Podcast 185 — Back to the future: Insights from the latest Learning Health Check

This week, we dig into our latest research report — Back to the Future: Why Tomorrow’s Workforce Needs a Learning Culture.

Written by Ross Dickie
Published 10 March 2020
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Podcast 185 — Back to the future: Insights from the latest Learning Health Check

This week on The Good Practice Podcast, Ross Dickie is joined by Owen Ferguson and Gent Ahmetaj.

In the episode we discuss:

  • the purpose of the Learning Health Check
  • the top-line takeaways from the report
  • the practical implications for L&D
Gent

Close enough, bro. But I would say 99% people say that as Ahmetai, Ahmetai. But you can say Ahmetaj. Yeah. You can say Ahmetaj

Ross Dickie

Hello and welcome to The Good Practice podcast from Emerald Works, a weekly show about work performance and learning. I'm Ross Dickie. And this week for digging into our latest research report, Back to the Future: Why Tomorrow's Workforce Needs a Learning Culture. I'm joined as usual by Owen Ferguson

Hello, Owen

Owen

Hello, Ross

Ross Dickie

Along with one of the report's authors, Gent Ahmetaj, who is a senior researcher at Emerald Works

Hello, Gent

Gent

Hey there, Ross

Ross Dickie

How did I do with the pronunciation?

Gent

You did very well.

Ross Dickie

Excellent. Off to a good start.

So Gent, I'll start with you. Could you get us started by just explaining what exactly the Emerald Works Health Check is and what it offers L&D practitioners. Maybe touch a little bit on where Towards Maturity, as it was formerly, now sits within the Emerald Works brand

Gent

Yeah. Cool. Of course.

So in general, the Learning and Development Health Check, the Learning Health Check as we call it, is the best way for organizations to benchmark their learning strategy against their peers internally, against their market, competitors, et cetera, right? And it's essentially an in-depth diagnostics tool that goes into several areas, multiple areas, things like technology, budget forecasts, behaviors, strategy in practice, perceptions, et cetera

In terms of the history side of it... So it was kind of born out of a government-funded project in 2003. And the aim was to better understand e-learning in the industry. And then it kind of mutated to a much more larger understanding of organizational learning within the industry. So 15 years of experience, 15 years along the way, and here we are, as a large group, Emerald Works. Still kicking it, still alive

Owen

Yeah. So I mean, would it be fair to say that if you break it right down, the Learning Health Check is... It's a benchmarking tool, as you said. It allows an L&D function to see how its activities and their outcomes compare with other organizations. It basically allows you to answer the question, ""How does what we deliver compare with other organizations, and how do the outcomes that those activities achieve compare with other organizations?"

Gent

Absolutely. Yeah. Specifically also in their industry, in their organizational size, in their region

Owen

Yeah. And so the... Well, this year's report... An introduction, the objective that we set out is to aim to find out how corporate learning is holding up as we enter a new decade of work. If we were to give a brief summary of the sort of top line takeaways, what conclusions can we draw? What would people expect to find in the report if they haven't read it already

Gent

I will try my best to summarize this lengthy, lengthy report

So just to begin with, it's based on a thousand-plus organizations that have participated in this year's study. We also take insights from what we call our learner intelligence, our learner voice. This is 10,000-plus individuals that have essentially provided us data with what they do in the organization in terms of learning. When they learn, how they learn, what kind of preferences they have in terms of resources, et cetera

I would say there are maybe three kind of top-level conclusions that we've come to for the report.

The first one that is in the last decade, L&D has had, in a way, a scatter-gun approach, seeking to achieve many things, but ending up with too many fronts to cover in the majority of cases. And as a result, there is what we have termed essentially a negative balance. That is why investments have increased over time, particularly in the digital technology section, so as a percentage of the budget overall. The impact hasn't followed suit, and this is due to multiple reasons, as I said

So the first one being the kind of scatter-gun approach. But also other reasons include a lack of future-oriented capabilities, such as deep data analytics. And we see this even with previous studies that we've run, but also external studies, showing that Learning and Development functions very rarely base their decisions on analyzing the problem first. It's more reactionary rather than progressive in that sense. Other capabilities include knowledge management and technology infrastructure, how to manage the knowledge stock of the organizations more effectively to make sure that you are future-oriented and future-focused, especially with the pace of change

In another kind of like overview of what the second conclusion is, is that there are some organizations that are kind of bucking the trend as we refer to it. These are essentially what we call the Top Deck, the top 10%, more recently the high-performing learning cultures, because we are focused more on the cultural side now. From these organizations, I mean, we learn what many of us already know or knew, which is innovation in culture trumps innovation in digital. And that doesn't necessarily mean that we don't need to use digital. It just means that we need to take into a contextual kind of approach where, ""What is the context telling us? And is technology needed? And what kind of technology is needed to solve the problem in the first place?"

