as learning professionals, because of our profession, what we say has weight, it has credibility, we have credibility.

I have been thinking a lot recently about this and where we get our content from and how much we really understand about what we talk, train, design or share as learning and development practitioners, trainers and facilitators.

Consciously running the risk of overselling the role of someone who facilitates learning and does it anyway…. we are in a position of responsibility because people employ us and pay us a salary or fee or the effort of a follow to share learning, either face-to-face, electronically or through social media. I find myself frustrated and not convinced we put enough emphasis and focus on really understanding the content we deliver versus content that sounds exciting, sexy and cool.

For example the past two years I have been working via Twitter along with with Sukhvinder Pabial (twitter handle of @sukhpabial) and Tim Royds (twitter handle of @timroyds) to bust a Mehrabian Myth. Albert Mehrabian’s research model can be explained in this brilliant YouTube video called Busting the Mehrabian Myth by Creativity Works.

The model explains 55% of communication comes through the face, 38% through the body and non-verbal communication and 7% through words. This model is repeatedly rolled out in communication and presentation skills training. The model is presented as, “This is how we communicate and it is backed by science and research”.

We run the risk of misusing this model as Albert Mehrabian researched people discussing content they were emotionally connected to, had a passion for and believed in. He found meaning came from those three channels including the face and body when speakers were emotionally connected and believed in what they were saying. Albert Mehrabian’s model is embedded in research and science and has validity…. but it is commonly misused and misquoted.

There are other models in circulation, for example within neuro linguistic programming and the concept of eye accessing patterns. The hypothesis is when people look up to the left they are remembering, up to the right they are creating and imagining, from side to side to the left or right they are remembering a noise or imagining the sound and looking down is internal dialogue or accessing feelings. Again there is no validity and no research! There are many factors which could effect the outcome, for example if you are left or right handed. What is even more scary is some practitioners have taken this on to say that this can be used to indicate when people are lying?!?!

Here’s a video that in the content alone (especially the images) show the quality of the research into this area.

So what’s my plea…?

If you are going to share ideas, theories, model or concepts please know the origin of what you share. Please reference: books, articles, studies when creating your content because without the references you are running the risk of not showing your depth of knowledge, you are not giving your learners the full picture and frankly…. you are not doing your job properly.

Please protect your credibility and that of your profession.

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2 responses to “My plea to L&D

  1. Completely agree with your position here.
    I recently experienced significant cognitive dissonance at the realisation (during reading for MA) that the majority of learning sessions I’ve previously written have been aimed at enabling a specific way of working. Not freeing thought, but encouraging a specific choice. My role has been to convince others to chose ‘this’ way of working rather than a different way. Yes it’s always evidence based (treatment approaches, which I whole heartedly believe in) but the evidence I present supports one arguement – because that’s what I’m there (employed) to do: enable people to act, do, implement specific approaches when they leave the room.

    • Hi Jo. Thanks for your comment and the relationship between what we create and/or deliver on behalf of organisations. The feeling of indebtedness towards the employing or paying company and supporting their aims vs creating learners that drive their own development is an interesting one. We want to create learning that is linked to the strategic objectives of the company as that makes us credible and yet it may, as you say, create dissonance. Great comment, thank you!

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