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Is Traditional Training Dead?

Is Traditional Training Dead?
21 October 2013 John Moore

I have never subscribed to what I call the ‘sheep dip’ approach to training – you know the type of courses where you pop along for a one or two days, leave with a nice folder of handouts and then return to work and forget about the training.

Anyone who has come along to one my workshops or an Exponential programme knows that you do the learning through doing and reflecting and I do the facilitating and coaching.

I know there are occasions when the transmission of knowledge and content is necessary and important, but the ‘Exponential Way’ is to create and support practical learning experiences from which it is the learner who identifies the key learning points for them. This helps to make the learning a powerful, authentic and personal experience. I guess this is why whenever I deliver a series of workshops on the same topic that no two are ever the same.

I well remember the bad press that National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) had and often still have. Yes, some were ill-conceived and poor designed, but the main issue was how they were delivered. Too often they were delivered ‘out of context’ and were assessment and NOT development-led. The award of the NVQ was the final destination rather than the vehicle for the ‘development journey’.

In the early part of my career at the Hotel and Catering Industry Training Board, I recall the research department working on the development of one of the early so-called open learning programmes – Open Tech. More recently, there has been a growth in e-learning with advancements in technology. Unfortunately, all too often e-learning modules (including some of Exponential’s early attempts) were linear, knowledge based texts with some voice over, some simple quizzes or interactivity – they were divorced from the reality of the workplace.

And of course then there were and still are the highly academic-focused programmes often delivered by universities where the emphasis is on theory and knowledge and NOT application. For many learners, making the jump from the lecture room back into the workplace is usually too big and so the learning is not applied.

I am proud to say, none of these have ever been the ‘Exponential Way’. The ‘Exponential Way’ has always focused on the needs of the individual learner, the needs of the group and the needs of the sponsor and NOT the syllabus or agenda. Exponential programmes focus on the issues and challenges faced by our customers and learners and the practical ‘how to’ and NOT the theory or knowledge. I have always believed that learning and development should to be situational or context specific and NOT content specific. For me, context is KING.

Three Fundamental ‘Exponential Way’ Principles

The ‘Exponential Way’ is based on three fundamental principles:

  • Content to Action
  • Access to Know-how
  • Event to Process

Content to Action

The ‘Exponential Way’ places the emphasis on learning by ‘doing’ rather than learning by ‘knowing’. This is based upon my belief that people need to know what they need to know when they need to know so that they take action. Performance is always the result of action and the best performance is the result of taking the right action at the right time.

Access to Know-how

People cannot store and retrieve everything they need to know all of t time. The ‘Exponential Way’ focuses on a move away from storing knowledge to knowing how to find and how to use knowledge.  

Event to Process

Learning is dynamic, spontaneous, individual, and continuous and is a process NOT an event. The ability to reflect, internalise and to synergise new insight and solutions is one of the most important process skills any human can develop. Often in the past learning has been packaged into events such as training courses or e-learning modules, but it really takes place as a process. How people acquire the knowledge is less important than the process they use to access it and then how they use it.

So summing up, I of course believe there is a place for traditional training, but only as part of the ‘learning and development mix’. The ‘Exponential Way’ has always been about choice and supporting learners to meet their own needs, enabling them to improve their own performance. Going forward, Exponential is not and never will be the oracle of all knowledge; the expert that knows best and tells you what you need to do. Whether you engage with Exponential for coaching, learning, training, assessment or to complete a qualification, you can be sure that you will be taking part in a stimulating learning process that will involve you in accessing and sharing knowledge and using it to improve not only your own performance, but the performance of others – that’s what we call ‘EXPONENTIAL IMPACT’.

John Moore has over 20 years experience of training and developing Managers, Coaches, Consultants and businesses. As Managing Director of Exponential Training, John researches, speaks, blogs and writes about how to improve performance. He also designs and delivers engaging, fun and interactive learning programmes. John is a Fellow Chartered Manager and has worked with managers and organisations in over 20 different countries.


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