So we see this with Top Deck. And we've had conversations, Owen, a couple of times where we've looked at what is the spending of Top Deck in comparison to the rest of organizations. And I think you were quite surprised to see, Hey... Actually Top Deck seem to be spending less. They might be spending a bit more on technology as a proportion, but they spend less in comparison to other organizations. And in a way, for me, that doesn't surprise me too much because I've been too close to the data in many... In most of the cases. And what that tells me is that they focus more on the behavioral-chain side of things, rather than ""What can money get me?"", it's more to do with ""How best can I spend this? How can I utilize this money as much as possible within my context to increase or create behavioral change?"

Owen

Yeah. Those things do seem to be kind of linked in that... So you talk about the scatter-gun approach. And one of the things that we ask in the Health Check is... I think there's 50-odd items. We ask, ""Are these a priority? And to what extent have you achieved this, your outcomes against this priority?"" And there are a lot of priorities. I mean, you look across a piece and everything appears to be a priority. And if everything's a priority, nothing is a priority. So, there is a question of focus there. And the other side of it, the cost side of it is, it's not... It doesn't appear to be a budget thing. Organizations with equal budgets, equal spends, sort of parent-employee spend, are getting very different results from what they're doing. And these sort of high-impact learning cultures seem to be achieving an awful lot more, not just a little bit more, but an awful lot more from the money that they are investing

Gent

And they're not essentially perfect either because even these organizations are failing to do certain things like focusing on wellbeing and stress management. They are just kind of getting to grips with these areas. But nonetheless, they do go way beyond than the average organization. And I mean, this is more to do with also their focus is more depth rather than breadth. So while they are looking at several priorities, they will focus more. They also are much more likely to keep up to date with the latest research, whether it is in learning theory or just management theory. They're also more likely to exploit digital technologies for, not just business advantages, but also understanding how their people learn, re-learn and unlearn, which is becoming much more increasingly important, especially in this pace of change

Owen

So, and that's interesting. Because I think there's been a kind of assumption that being interested in the practice of L&D and keeping on top of trends and following the science, that that should lead to better results. But what you're saying is yes, the organizations that are achieving actual positive outcomes are keeping on top of trends

Gent

It's similar to the technological organizations. You need to keep up to date with what is going on in the market mainly so that you are not... Essentially, you're not creating inertia within your organization. If you're not boundary-spanning, if you're not extending the knowledge stock of your organization, you cannot compete in this environment, nowadays especially. And so as a result, this is not something that just other parts of the business will do. It's also Learning and Development that needs to do this. They need to boundary-span. Rather than focus on only what they are good at, they also need to focus on something that they may not be too good at

And this kind of brings me onto the last point, which is the changing landscape of work is quickening, there's no doubt about it. And as a result of this, when we look at it simultaneously with the decline, the slow decline of impact that Learning and Development is having, it just shows that the traditional expectations of business leaders, traditional expectations within the organization of Learning and Development, is holding them back to make sure that they are in line with what is happening outside of the organization. And as a result, loads of things are unfolding

I mean, we talk about this just a bit, but we don't pretend to know what is going to happen in the next 10 years. We look at scenarios that may happen. But what we do know is that this pace of change is going to completely continue. And individuals, and the way they learn, is changing drastically. I mean, we talked about this in 2015 when we were writing about the Consumer Learner, and now it's a bigger thing now. The fact that the individual decides themselves to go beyond the boundaries of the organization to learn something new begs the question, ""What is L&D's role in today's society? And are organizations ready, and do they have the absorptive capacity to ensure that whatever people are learning beyond the boundaries, they can actually bring back into the organization?"

