The trouble with passion and purpose at work

Passion and purpose. Everything you need to get started with motivation. Right?

Many HR professionals and leaders seem convinced today that the key to motivating workers is to unlock and release their passion. But will it work?

At the ASTD2013 ICE this year, I heard from 4 people about this topic and my first impression was one of inspiration (again) and awe (again) at how right they were, how amazing their stories were and how cool the results they got were. But today, no longer under the influence of conference-buzz, I’m not so sure. MAYBE only one of their stories is relevant…


Person number 1: Sir Ken Robinson told us that people need to find their “element”. The “element” is the true passion each person has that is the driving spirit of intrinsic motivation. Find it and work is no longer work – it’s joy for which you are paid. Sound great!

Persons number 2 and 3 Jon and Owen from “The Passing Zone”, confirmed Sir Ken’s speech: If you really love it and want it, just do it and great things will follow. They told me that it might be tough, but that you shouldn’t worry about going for it.

But how is this relevant for leaders and the HR folk who want to motivate people? I worry that it is not. Is it possible to use the idea of passion and purpose to motivate people in an organisation? Or is it a dream that will create lots of buzz, but ultimately go nowhere?


Maybe if we back-track a little and define motivation, it may help. Two possibilities come to mind:

  • Verb “to motivate” = to give someone a reason or motive to act
  • Noun “motivation” = something you have that drives you to act

Thinking of the verb, we could imagine that HR and leaders will need to find the ways in which they can push or pull people working towards awesomeness. In the past, they may have focused more on carrots and sticks, but today the tendency is to talk about unlocking passion and purpose. But how exactly are they planning on doing this? My passion is surfing … Good luck putting that to work!

Thinking of the noun, motivation is something you have (or don’t have). It’s not something you will give to me. If I am not passionate about accounting, you can’t make me passionate about it. And if you aren’t interested in my music passion in your company, we are in trouble…


So here is the problem as I see it: Passion and purpose is what motivates people and the best results come from finding it and unlocking it. HR and leaders need to release this passion. But you can’t give it to someone. So what do you do?


I see two approaches:


Person number 4 at the ASTD conference was Rick Lozano, who told us that one day his manager asked him: “What are you passionate about?” Rick replied “I like developing courses” and his manager said: “That’s not what I mean. I mean “passionate”…” Rick hesitatingly replied “music” and his manager instructed him to find ways to bring THAT to work.

Read my TU100 session notes here to find out what he did

This first approach is an example of a manager (leader, HR..) using the concept of passion to motivate someone and get better results. I love the story and seeing how Rick has integrated music into his work as a trainer is very inspiring. I just don’t believe that those kind of stories are so evident or possible in every job. If a call-centre agent loves stripping (I met one!) she can’t put THAT to work. And how can the average banker bring his love of circus, golf or fishing to work?


The second approach is, in my mind, the only real workable solution and probably the one intended by Sir Ken Robinson: Schooling for and spotting passion and recruiting passion for your company.

What would this mean? Firstly, it means that at school, we need to create environments that allow each individual amazing little human being to figure out what they love. Robinson spoke about this in his famous TED speech. To achieve this, we will need to let go of our wish to produce standardised “good” students who pass all the same tests to all the same standards.

Then we will have to help people who have found their passion to put it to work. We will need to help people to navigate the vast myriad of existing and future possibilities in order to find the place to add value to the world via their work.

And companies will need to do a better job of recruiting the right people for the right jobs. They would not recruit for knowledge and skills and spend their time trying to motivate people to be passionate. They need to look for the people who have the right passion and drive already and (if necessary) develop the missing knowledge and skills later .. ..whilst just trying not to screw up the natural motivation that is already there.


In my opinion, if everyone were doing what she really loved and doing it well the world would indeed be a better place. We need to help people find that passion before they look for work, then recruit to get the right people in the right jobs. The rest will follow all by itself…

Are you feeling passionate at work?



LinkedIN Praise for ASTD2013 TU306

If you are wondering what this post is all about, read the introduction post here

The following are comments from the LinkedIN group associated to my ASTD2013 ICE session TU306: Practical Use of Social Media for Formal Learning.

