Interpretation – a crucial part of the L&D role

What is the role of L&D, and what should it be?

I’ve been thinking and talking about this a lot recently, because the pace of change in our profession is pretty fast and because the old certainty – that L&D was about creating and delivering courses – no longer holds. 

The days when L&D was the main (and sometimes sole) provider of information to employees has gone. The internet saw to that. Once knowledge was power. Now information is free and almost frictionless. So if all we’re doing is providing generic information to people, we don’t deserve to be in a job.

Making sure people can find and learn from the right things, however, remains an important part of L&D’s role. The process use has just stepped up a level of sophistication.

That process follows four steps. Directly or indirectly we need to:

ImageNote – this may seem to be a description of the curation process. It is, but it is also the process we follow when creating learning content. We find the information we need to express, filter to focus on the essentials and then express it in the right format – interpret it – before making it available.

Currently in the profession we’re talking a lot about the first and last of these – about smart search and the ways we can share cleverly, making sure people can find and learn what they need.

But where the L&D department really adds value to my mind is in the third step, interpreting. This is where L&D should be using its combination of knowledge of the business, with its expertise in learning to ensure whatever the topic, it is framed in a way that makes sense to the precise context of the organisation. A generic health and safety course is ten times more valuable when expressed in terms of how that affects people at work in your organisation. A book on business leadership has more impact when discussed in respect of your own work. A YouTube video on sales makes a greater difference to performance when linked to other, work-related materials.

Conversations and social networking within the organisation may not require much interpretation to those involved (here L&D’s role is more to facilitate the conversation) – but there may still be an interpretive role to play later. Making sure that the gist of a good conversation is available later to those who didn’t participate is,  I believe, something L&D should absolutely be doing, and it certainly involves interpretation.

I’ll be talking about this – and other things – in a webinar on 19th March, with Randy Emelo of Triple Creek (and I’m indebted to them for the graphic above, which they produced from my words). Randy will explore how Triple Creek can help L&D with these four steps. Like me Randy’s background includes classroom and technology work and he’s also been thinking about this topic for a number of years. It should be a good session.

Learning from Others: How Technology is Changing the Role of L&D runs on 19th March at 15:00 UK time (10 ET). I hope to see you there!


7 responses to “Interpretation – a crucial part of the L&D role

  1. Knowledge was power, information is free still stands. Internet and social media provide access to information, but to get this translated in changed behavior is still a role that L&D can play. For expert learning information updates via Internet and Social media are sufficient, since they have the knowledge network to integrate this in. But, for more behavioral oriented stuff and non-expert audiences, L&D still needs to do their traditional job to certain extent as well.

    I like your proces of find, filter, interpret and share, and I fully agree that interpretation and facilitation is a role L&D can play in the New Learning. But this proces model still is focused on the information and an attempt to turn this into knowledge. As an crucial & added value step, DESIGN & DELIVERY (of learning experiences) still is relevant as well for a lot of the learning that has to take place within organisations in order to make it effective.

  2. Harold Jarche and his Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) approach uses similar terminology of a Seek-Sense-Share model. I see L&D doing less of the 4 step process for the workforce and more focused on helping workers themselves to do this. L&D less of a curator in my mind and more coaches and mentors of these techniques.

  3. Hi Daan and Mark – I think you’re both pointing to the same sort of thing, and I think you’re both right. What I describe here is not *everything* we do. It’s really only concerned with learning content. As Daan says, we need to provide learning experiences (or to make sure people are put into situations in which they can learn).

    And Mark, I 100% agree that content – whether creation or curation – is a decreasing amount of what L&D does. We are (or should) be concerned with helping people do this for themselves – both in terms of the direct skills of finding-filtering-interpreting-sharing, and also in terms of the meta cognitive skills of understanding how they learn so they can do those things truly effectively.

    If you look just above the diagram, you’ll see I use the phrase “Directly or indirectly”. In those three words, I was trying to convey this idea that L&D doesn’t have to do it all. In fact, as you say Mark, it’s preferable if we coach/mentor people to do it themselves. Perhaps 3 words was a little parsimonious. It’s really a topic for a discussion in its own right.

  4. Ivor Williamson

    Don, the ‘ah…I think you are right’ moment for me reading your blog entry was we in the L&D industry are preoccupied with the Find (semantic search, big data) and Share ( online social media channels). This naturally takes the fore as technology has emancipated everyone from what was once more of a formal academic endeavor to some extent.

    However as a personal reflection I thought the Filter and Interpret related much to what we were traditionally good at in L&D and Education. The workshop required yes the presentation of information and perspectives but also the case study, the schematic building exercises to help learned filter the info, make it contextual and relevant to their mental representations and then move to discussions where more sophisticated understandings of the ideas were challenged to yet further deepen the personal learning journey. It is this at times, especially in my role that we tend to forget we are quite good at. Encouraging reflection and persuading learners to build their own mental schemes and then encourage them to actively be challenged on them (even our experts) is a crucial part of our role and even more so with the rise in decontextualised information thrown at us!

    • Ivor – thanks for your reflections. I do agree that interpretation is something that we have probably been quite good at in L&D. Perhaps we just need to remember that and build on it!

  5. Don, I agree that we have great tools for four of the steps you talk about but the place where we add real value from L&D is interpretation. We should remember though that this is not something we do alone, but by engaging with the business and by understanding what is important for the business. The worst thing would be to try to interpret information in a vacuum.

  6. Pingback: The learning content pyramid | Donald H Taylor

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