A Passion for Learning

Some readers may remember a TV ad campaign a few years ago aimed at getting more people interested in teaching as a career. Most scenes showed a child engaged with learning in school and the strap line was…

You never forget a good teacher

It came to mind during a fairly dull session at last week’s CIPD HRD 2013 conference when an L&D professional was running through some, quite frankly, very dull content. He talked tools, measurement and the like but it was done in such a listless manner that it moved me to tweet…






I’m lucky enough to be connected to a number of inspiring and creative learning types (check out #ldconnect) so I know that people with a real passion for learning are out there. (Some were in attendance, sadly not on stage but in the audience as guest bloggers). Some tweeted back straight away…












I couldn’t help but reminisce on several previously overheard workplace conversations over the years. You know the ones…I’m sure we’ve all heard them…

‘Two day training course next week’
‘Poor you’
‘I know. There’s a new system they want us to learn about/supposedly they’re going to help me be a better manager/they’re bringing in some new performance review thing/seems our engagement scores are too low’ (delete where appropriate)
‘Sounds like a yawn’
‘Well at least it gets me away from the desk’
‘Yeah, but think of all the e-mails you’ll go back to’
‘Actually you’re right about that. I may cry off the course. Pressure of work ‘n all that’

Too many L&D sessions at the conference seemed to follow the route of programmes, metrics and ROI, tools and feedback scores. Perspiration instead of inspiration. Ticking boxes not engaging hearts and minds.

Then I went to a session that was different. Neil Morrison and Jo Mallia of Random House were talking about ‘Transition of Leaders – Applying a Cultural Mind-shift Change’. Here was a different vision of L&D, more along the inspiration lines, making learning sound fun, enlightening and vital Their people were ‘like sponges’ eager to learn more and improve. OK Neil did explain that publishing tends to attract people with curious minds, but still I felt in little doubt that having the right approach, with passionate and creative people, created a learning culture.

Their industry needed it too. Publishing is facing many challenges and needs new ways of thinking and a new mind-set. Jo fosters collaboration and group thinking, setting free the ‘pink elephants’ (mavericks)










It wasn’t surprising that in the final questions one delegate called the session, to much applause, the best thing they had seen over the 2 day conference. You can read more on Mr Airmiles’ blog.

I’m sure there were many worthy presentations over the 2 day CIPD HRD Conference from L&D professionals who have a real belief in what they do, the importance and value of it. Too many that I went to sounded bland, delivered in front of busy, indecipherable power point slides. Whether this is down to the people who gave them, or the way that their work is perceived in their organisations I’m not sure. Many were from large organisations with programmes, so perhaps it’s telling that the two presentations that seemed to most engage the audience, and the assembled bloggers, were…

  • Random House – the one from Neil and Jo where heads of HR and L&D stood together, an aligned approach
  • Hanover Housing – a small business doing interesting things

The words that kept cropping up to describe both sessions were passion, inspiration, belief and purpose – maybe the benchmark words for Learning & Development (or People Development) that leaders should use when choosing their specialists…and conferences their presenters.

5 thoughts on “A Passion for Learning

  1. Great post Mervyn. There’s definitely something that needs to shift in terms of how content is delivered, and who delivers it. I wrote about the conference addiction to Case Study Porn http://stopdoingdumbthingstocustomers.com/learning/case-study-porn/ in response to this challenge and I think you’ve nailed it here.

    Did you see Tim Sackett’s SHRM rejection letter? http://www.timsackett.com/2013/05/01/shrm-conference-rejection/ it speaks to the same challenge.

    Cheers – Doug

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