You can also see the tweets here..

Thanks for reading!



Hazel Jackson started a discussion in my LinkedIn group for TU306:

What was your highlight from Dan’s session in the ASTD conference yesterday? Mine was his energy and the ability to keep over 100 people in the palm of his hand at the end of a long learning day.


Here are some answers from the group…

  • Joelyne Marshall • My highlight was the looooonnnngggg list of resources he provided. Anyone can incorporate SoMe into their training – big or small. Thanks for asking!
  • Amy Kinnaird • Yep. Great resources and ideas for before, during and after training. Oh, and the box of chocolates I won was pretty cool, too!
  • Gloria Ortiz, MS IPT • I have to say that the resources are the biggest takeaway that I had in the training. I know that I will be learning for the next few weeks as I go through everything. Also, the resources being online mean that it is easy to share with people who had to stand out in the hall and couldn’t get in.
  • Lisa Metcalf • Dan opened up several doors for me regarding SM. So thank you, Dan! The practicality of using SM with our learners without it requiring heavy technical knowledge was exactly what I needed to see in action. My experience is that people try things without purpose and it turns people off to all things SM, which has happened to me many times. Now, I feel like I will be able to find the happy medium.
  • Carol Pickering • Dan sparked so may ideas on how to use SoMe before, during and after training. Can’t wait to have the opportunity to implement some of these. Even got our HR staff excited about using SoMe in the onboarding process! Dan, next time bring English sweets and chocolate!!


ASTD2013 TU306 LinkedIN group

Praise for my session TU306 at ASTD2013

The response to my speech during session TU306 at the ASTD International Conference and Exhibition in Dallas this year has been overwhelming and extremely touching.


Over 20 people took their time on Wednesday to interrupt my attempts to stalk Karl Kapp and steal JD Dillon‘s iPad charger with handshaking, thanks and congratulations. Several people said TU306 was the best session they followed, one told me I was destined for conference greatness and another said I ought to be on the keynote stage. I have received invitations to speak in France, Switzerland and even New Zealand …although the latter was not sure she would fly my kids out too 😉


What follows is a blatant attempt to blow my own trumpet, but also serves as a thank you to all who took the time to positively stroke my ego via Twitter during and after the session…


Please read the following posts:


…and if that wasn’t enough compliments for me, I had a few mentions in post-conference blogs of other people:

To collect references related to my session on the practical usage of social media in formal learning:


Finally: If you want to read my posts from other people’s sessions at ASTD2013, just click on the ASTD2013 tab in the menu top-left.

Thank you again for your support.


See you in Vegas for TechKnowledge 2014 and Washington DC for ASTD ICE 2014!


Twitter praise for ASTD2013 TU306

If you are wondering what this post is all about, read the introduction post here…

The following are tweets received during and after my ASTD2013 ICE session TU306: Practical Use of Social Media for Formal Learning

I’ve put in italics before each tweet the Twitter handle of the person who sent it

You can also read feedback on the LinkedIN group here…

Yay for me 🙂


Some words of encouragement before the session


Praise received during the session


Praise received after the session


Thanks again everyone!




5 Tips for Game Design and Learning, from Julie Dirksen

During the Wednesday morning ASTD2013 session with Karl Kapp, we were “sold” on Gamification for learning. Session W306 with Julie Dirksen filled in some of the design gaps.

If, like me, you believe gamification for learning is worth exploring, you might be getting started on your first attempts at game design. When you have your basic idea for a game or how to bring game-mechanics into a learning initiative, what do you need to keep in mind to be successful? What specific game design principles must be followed? Julie Dirksen suggests the following….


Feedback mechanisms have to be used well

Dirksen says that to create good learning you need to give extremely frequent feedback, in diverse ways.

EA sports games are designed so you have to make a decision every 1-2 seconds and you get feedback on this every 7-10 seconds. Knowing where you are and how your behaviour has impact on results is important to keep players in flow. Flow is one major reason why gamified learning is more motivating than non-gamified learning.

