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Robin Hoyle

Huthwaite International

Head of Learning Innovation at Huthwaite International

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Why mission-critical thinking trumps passion

Passion can limit us and obscure mission-critical thinking.
curb_your_enthusiasm

What are you passionate about? 

The problem with that old faithful interview question is that passion has been somewhat devalued of late. 

Being passionate about something is the hyperbolic claim of wannabe D-list celebrities on The Apprentice

It is the indicator of someone desperate to suggest they might be more interested in something other than achieving reality TV fame without making an effort to at least gain some rudimentary skills in baking, map reading, dress making or decorating. 

Impostor syndrome doesn’t feature in their lives. There is no need. They know they are impostors and feel no shame.

Passion has been somewhat devalued of late

Parading and devaluing passions

Being passionate about something is the essential prerequisite of a LinkedIn profile or the opening statement of the CVs completed by those with rather more hair gel than talent. 

Despite the fact that declaring yourself ‘passionate about the future of logistics’ makes you sound like a member of the paramilitary wing of the 'Train Spotters Union', passions are paraded without seeming irony. 

Those expressing their workplace passions make me nervous.

Despite my reservations (which I do recognise may be mine alone), passion projects still gain support in organisations. 

This is particularly true in L&D teams, where individuals are occasionally indulged while they pursue their personal passion for learning styles, personality analysis or other fads built on a foundation of cod psychology. 

Champions of learning technologies are not immune either. 

I was pleased to see recently that most platforms had dropped their claims to be the ‘Netflix of Learning’, although one now claimed to be the TikTok of learning. 

Don’t forget about common sense

This can only have been the product of a particularly intense fever dream or the outputs of the brainstorms of a group with real passion.

In the rapidly moving world of technology reputations, hitching your wagon to an established brand is dangerous. 

The tech darling one month is being castigated for sacking 75% of its workforce by email the next. 

Moving fast and breaking things might be exciting, but stuff gets broken and someone has to clean up. Passion can blind people to common sense.

In the rapidly moving world of technology reputations, hitching your wagon to an established brand is dangerous 

Technology or novelty?

The technophiles’ passion for the new and shiny has previously embraced second life, virtual reality and social media. 

They have now turned their laser (pointer) focus towards AI. 

What’s interesting here is that those who championed unproven and subsequently little adopted technologies like Second Life in the early 2000s, have moved their focus repeatedly as the next technology comes over the hill. 

What they are passionate about doesn’t seem to be the technology (and certainly only tangentially concerned with learning). 

They are passionate about novelty. They are chasing the disruptive dream of the Tech Bros, just as the Tech Bros turn their focus to ensuring nothing disrupts their business model. 

I do not have a crystal ball. AI in its latest embodiment may be the game changer that passionate advocates claim, but I’m not sure

Let’s be crystal clear

I do not have a crystal ball. AI in its latest embodiment may be the game changer that passionate advocates claim, but I’m not sure. 

Certainly, I am sufficiently sceptical of novelty to root my assessments of new things on the problems I need solving and the changes I need to make to succeed.

This is the promotion of mission critical thinking over the pursuit of hobby horses. 

Being clear about what an organisation needs and the changes we need to implement to satisfy those needs is an essential prerequisite of evaluating the available options of what could be done. 

The best innovations matter because they are business critical

Will it help?

Our focus should be on what we need to achieve and what is the best way of achieving it. 

This should – and hopefully does – trump what we could do. We could do lots of things. The question is should we and can we be sure it will help? 

The key to assessing possible action in response to critical business needs is to focus on evidence. 

This might be considered dull, or staid or even backward looking and old-fashioned. 

But I’d rather pursue a well-researched approach which has evidence of efficacy in similar circumstances than propose an approach predicated on my personal passions. 

Our focus should be on what we need to achieve and what is the best way of achieving it. 

What about creativity and innovation? 

If we always follow the tried and tested, don't we suppress innovation? Not really. 

I’d love to hear about an innovation which isn’t – at its heart – a synthesis of other ideas. 

Combining use cases and approaches in novel ways is the heart of being innovative. 

Taking a sideways look at previous, proven ideas can generate new ways of working, new ways of building capability and new ways of learning. 

I’d love to hear about an innovation which isn’t – at its heart – a synthesis of other ideas

It’s critical to be business critical 

The best innovations start with a clear understanding of what problem needs to be solved or what opportunities need to be taken. 

The best innovations matter because they are business critical. 

They are promoted and made possible not by passion but by humility, by reason and by evidence and a willingness to take on board the views and experiences of others.

If all we have is passion, we can blind ourselves to reason, rationality and making the most effective choices. 

Fans are rarely influenced by evidence. We can reject suggestions which don’t match our personal vision of what ‘good’ looks like. Rather than expand our horizons, passion limits us. Passion is dangerous. 

If you enjoyed this, read: Boosting innovation requires a culture change, not just training

 

Author Profile Picture
Robin Hoyle

Head of Learning Innovation at Huthwaite International

Read more from Robin Hoyle
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