What I’m Looking for LESS of in 2013

Last week I wrote a post about things I want to do more of in 2013. A few colleagues reached out to me after reading that post asking for the flip-side: things I’d like to see and do less of in 2013.

Considering one of the things I listed in my ‘Do More in 2013’ post was a desire to write more, it seems only appropriate to take that follow-up question as inspiration for another post.

Of course, there’s a fundamental difference between this post and my ‘Do More’ post. When you talk about things you want to do more of, it’s usually positive. When you talk about things you want to see or do less of, it’s usually something negative. Based on it being negative, there’s an implication of something positive that should be used instead. I’ve incorporated that in these items.

So here’s what I’m hoping to see and do less of 2013

Less Debate, More Discussion

We in the United States just got through a presidential election. If you watched any of the debates, you saw two individuals involved in a discussion in which each party had two basic goals:

  1. Show that I’m the right choice
  2. Show that my opponent is the wrong choice

Rarely in a debate does one side agree with any point from the opposition – regardless of its merit – because doing so would be a relinquishment of power. There’s little discussion about finding common ground or finding an overall better way; it’s primarily a discussion to sway opinion of MY plan being the RIGHT way and YOUR plan being the WRONG way.

I see a great deal of this going on in the learning and performance field. And to be honest… there are times I find it just exhausting.

We’re in a period of transition. Technology has advanced to a point that it enables new kinds of support that was not previously available to the masses. There’s also a growing awareness regarding the amount of organizational learning and performance that takes place outside of formal learning programs. These changes conflict with how L&D departments have traditionally operated. In addition, many of those pointing towards the future are trying to solidify their foothold on being a part of it.

Hence, a debate begins. You’re either getting on board the train of change, or you’re being left behind. You’re either doing things the new way that someone is telling you about…or you’re wrong.

Part of being a real professional is having the ability to match a problem with an appropriate solution. There’s no room in the learning industry – or any industry – for a one-size-fits-all solution. Every organization is unique, as is every performance need within that organization.

We don’t need our industry to know which solution or methodology is ‘right’; we need our industry to understand the advantages and disadvantages of a wide array of possibilities so that we are better prepared to match individual needs to individual solutions.

That understanding doesn’t start in a debate. It starts in an open discussion in which all viewpoints are considered valid. Even if someone walks into a discussion with actual misinformation about a topic that makes him or her factually ‘wrong’, it’s STILL does not mandate a debate. Nobody likes being told “You’re wrong”. Most people are willing to accept a different viewpoint if they come to the conclusion on their own.

Less Labels, More Definitions

I love to participate in discussions about our field. It’s one of the primary ways that I learn. When a conversation is flowing and ideas are being shared, it’s great. Until, or course, something happens that grinds the flow of the conversation to a screeching halt.

I see this happen often with labels. Someone mentions a label and a debate breaks out one what the label means.

Take eLearning for example. I’ve seen conversations get sidetracked many times by debates on what does, and what does not, fall under the heading of e-learning. Does elearning require an internet connection? If it takes place on my iPhone, is it E-Learning or m-learning?

And as you read that, were you concentrating on the questions, or on the fact that I used four different spellings for eLearning?

I’m not saying that labels are meaningless. I’m just saying that they are not nearly as important as the definition. It makes no difference if we standardize the label as an industry if we’re applying separate definitions to it.

Its the shared understanding of the definitions that move us forward, not the agreement on a label.

Less Rest, More Motion

One of Newton’s Laws of Motion is commonly referred to by a phrase such as “An object in motion stays in motion and an object at rest stays at rest (unless acted upon by an outside force).”

One of the points on my ‘Do More” post is to write more. My challenge with writing is that it’s challenging sometimes to get started and get into the flow. Once I get started (and am thus in motion) maintaining that motion is much easier.

I see this within our industry as well. We spend a great deal of time talking about doing things, but substantially less time actually doing them. I think a great deal of it can be traced back to getting started, and removing ourselves from a state of ‘rest’.

Doing something new is difficult, especially if it’s replacing something that you can do easily. Change can be hard and often painful. It’s an unknown. It’s easier to remain at rest.

However, motion puts us on the path for personal and professional growth. No one ever moved forward while standing still.

We need to break through our industry’s inertia. Do SOMETHING to get the ball rolling, even if it isn’t in exactly the right direction. Once you’re doing something, it’s easier to recognize if you’re going in the right direction and adjust course accordingly. It’s also easier to maintain and build momentum.

What About You?

Those are three things I’m hoping to do and see less of in 2013? I’d love to hear some of your thoughts and additions. Please feel free to continue the conversation via the comments below.

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