After more than two decades in the learning field, Nancy Lewis wishes she had a magic wand.
If she did, she said she would create a way for learning leaders to more readily access best practices. As the former vice president of learning at IBM, former chief learning officer at ITT and now as head of a consultancy, Lewis knows what she is talking about and is willing to be a bit provocative: “This is a call to action to ratchet up the way we do things in our profession.”
Lewis said learning leaders have exceptional generosity when compared with other professions: “Look at our conferences — the number of case studies and practices described is enormous!” Second, she said, “we can greatly increase the strength and the results of our profession by doing a better job of serving up all that knowledge in smarter, more organized and targeted ways.”
It may require a magic wand, but her idea is solid. Imagine a database of practices that have been vetted in some way, such as peer reviews. If we can rate restaurants on Yelp, why can’t we rate the best ways to manage learning and organizational change? Those who contribute practices to the effort would gain recognition for their company, team and themselves. Those who contribute practices, services or funds would have access to the information.
The database could be searched with key words, tags, intervention type, industry, function and more. Once found, each practice could have a two- to three-minute video overview and a PowerPoint deck of key points. If it is worthy of further study, supporting documents could detail the practice, where and for whom it is best applied, decision criteria for when to use it, guidelines on how to initiate and implement the practice, and a list of watch-outs, lessons learned and more.
Armed with documentation of an established practice from a leading, innovative organization, one might request additional budget with proof in hand for senior management of a “studied approach” to the business issue and possible solution.
An index of vetted practices may also helpanswer questions such as, what is the state of the art? How does our organization stack up compared with what others are doing? Perhaps the information could be provided via a concierge service to curate the content and assist users.
Until we have that magic database, Mary Slaughter knows how to find best practices. Slaughter was recently chief talent officer for regional SunTrust Bank, and she said no matter where you find best practices, you have to apply your own experience and wisdom to make them work. “Practically speaking, a best practice is only a best practice if itactually works in your organization,” she said.
To find them, Slaughter said she looks first at research organizations, such as i4cp, Bersin byDeloitte or The Conference Board. Next, she cites the peer networks such as Best Practice Institute and The Conference Board Councils. “These are helpful when trying to find out who’s doing what,” she said. “The best thing about peer networks is that you get the practicalities of what it really takes to do it. You get more information from an actual practitioner. One of them might say, ‘Yes, we did this, but don’t go after it unless you are prepared in the following three ways.’ ”
Slaughter said the third area she considers is academics, and the final area is immersion among others. “When you make yourself available at an ATD BEST or Bersin IMPACT conference, or a CLO Symposium, you swim in an ocean of ideas for a while, and then you see what ideas stick. You might not find a best practice per se, but you see trends that suggest a path forward.”
One way or another, we need better, faster, cheaper, easier ways to access what is known by the best and most experienced in our industry. That way we can increase results for all initiatives, for all colleagues, throughout our profession.