Status Quo Sucks

status quo1


Status Quo Sucks.  So sayeth George Carlin.

And you know, he’s on to something.  I have yet to read about business success where the mission/value statement said something like “Keep Calm, Keep the Status Quo” or “Status Quo is the Backbone of Innovation”.  Nope.  Can you be successful and maintain the status quo?  For a period of time perhaps; Woolworth, Blockbuster, RIM, all giants in their time – but because of a shocking lack of foresight, because of a steadfastness to the status quo that was their business model…well, you know how the story ends (or in some cases, how the story is likely to end).

Change_Time Companies that bury their heads in the sand, thinking innovation will not outrun them, is not a new story.

I’m sure the buggy whip guy was a happy camper until that pesky automobile came out. But what does it mean to us?  Those of us in the profession of education, adult or otherwise?

Status quo still sucks.  I am always surprised by Learning professionals who still perpetuate workplace learning status quo.  Excuses abound.  I would love to innovate but…no money, no support, no technology, no time, “they” won’t let me.  I could go on (y’all need new excuses). The classroom as we know it today has it’s origins in the beginning of the Industrial Age. The Industrial Age people!  Certainly we can do better?

I have read and reread the blog post on “Meaningfulness” from Reuben Tozman. If you haven’t read it, you need to.  The idea of bringing meaning to learning is not revolutionary on its surface.  Yet surprisingly, it manages to shake up status quo. Why? Because there are those among us who are sincere in their belief that they are providing meaning to their organizations. The status quo is working just fine…thank you very much… – they would be surprised to find out they are wrong.  Sadly, incredibly, undeniably wrong.  They hold as gospel the smile sheets that state the employees enjoyed the event, they thought the presenter was great, students believed the information was useful and if asked would say “YES!” I will use this information  LIARS. Enablers of L&D status quo and they don’t even know it.

fear What would happen if you conducted a learning event and changed up how you evaluated success? 

Is the sound of status quo cracking? What would happen if you changed up the questions? If you asked questions that pertained to the actual learning, rather than the event? No – not asking about the learning objectives but asking if the workshop met their goals (not ours)? How about asking them, “Would you recommend this workshop to other colleagues?” or “If you had to pay for this workshop, would you?” These are the types of evaluation questions that mean something, that shake up status quo.

The dinosaurian design of formal learning events or corporate universities, is a post for another day. I will, however, challenge the overall meaningfulness. I challenge you to conduct a phone survey of a group who participated in a formal learning event longer than 6 months ago.  Ask them what experiences stayed with them, or to pick one learning exercise they remember (no cheating!).  Ask for one tangible example of how the session changed how they work. I double dog dare you. Perhaps it’s exactly that result that scares us?  The truth may come out; we really aren’t being all that effective. Oops.

Based on those unimpressive results, the challenge in front of all of us is to think differently about performance learning and performance support, not just changing the design of a classroom layout or PPT templates, it’s not changing how we conduct role plays or how we apply instructional design elements – it’s a complete overhaul. Time for participant centric design. Group projects (before and after the class), crowd-sourcing class ideas, collaborative feedback sessions, using social tools to build and gather the learning curiosity of an organization – Break the glass people, leave status quo in shatters on the floor!

Status quo sucks.


It’s boring. It’s frustrating. It makes us stale and lazy as developers, as educators, as professionals.  Our people, our organizations, deserve better and they will move forward without us, if they haven’t already. In the spirit of Kaizen make a change!

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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).

16 thoughts on “Status Quo Sucks”

    • Thank you Trevor. I appreciate you forwarding this to your followers and I hope it gives them something to think about this frigid Monday. I was inspired after talking to a group of L&D people who in theory believed in doing something differently but whose sole response was “Yeah but…” – Let’s not let the “buts” have it. 🙂

  1. Reblogged this on Lost and Desperate and commented:
    Before my session at Learning Technologies this week, please have a read through this piece. If we’re going to be talking about disruptive innovation, how do you defend the status quo?

    • Thank you for forwarding this to your followers Andrew! I’m honored to be a part of your session in this abstract way and I’m curious as to your groups answer to the question. Perhaps there is a bigger question afoot…is there a defense to keeping the status-quo? “If it ain’t broke, why fix it”?

  2. 1) Learned helplessness and 2) dang, we shoulda talked about this in Vegas. My last session (the Guerilla Eval one) was very much on this topic and I would have loved your perspective.

    • Just gives us something to talk about over dinner at LSCon in March! Would love to learn more about your Guerilla Eval session too.

    • Trevor,

      Change is inevitable which, in theory, should allay our fear of it! Nothing ever stays the same – good or bad. This helps to allow change to flow more smoothly in and through our lives.

      Change is scary and people tend to avoid it until the pain of not changing is harder than the pain of staying the same – Tony Robbins says this and I agree.

      Thanks for sharing and I think we all get it eventually. Some of us tend to be more stubborn than others, myself included, at times.

      Dawn Howard Weaver

      • Hi Dawn – Great insight! Tony Robbins is correct, change is scary. To that I always default to this quote by Tim McMahon, “Yes, risk taking is inherently failure-prone, otherwise it would be called sure-thing-taking”. My goal with this blog post and this site specifically is to encourage, in some – the first steps of thinking of learning in a different way; and with others to keep momentum moving forward. I’m sure you will keep status-quo from nipping at your heels!

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