10L: Nigel Paine

10L: A few simple questions about how leading professionals see their work.

About Nigel:

Nigel Paine is a change-focused leader with a worldwide reputation and a unique grasp of media, learning and development in the public, private and academic sectors. He has extensive experience in leadership and consultancy with public service broadcasters, SMEs, global industry players, government and education institutions.

So, what do you do dear?  Describe your work to an elderly relative.

It is actually quite easy to describe my role because I simply omit anything I imagine will be confusing. For example to an elderly relative I would say I teach on a doctoral program at a University in the United States or, I write books, or I work with adults helping them learn more effectively. I just pick what works in the circumstances. If I am really desperate it is: I present a TV programme and release a short radio program every week. All of those things individually are really easy to understand. Collectively, what does it add up to? I have no idea!

What was your favourite learning experience (Could be work, personal, school…anything is valid)? What were you trying to do? Why did it work so well for you?

Unquestionably my time in Antarctica. I was really scared about going because of the horrendous 48 hour trip through the Drake passage which is the roughest sea in the world. I was also nervous about what would be involved, and how I would relate to the group with me on the ship, and if my leadership programme, that I was supposed to be facilitating would be of any use. In the event it was a transformational experience. Being disconnected, dislocated, and discomfited really did lead for me, and for many other people, to discovery. I came back a different person.

Enough already…What one thing do you wish people in your industry or profession would stop doing? (What gets your goat?)

I am deeply depressed by the number of order taking roles that L and D is still subjected to. It is not just the chronic lack of imagination from the people giving orders, it is also the willingness to put up with that, frankly demeaning role.  A richer opportunity awaits that will deliver so much more and be so much more satisfying. But you have to want it and be prepared to grab it.

Same again please…What has changed for the better in your professional world as a result of COVID working practices? Should it be retained for the future (whenever that might be and whatever it might look like)?

Unquestionably the realisation of the power of learning and the richness of focusing on problems that need to be solved, not courses that have to be delivered. So much learning occurred and I hope that no one tries to roll it all back when life gets back to something more like normality. 

From the good old days…What do you miss most about working life from the pre-COVID world? Do you think it will return?

I miss people. My life was spent travelling around the world connecting with groups, many of whom I have formed very close bonds with. However much I love zoom, there is no substitute for physical proximity and the power of a good old-fashioned hug.

Theft is the sincerest form of flattery…Which part of which other industry or profession do you think we should learn from and adopt (or just steal)?

There is an unquestioning self-confidence demonstrated by the people in finance or marketing. Those people are completely clear about their role, and their place in the ecosystem of the organisation they work for. I wish that more people in L&D had that kind of self-belief and confidence. Hanging around on the proverbial organisational street corner waiting to be asked, is not a good look!

You know who would be great for this…Which famous person (live or historical) do you want to join your team and why?

This may sound crazy but I’ve always wanted to have a conversation with Wittgenstein and learn how he sees the world, and how he thinks about the world. I reckon we could all learn a lot from his perspective. I would ask him about practice, and how we know what we know, and how we can be sure that what we know is right.

If only I had…What did you learn from your most recent mistake?

I wish that I listened more before jumping to judgement or conclusion. I have a tendency to run ahead and formulate a potential solution when, perhaps, I haven’t clearly understood the underlying problem. It is a desire to be helpful, when I need to be patient.

There can be only one…Which one tool or piece of kit would you keep if you could only use one from now on?

If I was really pushed, it would be my iPad. There is so much on my iPad. It is my library, my research resource, my ideas creator, my document generator and my presentation monitor. It is such a wonderful device without any question. The thought of being without it for, even for one day, sends shivers down my spine.

The picture of success…Which image or picture is a good representation of how you would like to develop your practice over the next five years?

(I’m never very good with images. I’ve always liked words but here goes: I would like to be seen as a beacon of light in the darkness, Someone that is helpful, reassuring and mostly right! Long, long way to go!)

Where can we find you?

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