Owen

So, Gent, one of the things that you mentioned there is the decline in impact. And something that comes through in the report is that, taken as a whole and especially if you exclude the kind of these high-impact learning cultures, the Top Deck, that impact is declining. And also that certain capabilities appear to be declining as well. So one of the things that we pick out is data analytics and skills to do with creating blended programs. I guess a question for me is how much of that is L&D functions coming to more of a realization that their impact isn't as good as they thought it was? Because this is a self-reported survey. So to what extent is it that the respondents are perhaps being more critical of themselves than they were in the past, as opposed to actually L&D's impact is in decline

Gent

I think it's actually both. I think it's, one, coming to the realization that actually data analytics is not just me looking at a spreadsheet and giving you some numbers. And that in itself is maybe a descriptive analysis of what is going on. But now the demand of the business is increasing, and so there's these two simultaneous forces, one being, ""Oh my God. I actually didn't think that data analytics is going to be this big."" And, two, the expectations are higher, that they are coming to the realization that maybe we weren't as far ahead as we thought we were. And this is something that we looked at in 2017 when we did a survey on how L&D are using data. And we found that in the majority of cases, they collect loads of data. They collect, I mean, data on completion rates, on activity, on... Very little on behavior, but mainly matrixes, actual numerical matrixes. And in the majority of cases, about 61%, if I remember right, was to do with, ""What is the description of the data?"

And we went down to levels. We thought, ""Okay, you do descriptive data. Do you do any kind of more like modeling maybe? Or like behavioral analysis or regressions or correlations?"" And only one in 10 organizations, so about 10%, actually did that, actually did something with their data. And this just goes to show that there is this trend, ""Oh, you need to collect data, you need to have data"", but in the majority of cases, these departments and these parts of the business collect data without having a particular reason to do so and a particular problem to solve. And therefore it goes under-utilized

Owen

So the level of sophistication is relatively low. But I guess the more that you hear about it at conferences, people are talking about it, it's appearing in publications, I think that... Or I'm wondering to what extent is the fact that we're raising awareness of how much more could be achieved, and more and more people are saying, ""Ah, I didn't even realize that was possible or that people were actually doing it. And therefore, where I thought I was isn't as advanced as I now think it is."

Gent

Yeah, it is very likely, Owen. It is very likely. I mean, we had the largest sample this year than any other previous year, it almost doubled in size. And so with that breadth of sample come also most likely a kind of like an averaging of the scores. And as a result, we can see, one, data analytics going lower. Why? Because L&D are becoming more aware of, ""I did not know I could do this"", or, ""Wow, this is way more complicated than I actually realized"", or ""I need to actually harmonize my data across different parts of the business to make conclusions or insights that are least actionable or practical, that I could understand."

Owen

And just to be clear, I mean, we're talking about data analytics here, but actually this is true across multiple kind of capabilities that are... That L&D functions are looking to develop in

Gent

And just to add to that actually, Owen, we kind of go into a bit more about the blended approach area because blended approach is quite a broad term. And in many cases we don't really know, ""What do we mean by blended?"" What does that actually include? And so we broke that down, that question down into... Here are six, seven approaches to learning in a sense of how do you deliver it, and then we looked at it across 22 skills group, things like leadership and management, induction, onboarding, et cetera. And I mean, we found that, in the majority of cases, and we defined blended as an approach... A learning kind of program delivered in three-plus approaches, as in three different mediums. So things like classroom, online and maybe through a social network as well, or through mentoring, on the job and et cetera

And we found that leadership and management induction are kind of like the top blended approaches. And everything else is done in a much more linear fashion. So things like industry-specific compliance, mainly done through one approach, one medium. And we know that blended approaches have much more impact. We know this from the learner intelligence sites, from 10,000 people telling us, ""If I did this course and I did it through different mediums, the likelihood I would apply what I know is much higher and I'm much happier as a result of it."

Ross Dickie

I mean, yeah. One of the things that stood out to me generally in the report was L&D's perception of itself. So as we've talked about, this sort of like seeing an increasing number of areas as priorities for L&D to focus on, but also sort of lure confidence in the impact that they're having in those areas. But then also in the way that they are... They perceives themselves and their learner... And the way that their learners perceive them

So this idea that L&D generally... I can't remember the exact figures, but L&D generally seems to see itself as not taken that seriously by the business. And that the only way learners will learn is if we intervene, it's this learning intervention, and force them to sort of do a course or something, they're not actively going to seek out learning opportunities. But what the report showed was that's actually not the case. And it's actually a high proportion of learners say that they will seek out learning opportunities, even if they are not given to them

Yeah. I just wondered what your take was on that part of the report?

