From Maps to Questions

Jay Cross recently shared the questions he’s no longer asking about technology in education. I’m in a different space: I sat down tonight to come up with a brilliant plan on how my Corporate Learning department could better meet the needs of our employees. I immersed myself in the work of the leaders in this field, only to emerge with a messy mind map and the forehead slapping ah-ha that in this complexity no plan would appear. Instead, powerful questions will help us co-create our future. (As an aside, I’m convinced that our question-asking-ability takes flight the moment we encounter our own crap.)

Here are the questions I’d like to explore in conversation with a diverse group of people who care:

Questions on Corporate Learning’s focus:

  • Close to 80% of learning happens informally and 20% formally, yet we spend most of our time and money on the 20%. How could we better support this and shift our time and money?
  • Novices and experts have very different needs (curve from formal to informal). What needs to be in place to better support those differences? How can we support these differences across diverse business units (sales, service and specialized functions)?
  • How can we shift from teaching content to developing search & find skills, critical thinking skills, creative thinking skills, analytical skills, networking skills, people skills, and reasoning and argument skills?
  • What training programs do we need to provide, at minimum, for legal compliance purposes?

Questions on the role of managers and integrating learning into the business:

  • How can we facilitate the line managers’ ability to identify the root cause of a performance problem, own it, and know what to do about it (e.g. managing performance problems)?
  • What if we closed the training department and became mentors, coaches and facilitators, where our focus was on improving core business processes, supporting communication and collaboration to help people perform better, faster, cheaper? Where we worked with managers to fund and develop appropriate tools and processes for employees? How could this be successful?

Questions on partnerships and the organization:

  • How can we help support learning environments (resources and tools, relationships and networks, training and education, supervisor and company support) in a way that is highly efficient and scalable across the country? What are the programs and services that are supported centrally and what do we support through consulting? Through self-serve resources? What capacity needs to be developed in the organization to support all these areas?
  • How can we better advocate the use of social software to enable high performance?
  • What would an integrated OD, HR, IT, KM, Marketing/Communications and L&D partnership look like? How would our roles, responsibilities and structure change? Who does the manager or employee call when they run into a performance problem?
  • What big organizational beliefs do we need to let go of to support these changes?

Certainly there are too many questions here and many of them need work to become powerful questions. But it feels awesome to get these down on paper and out of my head!

Where are you looking for answers in a messy, complex situation? What are the powerful questions that can help lead you forward?

Note: I stand on the shoulders of many giants who inspired these questions. Check out this and this for glimpse of all the forward thinkers the L&D community is blessed to have.