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.