As your game starts, build in feedback mechanisms that help players to learn how the game works and how they can progress. This approach is also used a lot in video games. The player is taken through simple situations in order to learn the rules of the environment and how to control her actions. When enough feedback has been given to really understand the basic principles, we can throw in something to take them to the next level of the game.

Another important element in giving feedback is to make it seem more “consequential”. This means that the feedback style itself is linked to the context or impact of the behaviour that leads to it. The example given is of a safety/security training: Instead of giving a simple verbal or text-based feedback that says “wrong answer”, players get a big noisy “BOOM!!” sound with a scary message about having just blown up the facility. In this way, the feedback style is linked to the desired learning and the environment in question.

According to Dirksen, these kinds of feedback approaches are far more effective than random badges and points that go no-where.


People only give their attention if they want to

When Dirksen asks “How long can you pay attention to something?” the participants of session W306 are careful not to give big numbers. Thinking of our own school experience and what trainers tell us in “Presentation Skills” training, we know it can’t be too long and we answer “about 10 minutes”.

“But it’s not true”, says Dirksen, adding that “some people watch all 3 extended “Lord of the Rings” movies back-to-back at the cinema.”

The fact is that if you give players/learners/spectators what they want, they will give you their attention. In my opinion, the following 3 ideas will help:


People respond best to relevant rewards they get now

Dirksen spoke to us about the way rewards should be used in gamified learning.

In much training, participants don’t really realise “what is in it for them” until quite late in the process. And the rewards that are given for learning or game performance (feedback or other rewards) are not given until quite late, maybe only after the game. But psychology and everyday life show many examples of how people focus more on immediate rewards and less on rewards that comes later. The obvious example is of smokers who choose to have un-healthly pleasure now over health (or lack of bad-health) later. The major exception to this basic rule is that if the reward appears to be very high, we will be willing to wait for it. (And the further away the reward is, the bigger it needs to be.)

So unless you have a really good pay-off, bring in game rewards early on.

Rewards also have to be meaningful to the learner. Random badges, points and prizes do not improve game performance over time. Dirksen gave the example of how the inherent reward of the learning itself in a maths class could be better tailored to fit participants by using problems and examples that are related to their own reality. For example, for future entrepreneurs who need maths training, rather than creating a random maths game, you could create a maths-game around the ideas of successfully running a business.


This last point reinforces another Dirksen tip: Match game deliverables to desired behaviours and business deliverables

Dirksen showed as a simple game created for call-centre learners who needed to remember not to give away sensitive information to competitors who might call them pretending to be clients. In order to achieve this, they were asked to play a game where different logos floated down the screen and they had to shoot the ones of their competitors. Although the first look might suggest this is fine (it reinforces the idea that competitors are “bad”) Dirksen said it failed on several levels:

  • In reality, call-agents do not see the logos of their competitors when they call. The game did not involve the actual behaviours they should look (or listen!) out for.
  • Most call-agents do not have guns at work 🙂 The winning game behaviour did not match the desired real-life behaviour.
  • The game-behaviour was very aggressive and might encourage call-agents to be aggressive towards any competitors they did encounter in their calls.


Challenges must be incremental and in line with the players current competence

If I place my daughters by the tennis court opposite the Williams sisters, not only will they lose, but they will likely find it very stressful and not learn very much. To be effective with gamified learning, challenges must fall within the “flow-zone”…


According to Dirksen, much traditionally training falls into the boring side of the chart, not because it is inherently boring, but because of the lack of challenge. Using a gamified approach, we can create challenge, but we must be careful not to go too far too quickly as this can bring stress to the learner. And as competence rises, so must the gamified challenge…


Having listened to Dirksen and Kapp at the ASTD2013 ICE, I had the opinion that many elements of my own training could be dramatically improved by the use of game. But even if I don’t want to gamify things, I think it is important to align training with these principles of feedback, attention, reward, deliverables and challenge.



