training is a negative science

16 02 2007

like many other people, i’ve long kept a list of quotes that i find inspirational, insightful, or  just plan funny.  some are from famous names in history, other by common folk who just happened come up with a sound bite that made it far enough for me to see it, while others are contemporaries of ours who have great thoughts.

in this last category i’ve got a quote from jay cross that i lifted from a post of his on the internet time blog some time ago.  jay wrote:

"Training, like psychology, is inherently pessimistic. Both fields are built on a core belief that people are deficient or dysfunctional."

to be honest, it’s always struck me as odd that I put this one in my collection.  it is insightful for sure.  psychology,until recently, has determined what normal is by studying abnormalities.  particularly in the arena of how our brains work.  if sam has damage to a part of his brain and he can no longer add 1 + 1 and know that the answer is 2, then that part of the brain must be responsible for mathematical reasoning.  not surprising the number of things we were wrong about now that we can look at the brain’s activity during normal functioning via imaging technologies.  however, the positive psychology movement, led by respected researches like marty seligman, mihaly czentimihaly and barbara fredrickson along with neuropsychology’s discoveries is shaking the psychology world to it’s core.

training too is guilty of focusing on our deficiencies.  every major design and development model has some version of a needs analysis and most focus on identifying a learning or performance gap.  this gap is no less that an analysis of how deficient or incapable current employees are.  our job has been to fill that gap or at least create events that everyone agrees will be sufficient.  given the various studies that have been done, i’d guess that 50% of the time more the folks in the learning group have no idea whether their beautifully designed and developed program will be successful or not.  but it doesn’t really matter since most of the time the challenges will have changed and nobody will be held accountable.

so is there an equivalent to positive psychology in the learning world?  check out my next post for my answer.




One response

16 02 2007 - Positive Psychology Blog

Very much looking forward to your next post!

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