Is Learning Obsolete?

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When I began working in learning and development many years ago, we didn’t call it learning and development, we called it training. But the word training became unfashionable – it suggested something directive, something given, rather than received. Over time, Training Managers became Learning and Development Managers. 

But did anything really change? I’ve been wondering today, if there’s not so much misunderstanding about the word learning, that we should stop using that too.

Let me explain, by recounting a moment from my accident prone childhood.

One day, whilst my mother was ironing in the kitchen, the telephone rang. Now, as I was brought up in the dark ages, 
when phones were attached to walls, and there was only one phone in the house, this meant a trip to the hall. Before she rushed off to answer the phone, Mum, for the millionth time, emphasised that the iron was very hot, and reminded me not to touch it.

Now I should emphasise that I wasn’t a toddler at this stage – just a youngish child of perhaps seven years (I don’t remember exactly). From my earliest days I’d been told that the iron was hot and that I must never touch it because I’d get burnt. You could argue that I’d been ‘trained’ never to touch the iron. You might even argue that by receiving this message repeatedly, I’d learnt not to touch it and I’d learnt that irons are hot.

In fact, I’d learnt absolutely nothing.

Yes, I’d been told, over and over, that the iron was hot. But now I was curious. How hot was hot? What would it feel like?  

So I touched it, in order to find out.

Which led to a moment of discovery

We don’t make learning happen by giving people information, even if we do repeat that information a lot. Learning, real learning, happens when we discover things for ourselves. That’s why we’re passionate about developing experiential training activities that provide a safe (no hot irons!) opportunity for participants to both test the effectiveness of their current behaviours, and identify for themselves areas for improvement. That’s why we’re passionate about the learner’s discoveries, not the trainer’s knowledge.

Next time you’re putting some training together, forget about Learning, and think instead about Discovery. And imagine the difference you could make to both people and organisations as a Discovery and Development Manager. 

As always, I'd love your feedback, thoughts and opinions on this blog so please do get in touch.

Rod Webb

About Rod Webb

Rod Webb

Rod is co-founder and Commercial Director at Glasstap® (, the company behind  Trainers' Library® ( and Managers' Library (

Rod has overall responsibility for the Glasstap brand and the day to day operations of the business.

Through its innovative Trainers' Library® service, Glasstap® provides trainers with easy access to its unique range of innovative, experiential learning materials, including detailed trainer's notes, handouts, participant briefs etc. The service is used by professional trainers in over 50 countries.

The recently launched Managers' LIbrary aims to help line managers become better at fulfilling their part in the leraning and development cycle providing loads of short training activities that can be used in team meetings and lots of self-development tools for the managers themselves.

Rod is the author of an extensive catalogue of experiental training materials, available through Trainers' Library®, which includes teambuilding games like Murder at Glasstap Grange and Jack Fruggle's Treasure. He now works with a team of authors who continue to develop new material for Trainers' Library and Managers' Library.

In his spare time, Rod enjoys creative writing, reading, walking, cycling and spending time with his horses and dogs. He's currently creating a new board game.


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By Mikee
27th Jan 2017 06:24

I am really like this article...

Thanks (1)

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