You’ve seen me discuss in this space the CLO Symposium, our conference program that brings together learning and development thought leaders from around the world. It’s not the facts of the program that I dwell on, but the amazing levels of discussion and discourse that take place there. The CLO Symposium is becoming the industry’s cafeteria of food for thought, and after every event I walk away with another nutritional nugget.
Well, chew on this: Our most recent Symposium, this past March in Amelia Island, Fla., offered a rich diet of inspirational items. Two comments from one of our Birds of a Feather sessions were especially tasty. First, this quote, from Kee Meng Yeo, director of Johnson & Johnson’s e-university: “Learning will need sometimes a leap of faith, sometimes on management’s part.”
I couldn’t agree more. Learning, practically by definition, is about faith and acceptance. You can crunch numbers, review metrics and study smiley sheets for hours on end, but ultimately you still need a little devotion to your own efforts. Learning is change from within, and like all such change, the true results might not manifest themselves immediately. The Colorado River carved the Grand Canyon, but no one standing on those magnificent cliffs recognized what was happening.
That’s where management comes in. Sometimes we business leaders expect immediate results, something that’s more reasonable in some industries than others, with learning and development being an “other.” It’s part of the CLO’s role to manage the expectations of management, walking a razor-thin tightrope to be sure.
You are, of course, management yourself, so don’t forget your own leap of faith when it comes to learning. That requires more than hoping to fill seats or having a gut instinct. You have to trust in the support of leadership, the strength of the organizational learning culture, the talents of your team and the complete participation of the learners. No evangelist ever said faith was an easy state of grace.
Fortunately, faith in the power of education isn’t blind devotion. Whether you’re relying on tactile delivery or strategic value, workforce development is a calling you can control, at least to a point.
Which brings me to the other tasty tidbit from the Spring 2006 Symposium, this one from Peter Shea, a professor at the University of Albany. In a Birds of a Feather discussion group, Peter outlined for attendees five pillars of successful workforce development. Make these your mantra:
Faith is more than loyalty and commitment, just as education is more than the delivery of facts. Faith is believing in yourself, in your people, in your mission, in the higher powers of desire, ambition and ability. Education is a science; faith is anything but. Somehow, the two still walk hand-in-hand.
Have you taken any leaps of faith lately? If you’re poised to jump, consider these words from physicist Edward Teller — a scientist — discussing faith: “When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: Either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly.”
Editor in Chief