In a recent post, Johnnie Moore says,
"I can't bear most training offerings, especially those with confident lists of what you will learn. I like training to allow for messiness and surprise. Organisations find that a bit scary."
I agree wholeheartedly with his dismissive comment about "confident lists of what you will learn".
An up-front statement of so-called ‘learning outcomes’ might reduce anxiety – of learners and trainers alike – but it can’t determine what participants will and will not learn. Learning takes place in the context of all of the other things that are going on for individuals in the complex reality of their own ‘here and now’ existence. Often, some of the most important (that is, useful) knowledge that might emerge in or around a 'set-piece' event has nothing at all to do with its manifest purpose and content.
What we can say, though, is that meaningful (essentially conversational) interactions with others can spark new ideas, new experiences, new relationships, new possibilities, new skills, new frames, and so on. These can lead to personal and collective insights that open up new ways of seeing, thinking and acting, as manifest in new patterns of conversation. And, if the conversations change so will the organization – albeit in ways that can’t be predicted in advance.
So, despite their "What You Will Learn" statements, learning events can’t offer guaranteed outcomes. This might not fit neatly with the managerialist assumptions of predictability and control that dominate current management thinking and practice. But it is a reflection of how things are in the messy reality of everyday organizational life.