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3 Lessons that the Women’s Marches Hold for L&D Professionals

The Women's Marches across the country weren't just political events... they were a series of shining beacons on a hill for those in the training field!


On January 21, 2017, the day after the U.S. Presidential Inauguration, about a gazillion women, men and children took to the streets in cities across the United States and around the world, in order to make sure that their voices, although not represented by the incoming administration, could nonetheless be heard.

When the marching began, I was sitting in an airport in Nairobi, Kenya, traveling from one training program to another. I watched the images roll in on CNN and I listened to several people from Kenya, standing behind me, exclaim: “HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of people are marching?! Wow.” It struck me that there were some very real lessons that learning and development professionals could take away from this.

  1. There wasn’t a single PowerPoint slide. People’s voices were heard, messages were shared… and there was no PowerPoint involved! What was involved? Some mad flipcharting skills. The most effective signs people were holding were signs that they made in advance of the event, not on the spot. This is an important lesson for people putting together a presentation: prepare your flipcharts and visual aids in advance. Take your time. Be creative. And flipchart like the whole world is paying attention to your message!
  2. Be an example. When I spoke to some people in Zambia about our new president, I always ended my sentence with: “…and did you see the protests the next day?” They had indeed. And almost every single person said: “I had no idea that the US presidential election was so contentious. We just figured everyone in the US agreed with Trump.” The same thing happens in training rooms. People tend to accept the conventional wisdom – things like the “importance” of learning styles (fun fact: there’s no research to support the idea that better outcomes will result when you teach to people’s preferred learning style) or that people only remember 10% of what they read and 90% of what they do (fun fact: there’s no research supporting this, either). As L&D professionals, we need to stay current on the research (Will Thalheimer’s Debunker Club website is a great place to start) and stand up for the injustices of bad conventional wisdom in the training room!
  3. You’ve gotta have sticky notes at the ready! One of my colleagues sent me this article about a person in Atlanta who used sticky notes to better understand what’s happening and to learn more about individual motivations. When there’s a lot of people – either in a march or in a training room – it’s easy for individual thoughts and ideas to get lost. Asking individuals to jot down ideas, thoughts and opinions on a sticky note is such an easy way to make sure everyone is involved and accountable.

I believe every learning and development professional should be constantly on the lookout for inspiration to improve our craft, and that inspiration can come from anywhere.

Where was the last place that you found some inspiration to draw upon when it came to perfecting your learning and development craft?

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