In this weeks issue of L&D QuestionTime we hear from leading author Doug Strycharczyk.

In your opinion what is the biggest anxiety in the world of learning and development at the moment?

L&D is about making a difference and there is a great deal of money budgeted for this in most organisations. Sometimes the budget is one of the first to be cut but we find few organisations that don’t agree that investing in people is crucial.

What seems be increasingly on the agenda is evidence-based practice – picking up what was often described as ROI.

Organisations want to know more clearly than ever before:

Where should we invest in people?

What are the factors that yield significant and causal results?

The real evidence for difference and exactly where that difference is being achieved

The data is often there or is not too difficult to get (albeit it may involve a cost) but too many don’t evaluate their investment in people properly and effectively.

This is closely linked with professionalism. The world of L&D is still faddist. There are many ideas being applied – some very popular globally – which are poorly evidenced independently and simply don’t work. References can be useful and endorsements appear enticing but these are not evidence that the idea works or that it will work for you.

Who or what is informing your thinking about L&D at the moment?

In a way we are fortunate. We are connected with leading Academics and Researchers all over the world which provides us with an insight into some leading-edge thinking.

That’s part of our approach – to evidence what we offer to individuals and organisations.

There are two main strands:

1. Whereas the focus in L&D has been largely on knowledge skills and behaviour, we are learning a great deal about attitude and mindset in evidencing our work on Mental Toughness.

This is taking us into understanding what is happening neurologically (itself a new discipline which needs to be considered carefully), biochemically and genetically. It’s surprising how much is applicable and does help to explain why people respond to events in so many different ways.

All of these factors impact on behaviour.

2. The other is listening to a generation of applied academics who challenge some of the popularly held views. People like Prof Rob Briner in the UK are very thought provoking and brings a fresh insight to a lot of popular practices – often very challenging. In the US Adam Grant is doing similar.

We don’t always agree with them but we do listen to others views.

What is the most exciting innovation on the horizon for learning?

This is difficult to say. There is so much new stuff out there, it largely depends on what each user/organisation wants to achieve. What’s exciting for one might not be for another.

More generally we see the application of technology beginning to develop more engaging and more intuitive platforms – particularly forms of AI where the programme adapts with the learner.
This is high on our own agenda.

This technological advancement in IT is linking neatly to technological advances in understanding people and organisation better (as indicated in an earlier question).

So, what we begin to see emerging are online development programmes which are customised for each individual and can be blended with face to face support when needed – most often coaching and mentoring.

It’s efficient – enabling programmes to be rolled out to large numbers quickly (often crucially important in these VUCA times); capable of a high degree of monitoring and evaluation and engagement with the individual.

What “game changers” would you like to see and why?

This links to earlier observations. The emergence of evidence-based practice is important.

To establish more formally and reliably what works and what actually causes a difference is key to not only achieving the ‘holy grail’ of assessing ROI but also provides the platform from which improvements in the way we develop people and organisations can be made.

This might require closer collaboration between platform developers and content developers who understand how to capture and analyse data.

What do you think the world of L&D look like 2030?

Assuming that some of what described earlier develops, there might be two significant impacts.

Firstly, line managers will play a much bigger role in supporting development of staff possibly by a combination of coaching and mentoring and through managing the delivery of on-line development programmes directly.

Technology will provide a great deal of the support they need. They will be able to monitor staff, guide staff in their development and show staff how to apply learning to their work.

HRM generally will lie in the hands of those who are directly managing the human resource!

We already see some signs of this in MBA programmes and the like. 20 years ago, these would be focused on Finance, Marketing and Business Admin. Most now have a very significant HR content.

L&D might then become more strategic and play a bigger role in identifying and evaluating development activity which works. There will be much less face to face delivery but it will be better delivered.

What advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Ha! Would I listen?

I am mindful of Bob Dylan’s classic lines “Ah but I was so much older then, I am younger than that now”.
The first piece of advice would be to listen and learn from those older and more experienced. It would have saved me making a lot of needless mistakes.

Secondly, would to be to prepare for a lifetime of learning which never stops. It’s not just about learning to deal with change and innovation. It’s just as much about developing self awareness, reflect on what I do and seek to improve what I already do.

That’s pretty much the core of our work at AQR and why the Mental Toughness concept is so valuable. Whoever we are the goal is “to be the best that we can be”

About Doug Strycharczyk:

Doug is CEO for AQR International. He has worked for 25 years with Professor Peter Clough to develop the Mental Toughness concept and measure – MTQ. Now recognised as the leading articulation of this concept (which embraces Resilience), AQR works in 80 countries working on major programmes to develop people and organisations.

Author of “Developing Mental Toughness” (Kogan Page) with Peter Clough – now a global best seller – and “Developing Employability and Enterprise” (Kogan Page) with Charlotte Bosworth.

Connect with Doug on LinkedIn