Gent

We've been saying this for quite some time now, is the disconnect between what the Learning and Development professional and strategist perceives learning to be in the organization versus what the manager is doing and what they perceive, versus what the individual is doing and what they perceive. And in the majority of cases, there is quite a big disconnect between these three factions in a sense, even though they're not factions, but these three levels of the organization. The higher the disconnect is, the less likely there is impact because you have discontentment. If I say, ""I have a Learning and Development plan"", or if I'm managing, I say, ""I discuss Learning and Development plans with my team all the time"", and my team says, ""Actually, no"", I only discuss it once a year, this disconnect between perceptions makes sure that the context is not tailored to learning. The context is not facilitative of learning

The individual doesn't see it as a safe space. There is no psychological safety. There is no culture of feedback. And as a result there is... It is unlikely to thrive in a sense. And similar to the Learning and Development strategist, they see managers as not doing anything, right? Or they see them as a barrier rather than as a champion. And this creates friction of course. I guess it's normal in every organization

Owen

Yeah, I guess... And we've talked before about how the word ""learning"" can come with some kind of implied context, learning seen as education, as opposed to perhaps a more holistic view that we might have. And so I guess that's an interesting area to dig into, is to what extent are L&D trying to transition to a more holistic view and start focusing more on performance rather than just learning as education? And to what extent are employees and managers actually... They do like learning as education. They see it as some kind of reward mechanism or it's something to help them get on with their career, or they're looking for certificates. To what extent is there that kind of tension

Gent

I think in the majority of cases where we've worked with organizations a bit more deeply, we found that the tension is quite high. That it's very rare that within an organization, the managerial team has a very similar understanding of learning and what is happening with the organization in terms of learning, versus what the individual says in that team or within that department. And that's mainly to do with, one, things like what is learning for them, as you said, Owen, is quite different to what the person is saying. So from an L&D perspective, let's say the L&D strategist is thinking a bit more broadly. ""I need to integrate this technology, I need to integrate this LMS, or I need to facilitate these programs and I need people to go on them."

Whereas the individual is thinking, ""I need to access this knowledge as quickly as I can to do what I need to do at the point of what I need to do."" Right? And if these two are not aligned, because you can have both, but it's just... It depends on the timing and the context. If you don't have these two, then you're going to have a lack of capabilities, a lack of growth. And we see this, between what the learning strategist believes is happening and what the learner believes is happening. Very simple stuff. For example, the Learning and Development strategist will say, ""Our resources are not actually that easy to access."" Only about, let's say, three in 10 organizations say, ""We ensure that our resources are easily accessible and easily found"", right? From a learner perspective, they say, ""Actually, we can't find what we need"", or, ""It's uninspiring learning content."

And this is due to the fact that the layer of Learning and Development at times doesn't even involve learners in the design of learning or how they prefer to do things, at what time they prefer to do things. Is it on the way to their work? If most of your people are learning on the way to their work, then you might need a mobile app or you might need some form of accessibility for that. If you're not listening, then obviously there will be discontent. And there will be, in a way, a lack of engagement, which is completely normal. If they don't know what's available, how will they ever get on it, essentially

Owen

And you mentioned... One of the things you mentioned there was involving employees in the design of stuff that will help them. And one of the interesting things I think in the report is when you start looking at the kinds of things that the Top Deck organizations are doing, that other organizations are not, it is exactly that kind of thing, that they are being incredibly employee-centric in terms of what they're designing and how they're designing it

Gent

They're being proactive. I mean, we know that Top Deck organizations are more proactive in understanding their people, when they prefer to learn, how they access learning also. In general, they look at behavioral aspects of learning. So for example, we know that psychological safety is incredibly important for learning. If you do not provide a space for individuals to make mistakes, fail at times, and reflect, you will not have that culture of learning that you desire, even though you may push many things for it forward. Even if you implement some form of technology that allows to collaborate, if you don't have a safe space for that, it will not give you the desired effect. They focus much more on the build-up of culture, and then supplementing that with different forms of either digital technology or tools, rather than vice versa, trying to implement technology and then building the culture around that

Ross Dickie

Yeah. I think one of the interesting things as well is, I mean, the whole thing about engaging with learners. That can seem like a daunting task and it's like, ""Oh, I need to have some sort of technological way of evaluating how the learners are engaging with our content and tracking all their usage. And where are they clicking, where are they not?"" But you could also just speak to them. It can just be as simple as having a conversation

Gent

Have a little sit down.

