Old Dog with New Tricks?

It’s always amazing to me where my posts come from, and this one is no exception. I’ll blame this one on @Brandon Carson in his recent LinkedIn feed contribution where he referenced tiring of the phrase “30-under-30”. Needless to say, comments flew from the ether positioning for and against, and the dialogue got me thinking about my own career…and my status of being an “old dog”. Methinks it’s not so much about the age as it is about the “tricks” that are brought to the table…and the underlying passion fire in the gut…and the experience that earned it.

Seriously, the mentors and thought-leaders I followed and learned from were all old dogs with wisdom and insights gained from years of experience, experimentation, successes, and failures. Thought-leaders like Harless (RIP), Geary, Rummler, Robinson, and others shaped my perspectives and passion. Today, I follow people like Guy Wallace on LinkedIn and his almost daily posts that focus largely on performance. Toss in Bob Mosher and his 5 Moments of Need design framework.  And let’s not forget Charles Jennings and the 70:20:10, one of the most misunderstood and abused frameworks around.

Looking at that list above you can probably see the color of my passion – performance; more specifically, workforce performance…and my own “trick”…at Point-of-Work. The recent attention being given to “workflow learning” as being new makes me wonder if anyone remembers how a young blacksmith became a master blacksmith? He likely learned in the workflow with the guiding hand of a master blacksmith delivering learning at the moment of need. The concept of learning in the workflow is not new, it’s just been forgotten; hence, resurfacing today makes it sound “new” due to overlooking what’s always been in the rearview mirror.

Even my so-called “new trick” of Point-of-Work is not new; the blacksmith’s development process is the perfect example. Look at that list of people above, they all were influenced by a focus on workforce performance, and all of them sought solutions to improve same. Each had their own methodology to uncover what those solutions should include. But…none of them had the benefit of the technology that exists today. And none of them had to deal with the velocity of today’s business demands and the accompanying pressures of continuous change necessary to keep competitive pace.

The good news is that what they did (sans new tech) was spot on. The “new tricks” necessary today are largely made possible by new technology taking older proven tactics and strategies to a new level. Sexy new Learning Management Systems (LMS) and socially-energized and collaboration-friendly Learning Experience Platforms (LXP); these are all great innovations and moving us (L&D) forward. We are building more training solutions better and faster than ever, and yet we are still targeting knowledge transfer in hopes that success will yield improved performance…though only generating proven potential through evaluations at levels 1 & 2. What about Point-of-Work where success generates levels 3 & 4 metrics that validate improved workforce performance?

What about the technology advances that are cloud-based and capable of keeping up with the rapid pace of Digital Transformations for example? What about the technologies that can address tactical moments of need with performance support assets at Point-of-Work where real value hangs in the balance? What about the technologies that can optimize speed-to-insight and enable critical thinking at strategic moments of need where top-level, informed decision-making needs accelerated? Certainly, the technology is new, but are the needs and applications they support really that new?

What’s “new” is simply how we address what’s always been there.

Have we lost sight of the end-game? This old dog was raised with the notion pounded into his head that if L&D does not produce measurable BUSINESS IMPACT, our jobs were at risk for being active participants as expenses in a cost center. Being viewed as an “expense” is not a safe place to be when decisions are made as to who goes and who stays. Trust me, if the choice falls between a department generating positive business impact with one that is contributing expenses to the bottom-line, the decision is easily made.

Three cost-reduction drills and resulting reductions-in-force over the last seven years for this old dog confirms that L&D cannot innovate itself into safety. Safety is earned through generating results at the bottom-line directly through solutions measured by tangible results, and if we aggressively pursue bottom-line results, we must get our hands dirty where bottom-line results manifest – Point-of-Work – and those who make it happen. That ain’t trainin’!

This old dog cannot be dissuaded from a relentless pursuit on sustaining workforce performance at Point-of-Work regardless of the corporate initiative, or tech transformation, or new product launch, or new FDA regulations, or, or, or…

So, are these really new tricks? Hardly, just forgotten…and in need of integration into the new age thinking of L&D strategy and tactics. After all, we really are tasked to support a dynamic learning performance ecosystem and the holistic nature of that task requires the wisdom and experience that can only be found within those who work in the trenches…led by someone who has been there. Chances are good that that “someone” is an older dog who can apply tricks that are not new but appear so when paired with a strategic re-think and holistic, ecosystem-wide tactical application. It just might surprise you how compatible the wisdom and insights of an old dog really are when leveraged and applied with the right new technology.

If I’ve managed to rake up any Millennials in a pile in the course of this rant, I apologize, but at the same time recognize it will be the Millennials who will execute this wisdom found in any number of old dogs. For me, this Point-of-Work passion and Point-of-Work Assessment Methodology is my bone, and it’s never best practice to take a bone from a dog…especially an old one. Woof…

Thanks for reading this little rant!  Thanks Brandon for tripping the trigger…

As always, I welcome your thoughts, comments, ideas if you choose to share!

Best wishes for happy and safe holidays for all of you and yours!


Gary G. Wise
Workforce Performance Advocate, Coach, Speaker
(317) 437-2555
Web: Living In Learning