Real learning is a part of the work, not apart from it.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Learning's Battle Against Tradition

What if you presented a tool or process to the c-suite, something that would (not could) increase revenue, improve morale and increase efficiency? No doubt they would leap at the opportunity right?
Not quite...

I recently heard a story (Axe Bat Wins Converts, But Has To Overcome Baseball Traditionaliststhat immediately made me see parallels to innovations in organizational learning and performance. The story was about a modern innovation applied to the baseball bat, which has remained in its basic form for around 150 years.

 Felling Axe by タクナワン 
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0

Drawing upon the even older design of axe handles, the Axe Bat is more oval than the current cylinder style, similar if not identical to axes use in chopping wood, an efficient design used since neolithic times. The reporter explained that technology now allows us to easily craft a bat handle in any shape where in the past, using a lathe, round was the only option.  The proponents of the Axe Bat claim, like its wood chopping forefather, that it's more efficient, effective, and reduces injuries caused by the unnatural ergonomics of traditional bat handles. 

In essence the Axe Bat would help players and help the game.

Yet in face of this information and a readily available alternative, there are few takers. 

Sound vaguely familiar?  Read on...

Age old technique (social learning) made more apparent with advent of new technology (Web 2.0) can transform accepted practice (organizational learning) and challenge long held conventions (learning via formal only). 

In essence social media for learning would help employees and help the organization.

Ironically though, the same resistance the hinders an innovation for baseball exists for organizational learning. This resistance is of course 'Tradition'. The age old subconscious cry of "but this is how we've always done it." People want to stick with what is comfortable even in the face of new or better. With the Axe Bat, teams would try it in practice situations but come game time they returned to the traditional bat.  With social media, people readily use and support it in their personal lives but are resistant to it's use or promote it for learning in their professional ones.

Further reading of the story reveals the Axe Bat manufacturers are approaching increased adoption by doing the following:

1.  Focusing on the newest to the game. 
"just let them pick one, they'll pick [the Axe Bat] because it feels the best. It feels natural to you."
2.  Doing a lot of demos.
3.  Getting high profile endorsers.
"...get more high-profile endorsers as some of those college players turn pro."
4.  Believing. 
"we know we're going to overcome this (tradition)."

Sound vaguely familiar?  

If its social learning or innovative baseball bats, it's a slow road to change when faced with well entrenched tradition. 

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