Mind the Gap

The statistics on training effectiveness are appalling. Whilst we’ve been busy creating and conducting training it has largely failed to deliver business outcomes. There’s a huge gap between our intentions (which I believe are good) and our outcomes.


It’s not lack of learner motivation or engagement.
It’s not lack of a good instructional design model (take your pick from ADDIE, SAM, AGILE, Action Mapping …)
It’s not a lack of inspiring learning technology.
It’s not a lack of evaluation at all levels (or whether you sit in the Kirkpatrick or Phillips camp).
It’s not a lack of needed knowledge or skills.
It’s not a lack of contextual awareness.
It’s not a lack of follow up/coaching/mentoring (or the skills to deliver it).
It’s not the fault if the 70:20:10 model, the rise of social/collaborative learning or the proliferation of cat videos and pokemons.

There are many factors which contribute to this gap but it seems to me that we need to consider the sum of the parts (the whole learning ecosystem) before we address the parts individually.

I get it. “We need you to run some training for us to fix …” . It’s a VUCA world out there. Artificial Intelligence is coming after your job. What? You’re not in the VR space yet? Everyone is BUSY. There are lots of reasons that we don’t take the time to consider (and develop) the whole learning ecosystem but I think it’s time for the real Learning and Development Professionals to stand up, head to the fridge, grab a can of toughen-up and do. our. job.

I’m not proposing that every L&D professional has to take responsibility for every part of the ecosystem (although someone does), but that every L&D professional needs to understand that ecosystem and how they and the learning experiences they design contribute to it. Those in senior and influential L&D roles need to consider how the overall L&D ecosystem of conferences, papers/books, SM dialogue and CPD has allowed such a gap to flourish, and what we can do to fix it.

There are some great resources available for those wanting to consider learning ecosystems. A while back I went to my twitter network and asked for suggestions of who is thinking/writing in this field. Within days I had some great resources and people to connect with. I’m not going to tell you what/who they are, because I think the exercise is an important one and the process of discovery and exploration of what comes back is in many ways more important than what you actually discover, because it is this process of asking questions, exploring and discovery that is at the heart of understanding and developing learning ecosystems. So how do we start?


We need to make time.

It takes intentional time to discover, consider and shape an ecosystem. Carving out that time can be a challenge when the demands and expectations on the L&D people are high and constant, but we need to be playing both the short and the long game well, balancing the needs of the two.

But let’s be clear. We can’t make more time. We can only prioritise where we spend our time, and we need to make this a priority. It’s not the only priority but in my observation it is one that is all too easily neglected.


We need to ask good questions.

When it comes to understanding and developing ecosystems, asking good questions and then listening to the answers is a great starting point.

What is the business purpose?

What are the business needs?

What are the business values?

What part of the business do you not want me to ask about?

What are people currently learning?

How are people currently learning?

What are people’s individual learning needs?

Where do they want to go?

What systems are already in place?

What networks (formal and informal) exist?

What known problems are there?

What is the organisational structure?

What communities exist?


This list is by no means exhaustive (intentionally so). I’d love to hear what your best questions are. I’m convinced that we need to not just mind the gap between our intentions and our outcomes, but bridge it.

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