A. For every one self-directed
learner there are four workers who will never spend a dime
on a learning related activity.
Some time ago, a leading market
research firm surveyed a cross section of managers and professionals
concerning their purchase of business information and education
Survey participants were randomly
selected and represented a mix of industries, job functions
and responsibility levels. They were asked to account for
all self-directed learning activities, whether they paid
personally or whether they passed the expense through to
The result was both a surprise
and a disappointment. Almost 80% of the survey population
couldn't remember purchasing any self-directed learning
offerings during the past 12 months -- not just seminars
and multimedia courses, but even including business books,
newsletters and magazines!
B. There is a tremendous amount
of self-directed learning going on, but it doesn't necessarily
represent a profitable business opportunity.
Most business individuals prefer
to learn on the job, by trial and error -- and through ad
hoc interactions with their peers. Brace yourself. Our research
suggests that these "unconscious" learners are every bit
as knowledgeable and successful as folks who sign up for
every seminar or course that passes their desktop.
Perhaps you can invent a learning
system that caters to people who want to learn on the fly
in a collaborative way. Perhaps you can even get them to
pay you for it. Otherwise, there is a vast "learning market"
out there that's just not available to you.
C. Corporations seem to be more
interested in developing their people than their people
are interested in developing themselves.
In our experience, self-directed
learners are more interested in purchasing what they want
than what they need. Who's most likely to purchase an introductory
course on business finance? The CFO! Who's most likely to
sign up for an assertiveness workshop? The pushy person
who dominates your department staff meetings! Perhaps self-directed
learners are looking for entertainment more than they are
seeking personal growth.
Corporations are always offering
courses to equip employees for expanded job responsibilities
down the road. Self-directed learners seem more oriented
toward emergency learning Band-Aid's to help them through
an immediate scrape.
When we ask individuals why they
haven't taken advantage of a self-directed learning opportunity,
they say: "I don't have the time", "I don't need to know
that", "my boss would never approve of that", "my company
would never pay for that." Yet, when we talk to the boss,
or the company person responsible for training, this point
of view is not substantiated.
RECOMMENDATION: While more and more
learning will be delivered in an individualized format, this
does not necessarily mean that individuals will be making
the decision to purchase it. Know where your bread is buttered.
RECOMMENDATION: Be sure any offerings
you market to self-directed learners promise an immediate
response to urgent job and career concerns.
RECOMMENDATION: If you want self-directed
learners to actually complete and benefit from your offerings,
emulate the ad hoc, collaborative learning environment they
prefer -- and top it off with a modicum of entertainment value.
RECOMMENDATION: Don't burn any bridges
with your training director friends just yet!