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CEO’s Desk: L&D and Einstein’s theory of insanity

Albert_Einstein_HeadAlbert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. It seems to me that there’s a great deal of insanity around these days, especially in Learning and Development. Why do I say that? Well consider the following:

  • We live in a world where the amount of information being created is exploding and there is simply too much of it to retain in our short term memories.
  • The half-life of most information is short and getting shorter. Facts don’t remain facts as long as they used to and we now need to be as good at forgetting things, as remembering them.
  • Careers are no longer life-long affairs. The various generational bands over the past 30 years, X and Y and whatever came next, have progressively increased the number of times they change careers over their lifetimes and nobody these days takes on a job for life.
  • Employee turnover in many jobs is 30% or higher. These jobs are designed for people to constantly cycle through them – think contact centers.

So where’s the insanity for learning and development in all of that? It lies in the fundamental basis for training and formal education, especially training in facts and skills. Training is designed to help people remember things in the hope they will be able to use them in the future. But why do we continue to invest time and money to:

  • train people in facts they can’t possibly remember? Surely that’s insanity.
  • train people in things you’ll soon need them to forget, given the rapid pace of business change? Surely that’s insanity.
  • train people who won’t stay in their current role for very long? Surely that’s insanity.

Rather than continuing the futile and probably insane practice of training employees who may not be in the job for long, in things they either can’t remember or need to forget, L&D leaders at businesses such as Bank of America, GM Financial and Bupa Global are simply operationalizing the 70:20:10 framework – enabling their employees to learn while performing their job. One of these companies has 300,000 employees but not a single training room – and they all have rapidly competent and easily multi-skilled teams who deliver a substantial competitive edge.

You can learn more here.


Photograph by Orren Jack Turner, Princeton, N.J.Modified with Photoshop by PM Poon and later by Dantadd.

Ted Gannan

Ted Gannan co-founded Panviva after 20 years in a variety of senior management, sales, and editorial roles in the publishing industry, including Managing Director of Thomson Learning, Australia. Ted led the development of SupportPoint after identifying a need for an improved method of delivering ‘moment-of-need’ procedural and product knowledge to employees. He is responsible for overseeing the company’s growth worldwide.

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