Bear-ly Learning

Bear-ly Learning

Distracting, superficial, isolating. 

     If we don’t watch it, that may be a future trend in learning.  We are quickly moving to shorter and shorter learning events, driven by ever-increasing work demands and shrinking time to acquiring new knowledge and abilities.  Yet, over relying on technology and shrinking time devoted to genuine learning will soon be passing the point of diminishing returns.

     Of course, we need to trim time away from work to only relevant and productive topics, tossing the ‘scrap learning’  which isn’t valued or applied.  But we are now losing something of larger value when boiling all learning down to the crumbs of bite size learning.


Let me use a sports analogy to explain:


     Imagine the Chicago Cubs announcing in  2020 they will be applying the latest corporate learning innovations for spring training.  All practice and spring training games at the Mesa, Arizona facility will be cancelled as the franchise rolls out the latest EA Sports Baseball LMS with Money-ball big data integration 2.0.

      Players will practice at home, using the latest video game console technology.  Coaches, also working from their home locations, will assign daily Wii/XBox  game skill batting, fielding and pitching drills for individual players.   Coaches will tweet feedback and instructional tips as well as broadcast bi-weekly PowerPoint skill position instructions.  A secure Cubs YouTube channel will be uploaded with “how to” videos for additional player development resources.

     To build ‘team spirit’ so critical to high performing sports teams, virtual teaming technology will be applied.  Each player will have a unique Facebook page to share with team-mates to post their daily thoughts, feelings, as well as general likes and dislikes.  A players-only site will allow participants to post confidential comments on the coaching staff, fans and media.

     To simulate competitive conditions, weekly games via social gaming technology will be utilized.  For a subscription fee, fans can log into the game site to follow the action as well as buy virtual hotdogs and spring training  e-memorabilia.   After each game, players will remain logged in, digitally signing virtual hats, balls and game-day programs for fans.   At the end of the spring training season, a final rooster will be posted on the main Cub site, so players can find out if they made the cut for Opening Day.


     The Cub’s General Manager expects numerous benefits from this new approach: 


  • First, huge productivity gains will be realized by the complete elimination of all travel and living expenses to the spring training location. 


  • Second, players can enjoy the comfort and flexibility of staying at home.   Given the very busy lives of professional athletes today, players will be excited to schedule their spring training obligations around their other commitments. 


  • Third, coaches will appreciate similar flexibility in their work day and well as using tweets to deliver critical feedback rather than in person.  Posting online rooster cuts will keep the atmosphere positive and avoid any cub-house drama. 


  • Fourth, the total time for spring training has been reduced by 50% to better fit into everyone’s busy lives. 


  • Fifth, fans will appreciate the easy access to spring training games online, avoiding the expense of traveling to the ballpark.



     So how do you think the 2020 version of Cubs will fare with all this advanced learning innovation?



      Most likely, much of the tangibles and intangibles that are needed for building winning performance will be lost.  I would describe the new learning approach for this future team as well as the risky trend in corporate training today as: 


Distracting. Players need to be removed from their home distractions to focus in spring training. Office workers need the same respite periodically to disengage from the daily fray, reflect and regain perspective for real development. 


Superficial. The virtual nature of online sports training seems silly.  Skills training needs to be a hands on, total immersion environment that truly tests and expands talent.   Likewise, working professional lose out when cutting development time short creates the appearance of learning but is nothing more than a cursory skimming  rather than meaningful development that sticks.


Isolating.   Teamwork is the hallmark of championship performers where positive chemistry is born with shoulder-to-shoulder efforts together, not through digital posting.  Corporate teams need the investment of relationship building together as well, best created in face-to-face learning venues. 


     In the near future, I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on the EA Sports Baseball LMS for fun and games.  But for real world winning performance, our learning programs need to be grounded in focus, quality and connectedness.  It’s worth the investment now and in the future.

 © Kevin D. Wilde