5 Tips to Starting a Learning Rebellion

Recently I was at a gathering of other Learning and Development professionals


I wish I could say it was a gathering that stimulated innovative or engaging thinking. I found the conversation entering into territory that has become all too familiar – WIIFM. (What’s in it for me?) Meaning they were more concerned about how any new learning initiative was going to make them “look” than if this new initiative was going to actually help the business or the learner.  Is it me, or as a learning community, have we begun to worry too much about marching along with the status quo, such as delivering expensive and non-productive classrooms or producing point and click compliance learning because that is what we are being measured against?

courage_BW.jpg It occurred to me that it is time to take a stand. It is time to rebel against previously held notions of expectations and so-called “ROI”. Why is it that we let people within our own organizations dictate, without actual L&D (Learning and Development) input, how we should achieve this elusive “ROI” or even worse, “ROE”? Recently I was told of a CEO who instructed his Director of Training that the corporation’s Leadership Development Program would be done his way because he knows best what his employees need to learn.  Would he make this statement to his Finance Director? To his VP of IT? Would he tell his HR Director that he is more informed about HR policies? No. It’s time to stop the nonsense and start a learning rebellion.

5 tips to starting your own learning rebellion:

Learn to challenge the status quo. Challenging the information that has been presented to you  does not mean having to say “no”, it means turning yourself into a business consultant. (I need this 125 slide power point turned into an online course…um…maybe ya don’t)

Appropriately challenging their reasoning, needing to understand the business problem is going to help your customer more than you being a bobble head trainer. Sure it’s hard. Sure it’s easier to plop the PPT deck into your slide converter, upload to the LMS and push it on your unsuspecting and ever trusting audience of learners – but that’s not what a Learning Rebel does…a Learning Rebel, claws, digs, finds reason and develops true business solutions. They advocate for the learner! 

Learn the concept of Kaizen.  Yes, I know this philosophy is mostly used in TQM.  But isn’t that what we are trying to do? Improve performance? In short, Kaizen is the philosophical belief that everything can be improved, and anyone can find ways to improve it.  In this case we are talking about the L&D function itself; from developing strategy to designing workbooks.  The L&D professional who uses the philosophy of Kaizen is truly a Learning Rebel.  Being able to take a good hard look at the state of L&D in your organization and understanding that everything is up for grabs, means you are evolving and evolving is good.

Learn that training, in and of itself, is rarely the solution to anything. No, I am not trying to put myself out of a job, but understanding and accepting this statement as fact is essential to finding real solutions.  Remember the “5 Why’s”, of root cause analysis? It’s an oldie but goodie – and a key tool in a Learning Rebels toolbox.  People come to you to “solve their problem”.  Your job is to uncover what the problem really is, basic root cause analysis.  Why, why, why, why & why. Be sure the problem they want to solve is really the problem that needs solving.  Gather up representatives from marketing, from IT, from operations…Learning Rebels know it takes a village, not just the L&D department to create a meaningful, sustainable solution.

Learn that people do not need to know how to build a watch in order to tell time. Sifting through the must-knows, need-to-knows and nice-to-knows and delivering training in digestible chunks – and identifying the audience properly should be the focus. Learning presented in bite-sized pieces, presented when the learner wants it, when the organization needs the learner to have it, will do more to move a business strategy forward than any poorly conceived “workshop” attended by a group of hostages.  Learning Rebels help the SME push the fast-forward (or delete) button on “the history of the widget” and get to the important stuff. Learning design is about reaching the hearts and minds of people, not creating content.

Learn that so-called learning theories and methodologies are, at best, guidelines. At worst, snake oil. Learning Rebels do not allow themselves to be boxed in or governed by theories, styles, methods, techniques or processes.  Only when used wisely, in a flexible setting, with the mindset of situational learning – will you have freed your mind. Yes, Neo take the red pill.  Free yourself to be creative, innovative and engaging in your learning creation, use the resources that work for you and your business. Don’t be sucked into the “L&D, look- something new and shiny – book of the Month Club!” It doesn’t matter if your development is for a classroom, online, or blended; you owe it to the learners to not force them into mythological corners.  Experiment and discover new things, this is what a true Learning Rebel loves to do.

For some, taking these steps to move forward will be easy. You may have the organizational culture to support this mindset. For others of you, this will be a challenge. I advise you search out your network for support; let your learning network be your leaning and listening post. If they are anything like mine, they are there to guide, support and coach.

Share with us your Learning Rebel moments. How you are being a Learning Rebel?


Shannon Tipton

Shannon Tipton

As Owner of Learning Rebels, Shannon Tipton is a skilled learning strategist, content developer and International speaker. Shannon has over 20 years of leadership experience developing successful learning strategies and infrastructures for training departments within organizations in North America, Europe and Korea.

Shannon works with people and organizations to develop learning solutions that brings actual business results. Recognized as bringing real-world expertise into the learning field, Shannon integrates technologies and social learning tools to strengthen workplace alignment, enhance collaboration and increase learning connectivity.

As author of “Disruptive Learning” Shannon frequently speaking at conferences across North America and Europe and ranks as one of the top 100 L&D influencers on Twitter (@stipton).

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