Ross Dickie

Exactly. So I think... One of the center phrases in the report was ""We need to do less, better."

Gent

Yes.

Ross Dickie

Yeah. And just sort of, not necessarily getting distracted by shiny things, but focusing in on sort of doing a few key things very well and kind of

Gent

Stopping the scatter-gun approach.

Ross Dickie

Yeah. Yeah, exactly

There's quite a lot of conversation going on on social media, around the report. And there's particularly... It was a thread that I noticed on LinkedIn, it was posted by Mike Bedford, where he particularly, I think, was interested in the idea of the... Sort of the report was advocating a revolution. I think that the particular phrase he was looking at, he was looking at ""a revolutionary approach to data"", but there are different opinions on this in the thread... We'll link to the thread in the show notes. But I just... I wonder how much you'd agree with that... The sentiment of that. Sort of more broadly, that L&D needs a revolution, or is it more about incremental change over time and sort of small steps that we can take

Gent

I actually saw another post on LinkedIn. I can't remember exactly who it was, but they essentially said, ""Look, data analytics is not a new thing."" It's not something that we need to get started now. It's we're so far behind that now it's a thing of we literally need to up-skill ourselves very quickly to get on with what, for example, marketing is doing, or even HR. The analytics that they employ are amazing in comparison to sometimes what we use and how we measure certain things. And yeah, a report without saying ""revolution"" is what reports is that? We have to say ""revolution""

But genuinely speaking, there needs to be some drastic changes. And there's going to be some friction mainly because of traditional expectations. L&D is maybe seen as more transactional, right? You need to do this and you need to provide this. But new trends and new ways of doing things they need to be... You need to overcome these frictions in order to have at least success in this day and age

Owen

I think what I see as a positive step is a more frank evaluation of where we are right now. And so with that comes to the desire to improve. So I wouldn't paint it all as doom and gloom. And actually I wouldn't necessarily say that we need to get to the level of sophistication of marketing, for example, overnight. I mean, the reason why they've had to adopt increasingly sophisticated and volume-led data approaches is because they've plucked off all the low-hanging fruit. I think that are a number of simpler data analysis techniques that will lead to significant improvements, but not... One of which is just simply getting to understand how people in your organization are actually learning right now. Let's not try and work against the grain too much. If your organization is successful, but your learning function isn't necessarily high-performing, then people are probably learning on the job perfectly well. The question is, how do you optimize that

Gent

And also, I mean, in most cases, people see data and analytics as more quantitative, statistical. And that can be daunting in most cases, words like regression and correlation. And all these words, they can be daunting. But actually you can use qualitative data, it's as valid as quantitative. It just looks at a different perspective on the phenomenon. In our case, we... In this report particularly, we've used qualitative data to look a bit more about the pain points because we thought.. Looking at it quantitatively allows us to have a high-level overview of what is happening in the industry. But what we're also more interested in is, is what are the actual authentic views of the individuals on the ground, the strategies on the ground, dealing with? What are they dealing with

And those data points are much more contextual. They're much more... I would say that we don't aim for reliability and generalizability, we aim for authenticity and understanding, right? And that can help organizations propel themselves, mainly because they understand their context much more better. And it's no... I mean, for me, it was surprising, but obviously it is unsurprising for people that have been in this industry for five to 10 years, the barriers that we have today, the pain points that we have today, are extremely similar to what we had 10 years ago or five years ago. Traditional expectations, pace of technological change, overwhelmed and under-equipped as a function. I mean, these are most departments really. It's something that happens in most departments. It's just, I suppose, how these are tackled that really matters

Ross Dickie

Yeah. I think that's probably a good point to move on to What I Learned This Week. We're at 30 minutes.

Is there anything either of you want to say about the report that you have not had a chance to say so far?

Gent

Go read it.

Ross Dickie

Emeraldworks.com. We will put a link in the show notes.

