10L: A few simple questions about how leading professionals see their work.
David is the Digital Learning Portfolio Manager for Learning and Development, Organisation Design and Organisation Development in the CIPD Learning Team
He says: “I am a fan of learning, and learning more about learning. So the fact I am in a job that is all about learning – well what is not to love! I have been with the CIPD for 7 years now and involved in some incredible projects all with the drive to support the L&D and the Organisation Design and Organisation Development communities. I left school at 16 with no real qualifications (an O’Level equivalent – CSE 1 in Maths- one to explain to those born in the 1990s!). The only job I could get was a postman – and had to join a ‘closed shop’ union whose headquarters are across the road from CIPD Towers in Wimbledon. There is something in that coincidence that appeals to me. I have had some real highs and lows in my career, one of the highs has to be being asked to co-author the 4th edition of ‘Learning and Development Practice in the Workplace’. Something that if you had told the 16 year old me, he would be convinced you was talking gibberish, people like me going to the school I went to were educated to be steel work fodder, in 1980, just before I left that all came crashing down. Outside of work I am a member of a running club – plodding the streets and open spaces around Doncaster, something that fuels the creative mind in me. I cannot wait for parkrun to start again – I just got my 100th one in before lockdown and was close to my 25th volunteering milestone.”
So, what do you do dear? Describe your work to an elderly relative.
I always start this with a bit of a deep breath, and something along the lines of “I commission, curate, design and sometimes deliver learning and development” there is usually a look of confusion at this point – to which I add “training” where a bit of a light bulb goes on, sometimes! My wife, kids and my mum all have no idea what I do, they tell people “something to do with training people and flying off all over the place”
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?
I have loved running ever since cross-country days at school. As a glasses wearer with a stigmatism I was never any good at ball sports, and a northern comprehensive was a brutal place for anyone who could not play football! But running, I really enjoyed that, being out in the open. As an adult, learning to run regularly again after a lengthy back injury has been sheer joy albeit frustrating at times and taken me out of my comfort zone at times but isn’t that the way with learning!
Enough already…What one thing do you wish people in your industry or profession would stop doing? (What gets your goat?)
If people say they ‘do Kirkpatrick evaluation’ – my cry is make sure you have read what Kirkpatrick says his four levels actually are and how they all started and evolved (Will Thalhiemers blogs are a good starting point for this point) – and PLEASE stop asking stupid questions on the reaction forms – like “was the trainer any good”. It is not the delegates role to rate the trainer – afterall – what other dept do you apply for a job, get performance managed/ appraised/ reviewed by your line manager in and then have to ask your users if you are any good at it – finance, purchasing, sales? No – so if you are an L&D line manager – take that off the forms. Also (on a roll now) if you have leadership and management programmes stop filling them with stuff leaders and managers don’t need like Maslows hierarchy of needs and do something with that time that will help them be brilliant people developers to drive organisation performance. If you HAVE to put something like Maslow or any other theory or model, then make sure you have read what the author really meant and share that, rather than a watered down third or fourth hand version that bears no resemblance to the actual work of the author. Oh, and don’t forget, PEOPLE KNOW STUFF ALREADY – start with that. I get really pissed when trainers start with what they know rather than what the group collectively knows!
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)?
The mantra of time away from the screen that has been getting louder and louder in some quarters certainly needs to be retained in whatever the future has in store for us. One of the joys of not commuting has been the ability to connect with my local community. I live in a cul-de-sac of about 25 houses. Most of us commuted, we never socialised beyond saying hello. Now we are arranging coffee catch ups and street events (we have a MacMillan fundraiser in the diary for later in the year already!). The ability to share with other professions on my doorstep has been invaluable.
From the good old days…What do you miss most about working life from the pre-COVID world? Do you think it will return?
Bumping into people in the coffee queue in the office building, and the coffee, and the croissants, and the people who served it, always a smile and a chat! Whilst the plans are for a more flexible return to our offices (and they are really exciting plans) I can certainly see the return of grabbing a coffee and croissant and a conversation a couple of times a month.
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)?
I am a huge fan of the Kermode and Mayo film review show, listening to the stories told by actors, directors and the hosts it is clear there is a wealth of insights that we can learn from the performing arts. For instance, Christopher Nolan on ensuring the complex three level stories in Dunkirk made sense and presented an overview of a real moment in time, not sugar coating it with tales of wives and girlfriends back home. The power of Joe Wrights one take Dunkirk scene in Atonement. Toby Jones discussing feedback to actors. Jason Issacs sharing the approach taken by Hotel Mumbai director Anthony Maras. All have powerful learning for L&D that can be applied to our design and delivery approaches (and I do not mean have a Hollywood budget!). Learning from this adjacent community is something I am exploring with another colleague – watch this space, there is so much more to come on this topic.
You know who would be great for this…Which famous person (live or historical) do you want to join your team and why?
So, I would pick Moya Docherty. Moya is the co-creator of one of the most successful dance theatre shows and will be celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2024. It has played to audiences around the globe. I am talking about Riverdance. It first got its TV airing as the interval act in the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest and has gone on to be a genuine global phenomenon. Moya is currently the Chair of RTÉ, the Irish national broadcaster and was Executive Producer of the 94 contest. The set was a stunning futuristic city landscape with a symbolic river flowing on the floor of the stage. She would bring tonnes of creativity to the team, and also planning skills (the 94 contest was the biggest at that time with the most countries competing at that time), her drive (Ireland had hosted in 93 and was the first country to host two years on the trot in its then 39 year history), her determination (Ireland won in 94 and she was adamant that it would host it again in 95) her vision (Riverdance grew from a 7 minute interval act to a 2 hour stage show) and she does not back away from difficult conversations (she had to tell the male star of the show that he would not be performing on the London stage).
If only I had…What did you learn from your most recent mistake?
Oh man, only one? I made a real mess of a product pricing strategy. When it dawned on me what I had done (totally messed up a basic multiplication sum when tired) I was mortified. My boss was very understanding – even sent me a message later in the day to check in with me. What I learned – well it was a reminder of something my dad said a lot when I was growing up, “measure twice, cut once” applies in lots of arenas!
There can be only one…Which one tool or piece of kit would you keep if you could only use one from now on?
Oh man, only one? I am an Apple convert (addict) and don’t even feel guilty saying it, so would have to be my iPhone.
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?
So this picture was taken on the second May Bank Holiday weekend 2021. My soon to be four year old Granddaughter took her first bicycle jaunt. She picked it up really quickly, a few mistakes along the way but picked it up. She asked a few questions (my favourite one was “why wont it go forwards when I pedal this way?” as she pedalled backwards!) Her mum, grandparents, aunt and uncle were all there to support, but she did the work. Her dad isn’t around, ever, it is not a perfect picture, but it works. This is our reality. And amazing learning happens in reality. My Granddaughter was buzzing for the rest of the day, eager to get back on the bike again and again.
My aim is to commission, curate, design and occasionally deliver learning and development that is as close to peoples reality that works, that gets people buzzing and eager to come back for more.
Where can we find you?