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Coming soon to an organisation near you: ‘Super fad!’

default-16x9 recently invited a handful of experts to speculate on the future of the sector. But, as Garry Platt suggests, one thing you can count on is the emergence of a new fad to drive the industry to distraction and waste valuable funds. So how might this situation be avoided?

The recent Crystal Ball Gazing article on got me thinking:

All the experts and some of the commentators appeared to have an opinion on where the world of training was moving to. But I don't think there was any significant insight here (including my own comments). We all appeared to express views which reflected our own values or areas of expertise. I didn't perceive much original thinking here or any significant observations into the training world of 2009. I suspect it was at best wishful thinking and at worst, in my own case, axe grinding.

Training trends, fashions, vogues and 'must do' training initiatives come and go like Big Brother housemates; virtually everybody is familiar with them and then just as quickly they are forgotten with only traces left behind. The coaching bubble has undoubtedly passed it's zenith and now like the learning organisation, NLP, emotional intelligence and re-formance cognition it will begin its slow sink into the 'been there, done that' category for most companies. That last subject item, by the way, was one I made up but I bet it got you excited! Without doubt some good is done using these high profile training initiatives but not half as much as could be achieved if we stuck to the knitting and focused on what our host organisations needed, rather than what someone else told us we needed. But the message of the training fashionista is often like a siren's call and we can find it difficult to ignore the allure.

Photo of GARRY PLATT"I have no doubt the 'super fad' is amongst us already; scrabbling around in the detritus and refuse just waiting for the perfect conditions."

So what next I wonder? The conditions are perfect for the emergence of a 'super fad'. Like those cicada insects that emerge on a 13/17 year life cycle, I have no doubt the 'super fad' is amongst us already; scrabbling around in the detritus and refuse just waiting for the perfect conditions. And what better conditions than during a recession? Over the next 18 months as we slowly start to climb out of the pit of despondency and despair better known as UK plc it will come before us; a new concept, a new way of doing something, a reframing of an existing issue and we'll all have to do it if we want to be cutting edge and at the forefront of training because, because, well, everybody else is. And the evidence upon which the commitment to adopt this new training initiative will be based? In no particular order: hyperbole, marketing, spin, and good old-fashioned overstatement.

The correlation between outcomes and the introduction of the new approach will not be supported by anything other than anecdote and a few thin case studies. Any questioning of the new approach might be met with dignified scorn or patronising concern. The new approach might even be cited as one of the major reasons for the recession ending, actual evidence for this claim will of course be none existent, but it will sound convincing; 'We introduced this approach and we started to turn around, the correlation can’t be a coincidence!' And the fact that somebody states something with conviction and then supports it with a few questionable claims is often the only evidence needed to act. Think 'weapons of mass destruction', 'bird flu', 'bottled water' and 'Cillit Bang'. (Cillit Bang might well be genuine, I got carried away there.)

It's human nature I suppose, including my own, to look for something that will take us from where we are to where we want to be. And at the first indication no matter how tenuous or unsubstantiated we jump on board a fad like MPs on a fact finding mission to the Seychelles. It's inevitable, 'power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely'; similarly 'spin convinces and absolute spin convinces absolutely'.

How might this dilemma be avoided? Here are a few golden rules:

  1. Do not allow senior managers to attend conferences and exhibitions unaccompanied or unsedated. Senior managers are particularly susceptible to disingenuous claims and can suffer from strokes of the ego kind. Consequently they commit their organisation to a radical HR strategy based upon a half-brained theory expounded upon over lunch consisting of an indeterminate soup, paper mache canapés, and a fine bottle of vintage Blue Nun.

  2. Do not allow trainers to introduce anything in the workplace without getting a signed contract that their first-born children will be forfeit, should their new approach fail to make any provable and sustainable changes in the workplace.

  3. Immediately burn and then bury the ash in a deep hole correspondence that contains any combination of three or more of the following phrases or words:

    Ground-Breaking!,World Class, Empowering!, Robbins, 110%, Excellence, Necrophilia, Outstanding, Priapism, Unequalled
    Exceptional, Total, Instant, Life Changing, Transformational, Crumpets

  4. Get it through your thick head that training begins, initiates, commences, starts by determining a performance gap predicated on the absence of specific knowledge or skills, and not as is so often the case by listening to something that sounds interesting and then looking to see where it might be used or applied.

  5. Question everything and ask or demand hard, substantiated facts to support any claim.

1, 2 and 3 can be ignored provided 4 and 5 are applied with rigour.

My advice; keep your nose to the grindstone, your eye on the ball, your back to the wall and after all that, your chiropractor's telephone number handy because the next big thing is not that far away.

Garry Platt is a senior consultant at Woodland Grange specialising in management development and trainer training. He can be contacted on 01926 336621 or email:


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