The Training Hoax

How many emails do you get a week from organizations selling programs to train you or your people to ____________?  (you fill in the blank)

Boring TrainingCorporate training has become the Emperor’s New Clothes of modern business. It’s a hoax. We send people away to make them into better leaders, more creative thinkers, better team players. When the one-day (if that!) “course” is finished, we pat them on the head, and proclaim they’re now improved or empowered or upskilled. Then we send them back to the same jobs, in the same cube farms, using the same language they did the day before. And for some reason, we think they’ll behave differently. That’s called MBH — Management by Hope.

Who are we kidding? The only thing that’s really changed is the calendar.

(The whole exercise is even more absurd when we replace face-to-face interaction with a poorly designed, half-focused-on webinar. At least hanging out with other people might have been fun, if not particularly productive.)

The last thing you or your company needs is more of the training hoax. It costs too much money, takes too much time, and produces too few results. Really. If you think about it, when was the last time you actually learned and applied something of value from a conventional training program?

What we do need are practical approaches that entrain new skills and new behaviors in people so they actually stick — and make a difference. Entraining is a process of skill development, attitude change, and cultural evolution.

In my field — creativity and innovation —entraining productive new skills and behaviors requires five things. I’m going to talk about each of them over the next several posts. Here’s the first:

Executive approbation

That’s a big word meaning overt, active, approval and support. No creative change initiative will survive if it’s just “okay” to be creative.

mixed message

One of my colleagues tells this story: About halfway through an innovation ideation session, a man entered and sat at the back of the room. At an appropriate break, my colleague approached the newcomer and introduced himself. “I’m the Chief Compliance Officer,” said the newcomer. “I’m here to ensure none of the ideas get out of hand.”

That’s exactly the kind of mixed message that’s guaranteed to kill a change initiative before it even gets started.

Creativity (and the mess that goes with it) has to be an expectation of senior management — not just a nice-to-have. That means a whole environment of support has to be created. And that includes acceptance — and the expectation — that people trying new skills will make mistakes.

In the next post, I’ll talk about entraining requirement number two: Quick Wins.

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