Tough Conversations

I am immensely grateful to the early reviewers of my book.  They generously donated their time to give both the rough draft and various nascent concepts a look.  One piece of feedback that I thought was particularly interesting was that while they felt that the book would was both needed and valuable, learning organizations will face challenges putting it into action. Challenges not faced by startups.  Startups have the advantage of starting with a clean slate. An organization of two founders working closely has no defined roles. They are just gunning to get things done. Startups, at this stage, are flexible and fluid and rapidly adaptable. Everybody on the team knows that survival is all about meeting a deadline for shipping the product or reaching the next investor milestone. The goals are clear.  It’s all hands on deck there’s no time for the politics that get in the way at large organizations.

Scott Kirshner wrote an article for HBR recently in which he talked about the biggest barriers to innovation or disruption inside organizations and it should come as no surprise number one was politics.  What was a bit surprising was the percentage of executives citing this as barrier number one was twice the number of executives who said that budget got in the way. So while we may sing that constant refrain of,  “I don’t have enough money,” or, “it’s not in the budget.” The fact is that for those of us who are actively seeking to put new approaches into learning and to adopt principles, tools and techniques that are different from how things have been done, we will need to become better politicians.

The second most cited barrier innovation and understanding in the article was risk aversion.  A thought on this is that this objection may mean something else. It may mean that the population of the company is weary from “flavor of the day”. Many companies follow business fashion.  A business concept, widely accepted and supported this year, may fall out of favor next year.  Due to this, a company culture can be taught that they actually don’t need to do anything other than simply ignoring a new approach, knowing that this too shall pass. Defining this as risk aversion may simply be an easy way out. 

In Running Training Like a Startup I introduce a number of new and novel approaches adopted from the best practices of early-stage startups.  These tools are gonna feel unfamiliar to many business leaders . For implementation to succeed tomorrow’s learning leaders will need to have conversations, that while potentially uncomfortable, will lead to a stronger relationship between these learning pros and their business sponsors.

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