Liz Wiseman wants us to multiply

Liz Wiseman is closing ASTD2013. At this point in the day, the audience is tough. Most, like me, have already followed about 16 intense sessions with learning leaders from around the world on a variety of topics. Many have listening, tweeted and taken other notes, all at the same time. (And they partied all night. Every night.) Some are leaving for the flight home now. Others are actually sleeping.

But the message is important and its simple: We need to stop adding and start multiplying.

Why do some leaders drain talent, while others multiple it? Why do some leaders drive their people to burnout, whilst others release passion and turn Rick Lozano into a training rock-star?

Many people approach leadership (and human resource management) from an “addition” point-of-view. If I need to add more results, I need to add more people. If I want to add more revenue, it will add more costs. This is not going to work in today’s environment, says Liz Wiseman. today, resources are scarce, costs and being cut and more and more people are heading toward burnout. So we need to get a “multiplying” mindset. Or as my good friend and colleague Oisin Varian says ( whenever he can 🙂 “It’s not working harder, it’s working smarter.”

According to Liz Wiseman, effective leaders today function within a “logic of multiplication”. Instead of adding more, then try to create more connections. Like my friend at KPMG told me, managers try to help people function better in networks, providing access to new opportunities for development and more flow. Rather than trying to add (unavailable) resources, the focus is on utilisation of available resources. And not squeezing more out, but igniting more passion, creativity and collaboration.

Being a multiplier starts with how you see your workforce: Some leaders see highly productive people, working like crazy and immediately think: “Good.” Others look at those people trying to find ways to be smarter, more agile and more innovative.

Wiseman quoted CK Prahalad for saying: “It’s not what you know, it’s how quickly you access what other people know.” We live in the collaboration era. It’s all about mobility, connectivity, sharing and crowd-creation.

So what do multipliers actually do?

In her book “Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter”, Liz Wiseman outlines 5 main activities:

  • Talent identification and management. Managers who multiply work on identifying the core talents of people and try to find ways to put them to work. They extract all of the capability from all of the people. They become talent magnets.
  • They liberate the worker. From constraints, administration, micro-management. They give people space to breathe, work and grow. Think of the Google 20% and how other companies are adopting it.
  • To multiple results in a workforce, managers must create more debate. The power of “team-spirit” is in putting people together to create something new. Debate and conflict around traditions, processes and problems lead to something new. Consider De Bono’s 6 hats… By creating debate, managers get more buy-in and accountability for decisions.
  • In addition to challenging the status quo, managers who multiply create challenges for their people in order to stretch and grow them.
  • Multiplying managers give their people responsibility and invest in their success. This in turn, leads to more investment from the employee.
  • If you are interested in Liz’s ideas, read the book or watch the video:

  • Video trailer
  • …and this additional resource (PDF) gives a synopsis of the core ideas presented
  • Karl Kapp on Gamification

    Session W209 of the ASTD2013 ICE featured Karl Kapp, world leading expert on gamification talking about how gamification can improve learning.


    Gamification is the use of game-based mechanics or game thinking to promote learning, motivate action and solve problems.

    In the US, the military have used massive open online multiplayer games to define military strategy in Somalia, combatting problems with pirates. Others, like the fun theory folk, have used game mechanics to encourage people to use the stairs or recycle bottles or stop speeding. The applications are numerous. What can we do with this in learning?

    According to Kapp, many of the things we do in learning do not inherently tap into the natural motivations of the user. We invite people to partake in static learning environments and hope that they will get involved and change behaviour. Sitting in a training room, experts share models and ideas, we take part in reality-based exercises and try to integrate what we are learning. It can be a struggle to learn or keep the attention and effort of participants, many of whom would sometimes rather be elsewhere. If we used some game-mechanics in the same way companies like EA or the Angry Birds people did, we could do so much better.

    The first things Kapp told us is that great games are about interactivity and immersion. They are not about awesome graphics, or franchises linked to movies. In fact, some of the most expensive-to-develop games are vey disappointing for the user and do not result in much flow or satisfaction. In reality, game-based activities can be very simple. Like my experiment with gamification at the dinner table.


