Today and Friday we are going to look at the two fatal mistakes corporate training departments and training vendors make. And, “fatal” is not an exaggeration when discussing the many otherwise technology-smart people who come up with exciting ideas but drown in their own ocean of misguided premises.

I cannot begin to enumerate the number of great concepts and brilliant adaptations of technology that I have seen fail. For example, someone discovers how to use state-of-the-art technology in new and exciting ways. That excitement is quickly picked up by co-workers and friends.

“Isn’t this just the neatest thing ever!” “What learning challenges can be successfully addressed with my idea!” “Just wait ‘til they see this!”

With all this cheerleading reverberating everywhere — internally — investments are made, time is expended, and the new product emerges. Success is now only months away — because, of course, everyone who encounters this “latest and greatest” creation will want to buy it immediately!

Much, much too often success fades into the night — and the creations linger for awhile, burn up a lot of good-money-after-bad, and disappear.

WHY ???

Because the more important questions were not asked –- and the more important answers were not found.

Within training departments, success or failure resides in the ability to understand, motivate, and adapt the learning initiatives to the workforce to-be-trained.

Who are these people? How do they best learn? What motivates them? Etc., etc.

Your training initiatives, if successful, must fit inside their dominant learning culture. Management must tie promotions or pay increases to the training initiative. Etc., etc.

A modern example is e-Learning — the latest and greatest learning technology.

So, why do more than 65% of learners never complete an e-Learning course?

Easy answer. Because it was not designed with multiple-media embedded within the content but was built around words, sentences and paragraphs. Plus, in the uninformed cases, the training was not attached to a “what’s in it for me” strategy (promotions, pay increases).

With training vendors, it’s even more pronounced. The number of well-intentioned training entrepreneurs who have shown me their revolutionary technology creations — and, then moved forward without fully understanding the wishes and limitations of their customers and prospects — is large.

Two examples will suffice.

E-Learning brought out a lot of technology creators who believed they could incorporate the excitement of slick compressed video into their training. The products they created were excellent. However, they failed to thoroughly research their customers and prospects. Much too often, they based their “research” on one or two customers who had a need and said they’d buy it.

Voila! Good money after an embryonic idea was flushed.

The three limitations that doomed the commercial aspirations of these entrepreneurs were: a) the infrastucture within American industry did not allow the bandwidth necessary to play those video files; b) restrictions on internet access from within an American business was either limited or not allowed; and, c) many IT executives did not want compressed video files to slow down their important business networks.

I also knew an educational genius who created, after seven years of most diligent labor, the slickest assessment tool for “learning style” I have ever seen. For the first time, trainers and educators would be able to adjust their teaching to the individual learning styles present in their student population. It was sound academics, sound technology, and addressed a very real problem. All who saw the prototype were impressed. At tradeshows people were enchanted with the product.

But, no one bought it! Why? Because, there was no pressing need for knowing the individual learning styles. There was no way to practically connect the results to an affordable prescription. Theoretically, everyone thought it was a revolutionary product but no one could figure out a practical way to implement it.

Good ideas are a dime a dozen — it’s the premises that ought to be thoroughly examined!

The second “killer” on Friday – – – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder of ITC Learning