Friday, April 10, 2015

Optimism - L&D's vice

With election fever gripping the nation (ahem), I've been thinking a bit about polling and it occurs to me that we are subject to some of the same errors that cause pollsters eggy faces after the election - you know, where the media outlets start their witch-hunt to find out why the predicted outcome didn't match the one we got.

One of the standard tropes for communiques from companies and organisations of all sorts involved in L&D is the line that "we expect to see a growth in area x" in the next 12 months, using the old approach "everyone else is doing it so you should too".

If reality matched the shiny future projected by the results of these surveys, then L&D would be a rude state of health, perfectly aligned with the needs of business, skillfully blended solutions at every turn, making the most of advanced online tools and, well, you know, yada-yada-yada...

Given that I've completed a couple such surveys recently, and knowing the people I do, I can see the flaw in this approach: L&D people tend toward optimism. We're interested in making the world, or at least the workplace, better. And moving toward that better future involves imagining us and our colleagues in it, and hoping we'll be there a little quicker than we might actually manage it.

So while we're responding to these requests for information on where we see ourselves in a year's time we may tend toward gilding that future with a bit more budget, or fewer last minute requests for data from the LMS, or more time to talk our clients in to accepting something new and exciting instead of rehashing trusted (but tired?) solutions. With all that in mind we might overreach and fill our window shopping basket with a shinier vision of the future than we might be able to grab.

And what's wrong in that? While we are still thinking of trying new solutions and implementing new approaches we are still engaged with the field, listening to our peers and trying to make things better for the people we are here to serve.

So you know what, while I keep seeing wildly optimistic projections for future uptake of the latest trend, I'll relax because it's a sign that the future is still rosy.