December 2016

Slideshare: Creating Sticky Learning to Combat Our Illusion of Knowing

How Much is Scrap Learning Costing Your Organization?

7 Ways to Boost Learning

What If Attendees Remembered Nothing from Your Event?


Conference Learning Scrap 
How much does your organization budget for professional development (PD) for employees? If you're like most companies, the average is about $1,250 per person. Back in 2005, budgets were $1,600 per employee. Over 50 percent is spent on internal training and tuition reimbursement programs, leaving very little share of wallet for external education providers to win.
Bean counters view PD as an expense. Growth-focused leaders see PD as an investment.
The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning authors coined the term "learning scrap" to describe the wasted time, effort and opportunity represented by education programming that was delivered but never used or applied on the job. Experts estimate that 50 to 80 percent of education programs are learning scrap.
Learning scrap and declining PD investment should sound off alarms that we as conference organizers really need to up our game. The path to raising the bar is to better link business outcomes with our education experiences.
To best accomplish this, don't ask your attendees what content they want or do a call for sessions. The better path is to interview their bosses (or their bosses' boss), to understand what the pressing priorities are for their business and team members. Do this with at least 20 progressive practitioner organizations for the meat and potatoes of your education experience. If you are able to help your attendees better compete, they'll view your education and learning as an investment vs. expense.
Happy holidays from the VCC team! 
anchor1Are You Producing 'Learning Scrap'?
The professional  learning field is changing drastically, disrupting conference -- and association--value propositions.Your education programs should be keeping pace.
Elliott Masie, a progressive leader in organizational and workforce learning, has addressed a "crisis in the learning field." "Many major organizations are reporting that as much as 70 percent of learning time and expenditures are being spent on programs mandated by compliance and regulatory requirements," he wrote. "Sadly, many of these programs do not really move the 'performance needle,' nor do they account for what employees already know."

The authors of The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning   coined the term "learning scrap" to describe the wasted time, effort and opportunity represented by education programming that is delivered but never used. The analogy is to manufacturing scrap--materials, labor, capital, and opportunity costs--wasted in producing products that fail to meet customers' expectations.


What's the number one issue facing the L&D profession today? Scrap learning. If you haven't heard the phrase yet, you will. 

Scrap learning describes the wasteland of learning that is delivered but not applied on the job. It's a critical business issue because it wastes money and time-precious organizational resources. 
Two benchmark research studies help put this issue in perspective. In 2004, Rob Brinkerhoff, professor at Western Michigan University, found that slightly less than 20 percent of learners never apply what they learn in a training program back on the job, and another 65 percent try to apply what they learned, but revert back to their old ways. Totaled this equates to a whopping 80 to 85 percent of scrap learning. 
anchor37 Ways to Boost Learning
Meetings are so overloaded with material that learning may be hurt more than it's enhanced. If you recall only one element of this article, may it be this: Less is more. As Jeff Hurt, EVP of education and engagement at conference consultancy Velvet Chainsaw, explains: "Forgetting is easy. Remembering is hard. The majority of conference education is counterproductive to learning. Lecture, panels of talking heads, debates, keynotes and verbatim note taking all create the illusion of learning. In reality, the gains attendees thought they had, disappear quickly."

What to do? Be a tapas bar, not an all-you-can-eat buffet. No matter the length of an event, we must get exceptionally rigorous about the two to three most important issues attendees are wise to know and recall. And no more, says Hurt. Design every agenda element around these top takeaways. Maybe the main segments are innovation, collaboration and 25 percent sales growth. Begin seeding these in opening keynotes, and intentionally review the three points as time unfolds during and in the days and weeks after. Aim higher. 


What's worse than remembering nothing from the event? If attendees learned something and can't apply it. Then they can't improve their job performance.

Learning comes before remembering.
Remembering comes before application. Customized contextual application comes before job improvements.

No learning. No job improvements.
No retention of learning. No job improvements.
No ability to customize the learning to their context. No job improvement.

What can conference organizers do to curb mimicry and parroting that lead to failed implementation? 


Learning professionals are constantly having to validate their department's worthiness. When business is booming and profitable, life is great. Management professes their devotion to their employees in every communication.

They increase training budgets and support new and innovative professional development programs.

However, as soon as business shows signs of slowing or profits start to diminish, training quickly becomes an expense instead of an investment--a luxury instead of a necessity--and is usually first in line for budget cuts.