Learning myths

tzbestof2008Happy New Year!

A quick check of traffic stats shows that some people were reading this site over the holidays, including some on Christmas Day. Great! (I think.)

I myself didn’t touch a computer on Christmas Day, which may have been the result of starting the day with a glass of Buck’s Fizz. The champagne came courtesy of Training Zone, as a reward for having written their most-read story of 2008:

Modern myths of learning: You only remember 10% of what you read

The article debunks the commonly held myth that:

  You remember 10% of what you read
  You remember 20% of what you hear
  You remember 30% of what you see
  You remember 90% of what you do

… and is part of a series that continues into 2009. The story has been read some 15,000 people, and the comments are overwhelmingly positive. The main drift of the article was not only to attack this particular fallacy, but – more importantly – to question the ease with which myths are perpetuated across the training / learning and development practice.

My chief concern is that while on the one hand the economy is reaching a place where skills finally matter, the people who are experts in the area of skills, talent and training are still far from forming a profession, and suffer in particular by lacking an agreed common body of knowledge.

The result of this lack of professionalism is that those doing the job are not seen as the people best equipped to take strategic decisions about skills, or even to advise on them. They become the grease monkeys who are put to work by those feeling the pain of skills issues – those in  operations and finance in particular. It’s a bit like a garage taking orders from a driver about the cause of a problem with an engine, the new part to be ordered and the way to fit it. It might work. It  probably won’t. Just because you’re driving the car doesn’t mean you know how it works.

More on this next week.

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3 responses to “Learning myths

  1. This is what I used to think when I studied all these graphs but it takes courage to speak the truth and state it as you have stated. Mostly, people just follow like sheep, someone has done the hard work and since it is a diagram and official looking theory let’s follow it. Really, one look at the 10 percent and 20 percent thing and you know it’s cooked up. How can there be so much of uniformity in the data? Learning and designing is in nascent stage right now and today this post makes it evident how much research and studies are yet to done in this field. Sadly in India there is not much awareness or any research in this field. I did my M.Sc in Environmental Science to make courses on environmental awareness but it seems these is not much e-learning or as you insist learning on this subject happening here. Congratulations on pointing out that the emperor is naked! Not many would have had the courage.

  2. I forgot wishing you a Happy New Year. Hope many more myths are uncovered this year! What about the much loved Gagne model ADDIE and ARCS models. These have become the Bible of Instructional Designing but most of these have the same flaws as the models studied above.

  3. Do you think there’s some tendency for execs / leaders to be self-propelled, self-assured, quick deciders with a low tolerance for analysis? Those are often valued traits–quick decisions are sometimes better that long-but-correct ones. But that skews execs toward quick fixes, the dosage approach, and oversimplification.

    Toss in the often-accompanying view that they’re the smartest folks around, and you get… well, the entire financial industry over the past 15 years.

    Training and learning have not done themselves any favors, though. They’re often in the same kennel as Human Resources: order-takers and pigeon-holers.

    The schooling model seems hard to kill: I know of one ‘corporate university’ where people have the title of ‘dean.’

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