Learning and Development - Nothing Has Changed. Everything Has Changed.

Posted on by Brandon Klein

I’ve recently read Clark Quinn’s excellent new ‘Revolutionize Learning & Development’ book. Clark always provides a thoughtful and enlightening perspective.  There are some observations and suggestions in here that get to the heart of the issues around the fact that our approaches to building capability through learning need a radical rethink.

Despite the book’s title (or maybe that’s the point of it) Clark’s focus is not so much on learning and development as on performance. It’s about the output rather than process. Learning as simply a means to improve performance.

I agree totally with this approach.

Learning itself may be a noble aim but it’s not an end in itself in the context of work. Professionals in any field are usually recognised (and paid) for results. Whether you’re working in an HR or L&D department, or for a commercial company providing learning tools and services, or for a college, university or business school, results matter. It’s no different from any other profession. Lack of demonstrable results lead to consequences such as limiting of funding, closure or contract cancellation.

We know that the results of learning and development activities can only be determined by changes in behaviour (after all, at its heart that’s what ‘real learning’ is) and behaviour change needs to be measured in terms of what individuals, teams and organisations can do and are doing, that they couldn’t do previously, or what they’re doing better than before. ‘Knowing’ does not prove ‘learning’.

This point seems still to be lost on many HR and learning professionals.

Quinn suggests that a focus on performance augmentation should be at the core of all learning and development activity. He describes a range of methods to achieve the transformation from learning to performance. This book is very helpful in that way and builds on the work of others such as Gloria Gery, Mary Broad and Harold Stolovitch.