Perfection & Perception

This whole idea of embracing the person of the learner over the process of learning, requires that we as an industry have to let go of some of the self-aggrandizement we tend to embrace through our own intelligence and academic research. This is a post I write while also wincing a bit for fear of how the message lands, but it’s too important to leave unsaid. We have become all-consumed with the effectiveness of our learning processes. We’re looking for 100% effective training, it’s a noble goal, but it’s unattainable. In this, we believe if we had just a little more time for a “good analysis” or a little more time for a better design plan or could put more thought into our evaluation strategy, we would finally reach the Holy Grail of learning and the business would see us as valuable.

Meanwhile, the business has let go of the idea of the perfect product or the bug-less software, they’re embracing, at a ferocious tenor, the idea of Agile’s “minimum viable product” (MVP) and iteration. We’ll go into more detail in future “agile” posts, but in short, there’s a prevailing wind of change that it’s better to be first to market with an immature but growing product than last to market with a perfect product.

Imagine if Apple had waited till the iPhone had a video camera to release, or until it had a 4k image quality, or until it had the size capacity it does now (remember when you thought you were living high on the hog with 16MB?). They would have lost nearly a trillion dollars in sales had they waited for the final product, and who knows what may come next.

In short, if the half-life of most skill sets is five years or less, then the 6 to 12 months it takes to spin up a full blown learning program will no longer work. Granted, if you move quicker, the quality will likely take a hit, but a cut in quality is probably worth it for speed to market.

We don’t need perfection. If you could get to 90% of exactly what we need 6-12 months from now or 60% of what we need via some videos and job aids in 2-4 weeks, as a business leader, I’m picking 60%. Who knows if my solution would even be needed in 6-12 months with the pace of change.

The perception of many of our business partners is that we’re slow and always asking for more time. Quite frankly, some times they still don’t understand what it is we do besides talk in front of a room, create decks, or convert decks into eLearning. Like it or not, the business thinks they can already do what we do and do it faster.

No one wants to push out junk, and that’s certainly not what I’m advocating for, but I am suggesting that we need another paradigm shift in this area. As learning professionals, we’re cutting our eyes over at the business and saying “they want it faster.” Meanwhile the business simply trying to keep up with the consumer.  Instead, our posture has to change to one of eagerness to find a way to push resources out sooner, iterate, and be as effective as we can.

Maybe it’s time to let go of the illusion that the best instructional design might ever lead to perfection and take ownership (and change) the perception of our business partners that L&D is slow and unable to keep up with the changing business.

"It’s time to let go of the illusion of perfection in instructional design and own the perception of the business on L&D's slow speed to delivery..."

Other Posts