    So: It’s not about points

    Although games like Adobe’s “Level Up” up can work well, the first thing to know is that gamification is not (only) about adding points or leaderboards to show progress or reward people for their efforts. In a comedy conference moment, Kapp noted that if that was true, progress wars would be the most popular game on the planet. On a more serious note, he asked us to think about what happens at home and in schools when gold-stars are used to motivate children to behave well: It works at the start, but before you know it you are negotiating more-and-more rewards to get the same behaviour. If money, sweets, stars or points are the only tools you have to motivate people, you are doomed to fail. Gamification is much more than that. That misunderstanding is the reason why Gartner says many gamification attempts will fail.


    What can you do to use gamification in learning?

    The possibilities with gamification are enormous, ranging from using one or two simple game mechanics to enhance the learning experience, to creating complete games as the entire learning solution, to simply piggy-backing on a non-relevant game to pass across important messages. Regarding this let option, Kapp told about one company that asks their people to play a simple online game for 2 minutes a day and during the this seemingly random game, a mini-quiz question related to safety and security pops up to remind them of important procedures. Nobody minds this corporate intrusion, because they are still having fun for 99%.


    What kinds of game-mechanics are we talking about?

    Again, there are SO many options. When I spoke at the Epsilon conference on the topic of gamification, I noted 9 game-mechanics that could be interesting to integrate in learning programs. The Wikipedia entry on game mechanics offers others.

    Kapp spoke about a few in detail. These are listed here… Concrete applications for your learning tracks and training are discussed later…

    • Context and story is used a lot in games. Players are immersed in appealing environments that makes sense to them. You can read about my user-experience with “Zombies, Run!” in this short article on the ASTD blog page: “The Gamification Experience – What Does It Feel Like?”
    • Missions and levels are used to “up” the challenge and give players something to strive for
    • Open-ended problems and mystery create learner intrigue
    • Fantasy is used to get learners out of their known environment. A game like “Merchants” can be used to create negotiation skills, whilst playing a venetian trader
    • Immediate feedback is used in games like Pacman to let you know all the time where you are and how you are doing
    • Characters and avatars can be used to improve motivation


    Simple game-based ideas for trainers and instructional designers to implement today

    • Don’t start training with learning objectives. It is a closed-loop that tells you what you need to know. It doesn’t intrigue. Try instead to start with an open-loop. Create a challenge that gets people involved and motivated. For example, give them a question or activity that gets them thinking immediately about a problem they have to solve.
    • Give people lives to lose. This gives permission to fail. When we get 3 lives at the start of a game, we immediately understand the assumption that we are going to die and that it’s OK.
    • Give feedback in different ways. This could be points and progress bars. Or it could be sound… Kapp spoke about security compliance training that used a big “boom” sound and the image of an explosion to reinforce incorrect behaviour and “scare” participants into not wanting to do it again!
    • Use characters and story in exercises that take people a little bit out of their natural working context
    • ..but don’t forget that those activities must be linked to the actual learning. Don’t use random challenges or ice-breakers.
    • When you use a game-based exercise in training, be sure to introduce it in the same way you would do any other exercise: Introduction, play, debrief.
    • Be sure to test, dry-run and retest your game efforts to get feedback on how they work and be sure you are using them to reinforce the right behaviours.


    If like me, you are wondering how to actually INVENT games, Kapp gives some simple advice in this short interview I conducted for Kluwer at ASTD.


    For more resources, check out:


    Evaluating informal learning or focussing on what counts?

    Session W112 is about to kick-off with Saul Carliner, Associate Professor of Concordia University (Montreal). On the last day of the conference, it is good to see so many smiley learning geeks still ready to soak up some information. And the big surprise already is that Saul is actually able to engage the audience… Even though he is an academic 🙂 Let’s go: “Evaluating Informal Learning”…


    For several years now, the learning world has been talking about the importance of “informal” learning. It has always been around and has always been important, but we recognise more-and-more today that most learning happens in an informal way. The question is: If learning is happening all by itself, without any control and design by learning professionals, (how) can we evaluate its effectiveness?

