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Why do we over complicate


Look what’s arrived on my desk. Can anyone guess?

That’s right it’s marketing material from a Learning and Development organisation looking to sell me the latest and greatest courses around leadership and management. It involves combining facts based learning, experiential, storytelling and activity skills. To provide a tailored exceptional experience to develop skills and abilities in the blah blah blah blah.

Ok so far nothing new I turn the page waiting to be wowed by the opportunities offered by this particular company. What do I see?

Lot’s of wonderfully complicated sounding principles which will lead to organisational growth and change. Lots of activities geared to making people run around a field and get muddy – oops sorry – learn something new. Let’s be straight about this I’m not a cynic around these things there is clear evidence for some of this stuff working in fact I’ve implemented and written interventions which do and offer similar things. So why am I frustrated?

Well first and foremost it is the expert nature of this type of marketing. What I mean is, here are a series of words which you could not possibly understand which we have a great understanding of and which will make a difference to the way your organisation is lead. If you engage with us you still won’t understand what these words mean but you will be able to access the principles which sit behind them as long as you continue to engage with – pay an outrageous amount – to us.

What I find frustrating is the fact that this kind of marketing becomes counterintuitive if you are an L+D professional one of your key roles is to make the complex understandable. So for an L+D organisation to pitch complexity seems ridiculous in fact I would say it suggests that they are not particularly good at what they do or state they do. Following on from this to dress it up with exciting words (Experiential, facts based etc etc) is to suggest that they also have magic ways which will make you come out of the whole process a changed person.

It was Albert Einstein who said ‘If you can’t explain it to a five year old you don’t really understand it yourself.’ I know he was not talking about anything as complex as Learning and Development but I’d say this is a great test of external providers. If you do feel the urge to engage with one of these companies offering the latest and greatest thing to hit Leadership and L+D in the last decade invite them in. Get them around the table and then ask them to explain what exactly it is they do and how it works. If you don’t understand it by the end of the meeting walk away. These people don’t know it well enough to pass it on. These people are hiding behind fake complexity to sell you something you almost certainly don’t need or at least something that won’t make a difference to your organisation.

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