Owen

Yeah. Yeah. It's a great point that there is something for everyone there. I mean, one thing I say is, ""Don't look at the results in isolation without applying your own context there."" And the Health Check itself is an excellent starting point, but you really do need to have a think about what those results mean for you within your organization. And the other thing that I would mention is that the Learning Health Check is free to complete. So you can go through... And the number of people that have told me that they've had value simply by being asked the questions that they might not have thought of is incredible. So it's a really useful exercise to go through

Gent

Just to add Owen's point actually is, is we always recommend multiple sources of information. So the Health Check is just one point of information. You should also have, as Owen said, contextual information, your business information, collate all of those together, and you'll have a holistic view of organizational learning, I guess

Ross Dickie

Okay. So we'll move on now to our regular feature, What I Learned This Week. We each share something we've picked up in the past seven days

Owen, do you want to get us started

Owen

Well, I mean, how could I not mention Coronavirus

Ross Dickie

How could you not?

Owen

It's all I have been-

Ross Dickie

I had a feeling that you might.

Owen

It's all I have been learning about.

Actually this is a part recommendation. I've learned an awful lot, actually for quite some time, by following our science journalist called Tom Chivers, formerly our Science Director for Buzzfeed. And it might make some people think, ""Oh right. Is he any good?"" But he is excellent. And his Twitter feed is a constant source of just interesting stuff, but obviously he's been writing and commenting about the Coronavirus. And something that I think he brought to my attention, that I hadn't actually necessarily noticed until he raised it, was for all that the virus is now very much in this spread here, it has practically stopped it's spread in China itself. So, where it kicked off, actually the somewhat drastic, perhaps draconian, approaches that China has adopted to slow it's spread has result in it, not completely, but almost completely leveling off in terms of its growth. And I just thought that was quite remarkable, considering that it was increasing 25%... The infection numbers were going up 25% every day in sort of late January, early February. And now they are plateauing

Gent

Damn.

Ross Dickie

That is interesting. Yeah. No, I think especially because as it has reached Europe where we live, the media is naturally, suddenly much more interested in what's going on in Italy and outbreaks in the UK and that sort of thing. And China's kind of fallen off of the mainstream media agenda because it's sort of old news now that the Coronavirus is there. So it's interesting to sort of unpick some of that

Gent, what did you learn this week

Gent

I was dreading, a bit, this question. I was like, ""What do I have to say that is interesting?"

All right. So I've been reading this guy called Edward Bernays. He's really cool. He's basically known as the father of Public Relations, right? He was Freud's nephew as well. And he used to be hired by large organizations, presidents, to try and change public perceptions. He wrote specifically on propaganda and how to form public opinion. And there's this one case, which I found fascinating, to do with tobacco. So in the 1930's, 1940's, America was mainly... Kind of like people in America were mainly smoking because of men. So men were smoking mainly in America, so 50% of the essentially selling popula... They wanted to sell to was only smoking, whereas women weren't smoking. So 50% of the market was not smoking. So they went to Edward and they said, ""Look, Edward. We have a problem. We need to have market penetration with women. How are we going to make them smoke?"

So Edward, he went around... He went to a psychoanalyst and he said, ""Look, how are we going to change perceptions here? How are we going to work through this?"" And the psychoanalyst said to him, ""Well, cigarettes are a form of power, right? They're a form of dominance for men. The act of smoking is domination. So if you were to find a way to switch that and make it empowering for women, you'll be able to change public perception."" Right? Okay. So he went back and he said, ""Okay, this is how I'm going to do it."" There was a carnival in America. And what he did is he hired nine models, really beautiful women, all dressed in the same way. And he told them, ""Look, you're all going to stand in a row. And while you're walking, I'm going to give you a signal and you're going to do something for me."

Simultaneously, he spoke to these journalists and he said, ""Look, guys. Something major is going to happen today. Torches of freedom are going to be lit. Please watch out."" And so he gave the signal to the women and as the women were all marching, they all reached kind of like under... Not under their skirts, but it was... I don't know what they're called, the things on the legs

Ross Dickie

I think you may be asking the wrong people.

Gent

Yes, yes. Nonetheless. So they pulled out cigarettes and they lit these cigarettes and, out of nowhere, cigarettes became an empowerment movement. Women smoking cigarettes became an act of rebellion and freedom. And that was fascinating. And I thought, ""Wow, how did he do that? That is genius."

Owen

Also, it sounds somewhat evil

Gent

Very evil, very evil, but absolutely genius. How can you..

Owen

Is that from a book, did you say

Gent

Yes, it's called Crystallizing Public Opinion. There's loads of examples of these kind of things. It's fascinating

Ross Dickie

Nice. Yeah. We'll post the link to that in the show notes as well.