    At the start of the session, I had a chance to let the speaker know what was my own personal question today is: “Should we even bother trying to evaluate informal learning?” More on this later….

    First: Let’s be sure we know what we are talking about. What is “informal learning”?

    Defining it by saying its not formal learning is not good enough. According to our speaker, we need to be specific about our definition. My own approach to defining different types of learning has always been quite straight-forward. There are 3 types of learning:


    • 1 and 2 are examples of when the learner intentionally seeks out learning, in any way, sometimes training
    • In the 3rd example, the learning is non-intentional: Without a conscious effort and action from the learner, something is learnt.
    • I call “1” formal learning
    • I call “2” non-formal learning
    • I call “3” informal learning

    …today, our speaker refers to “2” and “3” together as “informal” learning and that is the subject of the session.


    According to Hodkinson, Malcolm and Wihak, “informal” learning is about the following 5 aspects:

    • The process – how learning happened, ie: not in training
    • The learning location – where it happened, ie: not the training room
    • The purpose of the activity itself – either the learner took action in a non-formal way (“2”) or the learning was a secondary by-product of some other activity
    • The content – the type of content and platform was something other than formal/training
    • Consciousness – the learner may or may not have known that she was learning; “HR” wasn’t consciously controlling it

    Traditionally, how do we evaluate learning in organisations? Can we do this for “informal” learning?

    The framework most learning professionals have been using for some time is Kirkpatrick’s 4 Level evaluation model. In this model we look at how people react to learning, which knowledge, skills or attitude they actually acquire, how they behave after the learning and the impact on business results (in terms of key business drivers).


    When it comes to “informal” learning, some levels of this evaluation system are not so easy to achieve:

    • As an example, suppose you want to evaluate the satisfaction of on-the-job training (L1). Several problems may arise. Was the OTJ training announced to the people who would evaluate it? Did they know when it would take place? How many people were being trained on the job? If it is only one person, you can’t do a good statistical analysis of the results achieved in order to update and improve the approach.
    • In another example, we discussed the difficulty of assessing the learning taken from an online “help” system. Somebody has clicked on a page to read some “help” information, but who? Why? What did they think of the information? Could they use it? Did work approach and results improve?


    What can we do to evaluate this type of learning?

    Who is already evaluating “informal” learning in line with Kirkpatrick’s levels and how?

    Saul Carliner shared examples of some different organisations or professions we might not already have thought about and how they achieve evaluation of “informal” learning. These use Kirkpatrick’s levels to varying degrees. You might be able to use the same approaches:

    • Museums use interview-based techniques to find out from visitors what they thought of the museum and what they learnt. They leave visitor books where people can write down their comments when they want to. Museums with touch-screen information and interactive presentation systems can see who clicked on what, when and how long between the first click and second (which could suggest the amount of time spent absorbing information).
    • Marketeers have been struggling with the problem of evaluating their campaign success for years. The marketing blend consists of direct and indirect marketing, various platforms, multiple customer types and moments in time. Marketeers measure sales during an advertising campaign.
      Brand-recognition and brand-loyalty are regularly measured before and after campaigns.
    • Web-designers and web-masters have built various functions into their sites in order to achieve effective web analytics. It is possible to measure all sorts of different metrics to evaluate user behaviour.

    Some ideas of how to evaluate “informal” learning in the workplace

    Saul Carliner suggested some simple ideas for evaluating “informal” learning…

    Suppose we have an employee seeking a promotion. She joined an IT consulting company after getting a degree in web-development 6 years ago and wants now to show what consulting skills and knowledge she has acquired in the last 6 years, in order to get a promotion. But being a billable consultant, she hasn’t had the opportunity for any formal training since her induction to the company and nobody knows what she “did”; nothing is in the LMS. How can we evaluate her learning?


    What would you do?

