10L: Robin Hoyle

About Robin

Robin is Head of Learning Innovation with Huthwaite International and Chair of the World of Learning Conference. He writes books and articles and makes videos for (among others) Learning Now TV.

So, what do you do dear?  Describe your work to a distant relative. 

I help people at work to do things better. Mostly by making things people get on the internet.

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 did a MOOC with Future Learn as part of my research for one of my books. It was about food security – that is, nothing to do with my day job but thing which greatly interest me – sustainability, science, growing things and food. It was incredibly instructive about how people can learn from one another and how some people don’t want to learn but want their preconceptions and beliefs to be endlessly reaffirmed. It informed my practice in ways I didn’t expect – not just the things I enjoyed, and gained a great deal from – but also the things which didn’t work for everyone. One thing that became very clear to me was that there are some folk who want learning to be easy, and are unable or unwilling to make the effort. They would rather reject everything than exercise agency and learn what they can from what is on offer.

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

One size fits all-ism: We have lots of ways of helping people to improve performance and capability. It doesn’t matter if we are advocating latest thinking around technology and AI or workflow learning or traditional talk and chalk, powerpoint sessions. The truth is none of these approaches are universally effective (though some are far less useful than they are believed to be by their advocates). The truth is a well thought through combination of different approaches built around the needs of the organisation, the resources available and the expectations and working culture of the folk whose performance we seek to enhance will always be more effective than some fixed idea of what good looks like.

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)? 

I think breaking the tyranny of learning = face to face classroom has been good and well overdue. There are those who seek to ‘go back to normal’ and that means classroom courses in order to tick some box somewhere, but the genie is out of the bottle and hopefully, won’t return anytime soon. Some people who were reluctant to move beyond the training = course paradigm, have thought differently, and had experiences which may have shifted their focus, but I am not naive enough to think that battle has been won. When we have government departments focused on skills, productivity and performance who still equate learning and skills development with being lectured at (because it looks like something is being done) then we still have an uphill struggle.

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

Little to be honest. I don’t miss commuting to work, that’s for sure and the coffee is better at home. I know I’m fortunate to be able to work predominantly from home and I can choose to go into the office when that’s required. Serendipitous creative chats that used to happen when someone came into my office or I wandered into theirs, are still missing. Even if you go to the office, not everyone is in at the same time so you don’t just bump into people and discuss things. I think we need to come up with ways of replicating or replacing those conversations.

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

I genuinely think that there are few industry groups who could have responded as well to the Pandemic, and the upheaval that caused, in a way which was as effective as many of those in L&D. I think many teams in our area of endeavour really stepped up to the mark. I’ve had the pleasure of working with dancers and theatre/TV people in the past and sometimes, the discipline, creativity and recognition of everyone’s contribution from those environments are things from which I think we can learn. I’ve also had a brief insight into the workings of professional kitchens and at the top end, the focus, attention to detail and pride in the collective output is something to behold.

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

I’ve always had tremendous admiration for folks who could hold an audience and use words to really have an impact so Martin Luther King would be someone I feel I could learn from. I think he would be someone who would inspire complete commitment from those around him.

In our world, there are a few people I’ve had the pleasure to meet who have the courage of their commitments and supreme confidence in what they are doing – John Amaechi spoke at the virtual World of Learning we ran during the Pandemic and he was inspiring and a genuinely nice person. I’d like him on board.

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

I travelled to the Netherlands to run a session in late 2021 when  the Pandemic was running down. It was not good. I was doing something I’ve done a million times before, but I’d not factored in that I hadn’t been in a room with a group for 2 years and to say I was rusty was an understatement.  It doesn’t matter how good you are (or think you are) preparation is everything. I needed to practice and be absolutely sure of what I was doing, but I was under prepared. Not a mistake I plan to repeat.

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

We use a collaborative platform which enables learners to access content and discuss their reflections on that content and share their experiences asynchronously. I don’t know how I designed learning activities without it so I’d like to keep that, please.

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?

This is my Grand Daughter making pickles. Note general level of chaos and sense of fun – learning needs this.

Young female child making pickles in a kitchen. She is using carrots and smiling.
Making pickles, of course.

Where can we find you?

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