The Need to Stop and Reflect – The Need for Engagement.

So much of what I take for granted as assumed and valuable knowledge in my role as a corporate educator is being challenged as we move further into the new century. The pace of change in the world has accelerated and this was the main reason why, in the past,  I had stopped blogging. I felt what I had to say was lacking the relevance and the timeliness required to add value to the communities I was part of.  For me this was critical as I needed to be part of a community that I trusted and that trusted me. However, the challenges we face in the future will be important and taking time to stop and reflect on what this means for our learners and ourselves is now so very important.

There is a new book which I have read quickly and will read again to absorb, which is a great re-orienting point for all corporate educators. It is not profound but rather pragmatic and it goes to the heart of an individual’s engagement and why this is critical for success in organisations. The book is called “The way we’re working isn’t working: The Four Forgotten Needs That Energize Great Performance”.

Essentially the book advocates that a myth has taken hold that “human beings operate most productively in the same one-dimensional way computers do: continuously, at high speeds, for long periods of time, running multiple programs at the same time.” Think about it. We are told that we can multitask and we are getting better at it. In fact we are also told that women can master this better than men etc, etc. The issue is our brains a sequential processors. We can only physically process things “one at a time” (for more learning on this visit John Medina’s Brain Rules website). We still need to repeat things to remember! We have not evolved our capability enough to cope with the demands of the instantaneous world and store things after one smell, one touch, one listen, one read.

The defining movement in the modern workplace is more, bigger, faster. More information than ever is available to us, and the speed of every transaction has increased exponentially, prompting a sense of permanent urgency. However, the need for understanding and adopting the social frameworks that are driving this important reformation are also providing an endless supply of distraction… some good and some not so good. Left unchanged and unregulated, these same technologies have the potential to swallow us. The relentless urgency that characterises most corporate cultures drives a level of performance but at the same time, undermines creativity, quality, engagement, thoughtful deliberation, critical reflection, and, ultimately, performance. We cannot hope to drive performance to higher levels if all we do is expect that the capacity of individuals is an endless bucket and that they will stay enthusiastic purely because they have a job. Employee engagement will become the number one critical measurement for organisations in the future and without it they risk perishing.  Conversely, those organisations that have not adopted the brave new world have also perished (aka Borders). So what to do in order to strike a balance?  I am not sure yet but this is part of the new frontier that will need to be confronted.

My advice to all corporate educators, training areas, learning and development departments etc is…. stop, take the time to hover above your organisation and understand what is happening. Where is the acceleration happening and what solutions are you currently providing? Do management understand the impact on engagement? The organisation and executive will not wait for you but you still need to know that a traditional approach may not work anymore.  Performance support, e-learning, enabling collaboration, peer based education and new interpretive and analytical skill sets are rising to the top as key areas of potential solutions with thought leadership requirements but as always it will keep changing.  The question for me is: as we enable greater access to information and collaboration and increase the expectations of response and task fulfilment, are we at the same time diluting the expertise we have hired for?

I welcome your comments on this…….


  1. Great article.
    I am reminded of the instructional design mantra ERGA
    create an Experience
    allow for Reflection
    give time for Generalization
    and the Apply

    And do it multiple times, spread out over as much time as you can grab.

    So what’s happening in our organizations, and what does it mean, and the most importnat question,How can we lead the way to apply what we learned.

    It works in learning design, and it works for figuring out where things fit in the bigger picture as well

  2. Great point Rob. As a short succinct little methodology I think this works extremely well and it is something that is readily adaptable.

    It is just how we make every experience one like this; not just learning. How do we make every job experience one which fosters reflection and discussion for learning to take place. How do we tie our outcomes, failures and successes all back to a framework of “learning from our learning”? The ensuing engagement that comes from a workplace that encourages this is priceless….

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