    • By doing interviews and coaching your people, you can find out what they know. Clever interview techniques like STAR and intentional coaching methods like GROW can help us assess what our IT consultant learnt and did since joining the company.
    • Another approach you could use to see how people are learning is to put something in place to help your people create a work-portfolio that shows their development over time. Artists and musicians have been doing this for years: They collect drawings and track-lists that show what they have done and that indicate the acquisition and implementation of different knowledge, skills, attitude, behaviour and results.
    • As a side-note, my children’s school (Steiner) has a pedagogy which seems to outsiders far more informal than classical school environments. The standards are there, but we don’t see them so easily. Bearing in mind that the kids are able to create their own learning experience and do what they want in some disciplines, it could be difficult to assess their learning. What does Steiner do? They simply collect a portfolio throughout the year that represents the activities the children have done and the results these activities have given.

    But I think that what is going on in this discussion is in fact an example of something far more important and disturbing (dramatic music)….

    What struck me is that some of these methods are not new at all: Interview, coaching and assessments (for example) have been going on for years for all types of formal learning requirements. These can be used to evaluate “informal” learning as well. But:

    I have the feeling that people “worrying” about evaluating “informal” learning have been thinking only about the learning process and not so much the results. As learning and development professionals, many like to show the value of their work, as if they have to defend the learning they designed and delivered. But as we start to recognise that much of the learning process is not a result of designed and delivered formal learning work, things might get a bit scary for those same L+D professionals. How will I show what I have done (read: controlled) and how will I prove my worth? As we saw above (OTJ training and response to “help” pages) it’s difficult to get a good idea of how people respond to “informal” learning. My feeling in today’s session is that this bothers some people in the L+D profession.



    In session W112 of the ASTD2013 conference, we interchanged usage of the word “learning” freely between two different meanings: “What was done” and “what people are competent for”. If we focus on what was done to learn, we have an evaluation problem. If we focus on competence (and business results) there is no problem.


    So in fact the bottom line for me here = Who cares how people learnt? What matters is what they do and the business results we get. Forget your happy sheets and forget testing acquisition of knowledge, skills and attitude. Look at how people behave and the results they are getting and support that. As a profession, we need to stop getting caught up looking for ways to do what we always did in the past. It doesn’t work today. Not because things have changed, but because we are growing as a profession. We recognise that learners can (and do!) do things by themselves and we need to support them by creating a culture and environment that is open to all learning types and that supports sharing things and helps to capture the output of “informal” learning for the benefit of others with intention.


    As I discussed with my new-found friend @JD_Dillon today whilst pretending not to stalk Karl Kapp


    “2013 is about forgetting learning management processes and control and focusing on the user experience and business outcomes”

    Bringing some rock and roll to your training

    Rick Lozano is engaging people. Correction: He is ROCKING people. Literally. With a guitar!


    During ASTD2013 session TU100 we are learning about what the world of rock and roll can bring to training. Rick thinks that too much training is boring, dry and non-engaging. Here are 15 ideas inspired by rock concerts and the music world that you can bring into your training to create more energy:


    • Send a trailer introducing the key concepts of your training
    • Ask participants to introduce themselves by video before training
    • Make a poster pointing the way to the room
    • Shake hands with everyone at the door
    • Have some music on when people come in the room
    • Be creative with your materials, table gear, toys etc…
    • Use Vine App during training – ask participants to make a random stop-motion video
    • Gamify your training class by giving points for random things like showing up on time
    • Get them taking pictures of each other during training
    • Ask participants to go and record a mini-film (interview) of your problem on the work-floor, like a journalist
    • Take requests from your participants – ask them RIGHT NOW what you can deliver, tell or give right now
    • Get people to stand up. Do some energy-raising exercises.
    • Do something different for a minute. Just a minute. Anything.
    • Use to collect ideas during training
    • Create your own app with so people can share their experience after training


    The basic idea is that we can do more to engage people, thank them for their time and make learning more fun.

    My first worry was that people in Belgium might not dig it and I can imagine a lot of my colleagues saying “It’s too American” or “We’re engineers… This is stupid”. Well, let’s just see about that… To something and see if you can bring a little rock into your learning world.


    Thanks for the music Rick!


    If you knew your brain, you would develop talent differently

    Retaining and developing talent is not what you think it is.

