Like many of you, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to win the hearts and minds of business leaders with modern-era learning practices.
I’ve not always won those battles. However, I’ve learnt you don’t always need to. Here’s a framework you can steal to use in your own strategy development.
How can you influence your stakeholders on modern-day learning design experiences?
It’s a question which all L&D pros face.
We’re in 2023 with AI and Metaverses, but our stakeholders want ‘e-learning’ or ‘to get people together in a room’. It’s a huge contradiction of our time.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve smashed my head off a wall as I’ve repeatedly been asked “Hey Ross, can you create some training for our team?”. This is the most mysterious question I’m fed daily.
Do people think I’m a mind-reader?
The learning solution problem
90% of stakeholders want to tell you the solution to their problem.
This has been constant across the nearly two decades I’ve spent in the industry.
Typically, they fall into two camps:
I think I have a training problem and want you L&D person to facilitate a classroom workshop.
I still think I have a training problem. I want you L&D person to create a point-and-click e-learning experience because I want something interactive.
(Fun fact about the word ‘e-learning’, it’s 2023, and we know that everything is electronic now. You can drop the ‘e’. I promise it won’t hurt you).
Before you pull your hair out, let’s explore why this thinking occurs:
Our education system has brainwashed us to believe that ‘learning’ anything must be a designated event.
Naturally, this pours over to the working world. If it’s the only system you know, why would you do anything else? The problem is the world of work is not school.
Organisations don’t see L&D as performance-based. They label it as education. Which leads many to believe it is nice to have.
Now, it’s difficult to introduce new ways of thinking with such an established attitude towards L&D.
I write about doing things differently in the industry (I know, how devilish of me!).
But this is not easy. You’re not going to walk into a company and change the strategy from ‘here’s our list of courses’ to ‘how can we design the best solution to x problem for this audience’.
You’ve got to play the long game.
Sorry, no easy fix here. You might have to grit your teeth and play along for a bit.
Over this time you can do what I call the ‘Trojan horse’ technique.
When in doubt, build a Trojan horse
Before we get into the meat of this, let me provide context for those who aren’t familiar with the tale of the Trojan horse.
Back in the 5th century (a long time ago) the Greeks and Trojans were at war.
It was not going well for the Greeks. They’d been attempting to break down the city of Troy for 10 years. The siege felt like it would never end. The Greek king Odysseus had an idea that would change the tide of this war.
Odysseus created a new tactic that has echoed throughout the pages of history.
He built a wooden horse. I know, very revolutionary. Odysseus hadn’t lost his mind, he was seeing more clearly than ever.
Winning the war by brute force wasn’t going to work. The Greeks have been doing this for 10 years with nothing to show.
Instead, they created a trick.
One day, the Greeks pretended to sail away from Troy.
The Trojans believed they had given up. Outside the city walls, the Greeks left a wooden horse as a parting victory trophy for their enemies. The Trojans accepted and brought the horse into the city.
Little did they know, not all the Greeks had left.
Odysseus and a group of his men secretly hid within this wooden horse to gain access to the city.
When darkness fell, the troops jumped out of the horse to open the city gates for the rest of the Greek army who had sailed back after their fake departure.
Within hours, the Greeks destroyed the city, concluding the fall of Troy.
The Trojans played the smart move.
What does this have to do with transforming your company’s L&D strategy? A lot.
You can either choose to pursue a fruitless multi-year siege in telling stakeholders they’re wrong and you’re right. Which will 100% end up with them shutting down on you like the unbreakable gates of Troy.
Or, you can deploy the long game and switch to a smarter tactic.
How to deploy your Trojan horse
When a stakeholder wants a particular solution and you know you have no leverage in the matter, don’t fight it.
The battle will be pointless and you’ll likely end up in the same place.
Instead, build the solution(s) they want but drop in 10% of the stuff you know works better.
The play here is to neither give up nor try to start a war.
You find opportunities to weave in new ways of thinking and approaches into existing experiences. You’ll then compound this play over time.
What I’ve found is stakeholders typically get excited about that 10% bit and want more of that. It’s not a 100% win rate of course.
And, it has to be something that delivers a clear impact. You can’t do something different to have it fall flat and kill your own play.
The idea is to be strategic in your order-taking.
You can’t expect people to change because you tell them to. It takes months even years to wind hearts and minds.
It’s worth the effort.
Don’t preach, show.
Don’t start a war when you’re an army of one. Make small changes over time.
Be a strategic order-taker.
Change takes longer than you think.
Before you go… 👋
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