The “Real World” isn’t Simple

Originally posted on April 18th, 2007 by Pete | Edit

One of the biggest complaints we often hear when we design a modular curriculum is that it is too complex.

First of all, every job I have analyzed is pretty complex so why wouldn’t a comprehensive curriculum to capture and distribute that know-how be complex also?

But PLEASE!! Listen to conversations between people who perform the jobs, especially the best performers. If you are uninitiated, you will hear an incomprehensible barrage of jargon, minutae, exceptions, esoteric rules, and assumed understanding of advanced technical concepts. Nothing wrong with that…in fact, you would hope that, after doing a job for a long time in “the big leagues” (i.e., large corporation) you would be an advanced professional. The question is, why ask people doing the training job to keep everything in layman’s terms? Even worse, in terms everyone can relate to from grade school?

The bottom line is that, when you analyze a job, you find that practitioners have a great deal of know-how. When you pile it up in one place, it looks overwhelming. But, they didn’t learn it like that any more than a company learns how to make transmissions or medicines or control systems in one month. That know-how is accumulated over time. But, if you were to try to start a competitive organization in a mature industry today, you need to identify and collect as much of that know-how right away. It would be an immense task so you wouldn’t try to do it in one or two months.

An effective strategy for building capability (e.g., curriculum, knowledge management system, competency system, etc.) has to deal with the complexity that is there in the “real world.” Technology always changes. People have widely varying natural capabilities and interests and backgrounds. Capability can be conveyed to an individual through formal training, on-the-job coaching, unguided experience (i.e., trial and error), by reading, and through tools (like references). That ends up being a large number of decisions so it does get complex. Unless you have a process for working through those decisions, it is easy to get lost and frustrated and, then, to decide that ”it should be easier.” Maybe it would be nice if it was, but it isn’t. 

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