    ASTD2013 session M106 was led by David Rock from the NeuroLeadership Institute. Based on the meta-research of thousands of Neuro-science studies, the NeuroLeadership Institute says that we can really do a much better job of helping leaders make decisions and solve problems, regulate emotions, collaborate with others and facilitate change.

    Today, we are talking about developing talent. To structure to his session, David spoke around his 50,000 foot view of talent development, which is a 5-step process…

    (Note: For what follows, I have not quoted the scientific research or resources referenced by David. Please contact him directly for that. Just take everything noted here as true, with the assumption that its all proven by the neuro-science.)

    There are different kinds of talent philosophy and you should think about your own

    Some people think that leaders are naturally born and there is nothing you can develop. You are either born “smart” or you are not. You can’t change much. With this point-of-view, giving feedback and “stretch-goals” is considered dangerous because there is no point trying to develop people. It will only make things worse. The brain feels threatened by such approaches.

    Others (like most of today’s attendees) believe that leadership competences can be acquired and developed. By using assessment and development, coaching, training, performance management etc.. we can help people improve.

    Interestingly, David Rock adds that each individual’s capacity for personal development may depend on which of these philosophies he or she believes in. We are primed to grow (or not) based on our perception and those with the growth mindset have, for example, much better more active brain responses to feedback and performance evaluation.

    You need to know which are the most important talents to develop in today’s leaders

    David says that in the past values, strengths, general and emotional intelligence were considered as the most important talents to develop in leaders.

    Today values, strengths and general intelligence remain important, but emotional intelligence is a turn-off phrase for managers. New talent ideas to develop include self and social regulation, adaptive intelligence, network intelligence and global mindset.

    But in addition, given our highly networked mobile connected environment, David adds that we must now pay even more particular attention to assessing and developing team talent. He says that collective intelligence is far greater than the sum total of the intelligence of its individuals. This is proven and must be remembered. I see an interesting link to what Shari Yocum said yesterday about analysing informal social networks

    Assess talent correctly

    David says that classic assessments may not be the best way to search out talent. Most of our approaches to assessment only assess people’s ability to do assessments. In other words, clever people who can spot patterns in the assessment process come out better.

    He adds that classic interview processes also fail for recruiting (or developing) real talent. The people who perform best in interviews are the people who perform best in interviews. In my own experience, I have seen countless engineers and techy people who fail miserably to express (read “sell”) themselves in interviews. But they would have otherwise been a good match for the competences required.

    Add to that the fact that everyone assessing the talent of others will be massively biased and its clear that these approaches to talent assessment are doomed to failure.

    What does David suggest? At the NeuroLeadership Institute, they recruit people by giving them concrete measurable tasks to perform that are as close to the reality of the work as possible. An editor is given a document with 100 errors and asked to edit it. A salesman is asked to go out on the floor and sell something. An engineer is asked to design something. As a side-note, reading “Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?”, you can see that Google suggest the same approach…

    Develop talent. (And its not about performance management)

    According to David Rock, you can forget about performance management and performance evaluation. People are not happy with it, they say it doesn’t create any significant change in performance and rarely reflects employee contributions. This seems SO wrong. Why?

    Firstly, Rock says that humans are not wired for feedback. Getting feedback activates some of the same parts of the brain as dying (!!!). It is scary. And we are not capable of listening properly to people. Especially not if they are different to us. Which everyone is.

    Secondly, there is too much focus on the process within performance management and not enough on what happens during the actual conversation and dialogue. The Neuro-scientist knows that status, certainty, perceived autonomy, relatedness and fairness all have an impact on our (in)ability to have good dialogue. Which is one of the building blocks of effective for most performance evaluation moments.

    Finally, having performance evaluations once a year is not going to work. Intuitively, we already knew this.

    So what can you do about all this? David Rock says there is SO much we could do (and encourages you to read his research) but adds that if you could only do ONE thing today, it should be to help the leaders involved in talent development, performance management and evaluation to understand the impact they have on others and what is going on in the brain.

    Thanks for reading!