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Learning Leaders Fieldbook

Masie Center’s Learning Leaders Fieldbook offers a diverse-perspective overview of leading learning in an organization. Topics include talent management, role of CLO (including lifecycle, basics of success, team structure), and role of technology. In all, it’s a good handbook. But, its strength is also a weakness: each chapter is only a few pages. After a few chapters you get the impression that you’re reading a series of blog posts.

This reflects a trend I’ve noticed over the last several years: when did leading thinkers in corporate learning conclude that their audience can not handle complex subjects? Why this push for shallowness? I presented at a large corporate learning event about five months ago. After the presentation, a VP (in charge of training and development) approached me and stated that simple messages are preferable. I assumed this to mean that I had delivered a presentation that was too complex (I was talking about restructuring training departments to take advantage of existing organizational connections between people and using decentralized methods to achieve adaptive corporate strategies – yes, the topic was a bit complex, but because it was complex, it required a complex treatment). I responded that a good presentation, in my eyes, should do two things: clarify simple issues and present a complex constellation of important issues.
The organization then faces the challenge of working through complex issues in a manner that reflects organizational and external contexts. If it were simple, we could just write a blog post about it or deliver a one-slide powerpoint presentation. Corporate learners aren’t dumb. We don’t need to reduce significant training to pablum-like consistency.


  1. George, I think this is really important. We’re living in a sound-byte society, where the “elevator speech” is intended to convey complex ideas in 30 seconds or less to busy leaders. Complex problems require deep and on-going learning and thinking and can’t easily be summed up in short phrases, until after the problem has been solved.

    In my own mind, collecting and organizing all that we know about a problem and potential solutions is a first need for Internet based problem solving. The second is enlarging the number of people who use this information in their own learning and innovation. Equally important are people who act as facilitators and intermediaries to help people find and make sense of the information on-line.

    I’m trying to do all of this in the Tutor/Mentor Connection, with limited (scarce) resources. Your articles continue to provide me with ideas that support why I’m doing what I do, and how I might do it better.


    Sunday, June 28, 2009 at 8:10 am | Permalink
  2. I think that corporate trainers mostly apply the KISS principle. KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid).

    Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 4:49 am | Permalink