How to avoid being stagnant in your L&D role

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Written by Jo Cook on 26 September 2016

Stagnant river in Surrey, UK – Photo credit: Jo Cook

Sometimes I take a short morning walk before work, through some wooded areas. There’s a small stream that I always cross over as part of the walk and, recently, I’ve noticed it’s a bit stagnant. There’s no water movement and algae is starting to multiply. There are obvious issues to wildlife and the quality of the water with this lack of movement.

This made me reflect on our roles as L&D professionals. We need a constant flow of ideas, research and discussion in order to be fresh and create the best learning solutions for our organisations. We need the fresh oxygen in our personal streams so that we can support those around us with proven models of learning at work.

What has made the previously gentle movement of that stream stop? Is there’s something in the eco system that has caused this change? What if we are that stream in our organisation: if we are stagnant in our role are we doing the best professional job we can for ourselves, our learners and our businesses? Just like the stream trying to support wild life with a lack of oxygenated water, the answer is no.

If we are that stagnant stream we might have no control over our eco-system. We may work in an organisation where there is a very traditional view of training delivery and that any challenge to that status quo is met with negativity. We might be in a place where there is no development for ourselves as professionals and therefore we can’t offer the best, robust, modern learning solutions to our workforces.

We need to first recognise if we are in that situation. Are we doing the same things we’ve done for a while? Are we getting less than great results? Are there challenges that constantly stress us? Are we seeing or reading things that are very different from what we do? With some self-reflection, we might decide it’s time to dredge our own stream and freshen things up.

As to how to do that… so many ways! Short of moving to a different organisation that supports a different way of working, it depends upon your personal preferences and opportunities available to you. Places like TJ are an obvious starting point, as you are already here. Reading widely, about different approaches, different experiences and points of view are important to widen your thinking and reflection on your own work.

You also need to think about discussion and connecting with other professionals. Something like the TJwow webinars, which are entirely discussion based with no speaker presentation, are a great place to make connections, discuss with the experienced speakers and other attendees and develop your own thinking. There are also discussion websites such as the TJ forum, LinkedIn and Facebook groups.

You can connect with people easily on Twitter and see what they are linking to, discussing and asking. You can do a search for #PLN which is ‘personal learning network’, as often people use this when asking questions. If you are a lurker, whereby you like to observe before jumping in, see who offers suggestions and follow them.

The best way to develop your thinking is to get involved! You could even do something like start your own blog! It might sound scary, but there are so many approaches and so much support for people doing things in the open, often called ‘working out loud’ that you’ll probably be surprised.

There are also MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses, which often aren’t massive at all and often free. These can be on a range of learning and business topics and they can be an easy, way of expanding and updating your thinking, have sociable discussions online in small pockets of time that suits you, and finding other people whom you respect to include in part of your network.

There are many ways you can freshen up your own professional ecosystem, and I welcome you sharing some of your own in the comments below.


About the author

Jo Cook is deputy editor of TJ and an independent L&D specialist focusing on blended programme design and live online virtual classrooms. She can be contacted through her blog at and via Twitter: @LightbulbJo


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