This week we hear the views and opinions of Lucy Standing Head of Training at The Association for Business Psychology, Associate psychologist.
In your opinion what is the biggest anxiety within the world of learning and development at the moment?
People working in L&D are human like anyone else and share the common anxiety of not being able to demonstrate one’s value to an organisation. The fear and worry of not being able to demonstrate positive impact in commercial terms to the business is a widely discussed and acknowledged issue. Measuring the positive impact around L&D activities is difficult but not impossible. Doing this properly, does require that we conduct proper research based evidence and yet this is, in the main, not being widely done. In 2001, Neil Anderson et al did a review of the practitioner researcher divide and showed the numbers of papers successfully accepted for publication in journals has dropped (for example in the Journal of Applied psychology) from 31% between 1949 – 1960 to 1% between 1990 and 2000*. The opportunities to collaborate with more research based organisations exist but it is fair to say, these opportunities are not being advantageously exploited.
Who or what is informing your thinking around L&D?
I speak to lots of people, take things on board and then formulate my own opinions, but there are a few people I enjoy having a coffee with and I admire their slightly more radical approaches to L&D – Perry Timms or reflective and reasoned thinking about pretty much anything to do with the L&D arena – Don Taylor. But as a psychologist myself, I also spend time with other psychologists – one of the most brilliant minds is that of Steve Whiddett – the ex Chair of the Association for Business psychology (ABP). What he doesn’t know about Organisational Development isn’t worth knowing. I also really like and admire Clodagh O’Reilly who is the new Chair of the ABP, but who is pushing for much more collaboration between practitioner and researchers. There are other brilliant minds out there: I loved Daniel Kahneman’s book ‘Thinking fast and slow’. If you want to read anything which wonderfully summarises the most important psychological developments – not just at work but in all arenas then this is the only book you need to read.
What is the most exciting innovation on the horizon for learning?
I am firmly of the view that in a world where there is an abundance of information freely available knowledge isn’t power. I strongly dislike the mindset of ‘this is my intellectual property’ which is largely a myth. For me, the most exciting trend is the move towards the acknowledgement that information should be freely shared.
What “game changers” would you like to see and why?
In a similar vein to the point above, I’d like to see access to academic journals being made free. A practitioner-researcher divide does exist and in my view, this is largely because access to content is difficult (some papers cost as much as £35 to download) and in many cases they are written in a way which makes them difficult to understand. Despite having the training myself to read these articles, I often find them to be written in a way which is pedantic, complex and too damn smart for their own good. I will confess I give up on many of the articles I read and get frustrated with their style of writing. I do however love the Occupational Digest series prepared by Christian Jarrett – if you’re a twitter fan, you can follow these journal summaries reproduced in layman terms on @occdigest.
What do you think the world of L&D will look like by 2020?
People will have a much better sense of personal responsibility for their own learning and will take a more proactive role in sourcing and finding the training and development they need. Similarly, I see more part time working, more multiple career working (for example, those working 2 days for one organisation and two days for a charity) and more people working for themselves (the rise of the entrepreneur and solo worker). Consequently, I see L&D functions shrinking as the ability to deliver organisation wide solutions will prove harder with a more fragmented working community. I do however see an increase in the membership of professional bodies: as people curate their own learning, we are ultimately social beings and the need to interact and have a dialogue exchange around topics as a way of developing learning will always remain. Therefore, I see the role of L&D moving more into the fields of the respective professional bodies providing the expertise.
What advice would you give your 21 year old self?
Don’t bother going out with David – that relationship will never work out and you’ll waste valuable time establishing that!
If we’re sticking with the L&D theme, then I’d say it’s something an ex-boss used to tell me which is that whilst you provide a service, that doesn’t mean you have to be servile. The best clients are the ones who listen to points of view which are not always those that they want to hear. Sometimes it is better to walk away from a client than to bend over backwards and ultimately not get thanked or rewarded. You don’t earn more respect by being a doormat and more importantly, you won’t be helping them.
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*The practitioner – researcher divide in Industrial, work and organisational psychology: where we are now and where do we go from here? Anderson, N. Herriot P. & Hodgkinson G. 2001. Journal of Occupational and Organisational Psychology. Vol 74, 391-411.