So my What I Learned This Week... I was recently in Chicago, and while I was there... One thing I've wanted to do for a long time, or it's a goal that I've wanted to achieve for a long time, is to complete a marathon. Chicago Marathon is in October. And I thought, naively perhaps, that I would be able to sign up for this in February. It's months away, it'll be fine. It turns out I am already months too late. I needed to do it in December last year. So I'm now trying to think of where else I could do a marathon. But I was talking to my fiance's uncle, who's a keen marathon runner, about the fact that I want to do it. And he was like, ""Oh, do you know where the name 'marathon' comes from?"

And I actually did know this. So this is for... Do you guys know?

Gent

No idea.

Ross Dickie

Owen will know.

Gent

Yeah.

Ross Dickie

So basically, it was the first marathon... Well, so Marathon is a town in Greece. It's roughly 26 miles from Athens. And the story goes that in, I think it was 480 BC, Pheidippides, who was a soldier, ran the distance from the battlefield back to Athens to announce that the Persian army had been defeated and shortly thereafter he collapsed and died. And so that is where the name ""marathon"" comes from

The thing that I didn't know though, was why the modern marathon is 26.2 miles, rather than just a round 26. Do you know this one as well, Owen

Owen

No.

Ross Dickie

So apparently this goes back to the 1908 Olympics in London, when the route for the race was from Windsor Castle to White City Stadium. And that was pretty much bang on 26 miles. However, in order for the race to finish in front of the Royal Box, an extra 385 yards was added to the race inside the stadium

Gent

Of course.

Ross Dickie

Yeah. And so, Yeah, that kind of stuck. It didn't apparently... It took, I think, another 15 years for that to be accepted as the standard. But yeah, another thing I didn't appreciate was that, of the first seven modern Olympics, I think six of the marathons were over different distances. They didn't really care what the distance was so long as everybody had to run the same distance. So..

Gent

Wow.

Ross Dickie

Yeah. I will update you on whether or not I do actually sign up for... To complete a marathon.

Gent

Please do, Ross

Ross Dickie

But yeah, some interesting facts about marathon-running

And that's all for this week. If you'd like to share thoughts on the show, you can find us on Twitter. I'm @RossDickieEW. Yes, that's a new Twitter handle to reflect our brand change and should be much easier than my old one. Owen is..

Owen

@owenferguson.

Ross Dickie

And Gent is...

Gent

I think, @GentAhmetaj. Which is very hard

Ross Dickie

That's probably the original. Yeah. I can't imagine there's more than one.

You could also tweet at Emerald underscore Works. To find out more about what we do here at Emerald Works, including our performance report tool-kit, custom e-learning and LMS, as well as all of our previous research, visit emeraldworks.com

If you've enjoyed the show, please leave us a review on iTunes, or simply recommend it to a friend

Thanks for listening. Bye for now.

If you're interested in reading the report for yourself, you can download a copy at: https://emeraldworks.com/resources/research-and-reports/strategy/back-to-the-future

The LinkedIn thread about the need for an L&D 'revolution' can be found at: https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn%3Ali%3Aactivity%3A6636178119965454336/?actorCompanyId=468788

Tom Chivers' Twitter feed, including his thoughts on COVID-19, can be found at: https://twitter.com/TomChivers 

Gent's book recommendation was Crystallizing Public Opinion by Edward Bernays, and it can be found at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Crystallizing-Public-Opinion-Edward-Bernays/dp/1684113040/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3QA437F7TFVD1&keywords=crystallizing+public+opinion&qid=1583836784&sprefix=crystalizing+public+opinion%2Caps%2C234&sr=8-1

Gent Ahmetaj

Gent Ahmetaj

Senior Researcher, Emerald Works

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Ross Dickie

Ross Dickie

Learning Experience Designer, Emerald Works

Ross has been working in L&D since 2015 and is a key member of the instructional design team at Emerald Works. Most of his time is dedicated to writing articles, scoping infographics and contributing to video projects.
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Owen Ferguson

Owen Ferguson

Product and Technology Director, Emerald Works

A self-confessed nerd, Owen is passionate about taking an evidence-led approach to developing digital products that solve real-world problems. He is also a regular on our weekly podcast.
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About the author

Ross Dickie

Ross Dickie

Learning Experience Designer
Ross has been working in L&D since 2015 and is a key member of the instructional design team at Emerald Works. Most of his time is dedicated to writing articles, scoping infographics and contributing to video projects.

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