It’s time for disruptive learning.

We are in need of more and more disruptive innovation, whether in learning and development or performance improvement. We need disruptive strategies that makes us strive harder, grow, think strategically, lead our own path and hack growth. We are inundated with structures and dated information, which sometimes hinders our progress. We’ve become rigid with our thinking not only at work but in life, and it’s time un-think and bring in the disruption. My guest blogger today, Shannon Tipton, writes about disruptive learning.


Shannon Tipton is the Owner of Learning Rebels. unnamedShannon is a skilled learning strategist with over 20 years of leadership experience, developing successful learning strategies and infrastructures for training departments within organizations in North America, Europe and Korea. She works with training teams and organizations developing learning solutions that brings about business results. Recognized as bringing real-world expertise into the learning field, Shannon integrates technologies and social learning tools to strengthen workplace alignment, enhance collaboration and increase learning connectivity.  Shannon is also the author of “Disruptive Learning.” She frequently speaks at conferences across North America and Europe. Shannon’s blog “Learning Rebels” is in the top 100 elearning blogs.

There are some excellent tactics that Shannon writes about, read on…


Status Quo Sucks.  So Sayeth George Carlin.


George Carlin was on to something. Let’s think, are successful businesses built on mission statements saying something like “Keep Calm & Keep the Status Quo” or “Status Quo is the Backbone of Innovation”. I’m thinking no.

Today business recognize maintaining the status quo is a death sentence. Oh, some will try to keep the roots firmly locked in cement and for a period of time the strategy of “we’ve always done it this way”, may work. Kmart, Blockbuster, RIM, Poloroid – all giants in their time – but because of a shocking lack of foresight, because of a steadfastness to the status quo that was their business model…well, you know how the story ends (or in some cases, how the story is likely to end).

Companies that bury their heads in the sand, thinking “this too shall pass”, is not a new story.

I’m sure the buggy whip guy was a happy camper until that pesky automobile came out. But what does it mean to us?  Those of us in the profession of education, adult or otherwise?

Status quo still sucks.  I am always surprised by learning practitioners who perpetuate workplace learning status quo.  Excuses abound.  I would love to innovate but…no money, no support, no technology, no time, “they” won’t let me.  I could go on (you all need new excuses). The classroom as we know it today has it’s origins in the beginning of the Industrial Age. The Industrial Age people!  Certainly, we can do better?

Enter Learning Disruption

I have read and reread the blog post on “Meaningfulness” from Reuben Tozman. If you haven’t read it, you need to.  The idea of bringing meaning to learning is not revolutionary on its surface.  Yet surprisingly, it manages to disrupt. Why? Because there are those among us who are sincere in their belief that they are providing meaning to their organizations. The status quo is working just fine…thank you very much… – they would be surprised to find out they are wrong.  Sadly, incredibly, undeniably wrong.

The question we must ask ourselves is this: What path are you taking toward building a workplace learning environment where people actually learn or want to learn? Do you have the courage to be disruptive?

Being disruptive in the learning world requires a certain mindset. A mindset of wanting…no, craving change. Wanting change so the organization, and the people within it, can move forward. To provide a place where people are encouraged to take ownership of their professional development. To nurture learning and provide training when people need it, not when we when decide it is applicable. To push back when those above us, want training to check a box – when we know it is a waste of time and money. Just say, “No” to training that serves no purpose.

Learning without purpose is boring and frustrating for everyone. Our people, our organizations, deserve better and they will move forward without us, if they haven’t already. In the spirit of Kaizen it’s time to make a change! Time to disrupt. Don’t know where to start? Here are three steps to jumpstart your organizational disruption.

Three Steps to Disruption:

Step 1) Disrupt status-quo! break-rulesChallenge information or requests presented to you. This does not mean being the “no” person. It means turning yourself into a business consultant. (“I need this 125 slide PowerPoint turned into an online course”…um…maybe not)

Challenging appropriately, means trying understand the overall business problem. Challenging helps your customer helps more than you being a bobble head trainer. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it’s easier to plop the PPT deck into your slide converter, upload to the LMS and push it on your unsuspecting and ever trusting audience of learners – but that’s not what disruption is all about. Our new role is to claw and dig to find reasons that will develop true business solutions. It’s time to advocate for the learner!

Step 2) Disrupt traditional thinking! Know that in and of itself, training is rarely the solution to anything. No, I am not trying to put us all out of a job, but understanding and accepting this statement as fact is essential to finding real solutions.  Remember the “5 Why’s”, of root cause analysis. People come to you to “solve their problem”.  Your job is to uncover what the problem really is, basic root cause analysis.  Why, why, why, why & why. Be sure the problem they want to solve is really the problem that needs solving.

Step 3) Learning Disruption means sifting through the must-knows, need-to-knows and nice-to-knows. Ego’s force bloated training. That probably sounds harsh, but give it a think. The only reason a training course is packed with information is because someone, somewhere decided that 100 pounds of information was important without consulting with the end-user. Learning Rebels help the SME push the fast-forward (or delete) button on “the history of the widget” and get to the important stuff.  Learning design is about reaching the hearts and minds of people, not creating content.

Step 4) Disrupt the learning world by knowing that so-called learning theories and methodologies are, at best, guidelines. At worst, snake oil. Do be boxed in or governed by theories, frameworks, techniques or processes.  Only when used wisely, in a flexible setting, with the mindset of situational learning – will you have freed your mind.  Free yourself to be creative, innovative and engaging in your learning creation, use the resources that work for you and your business. It doesn’t matter if your development is for a classroom, online, or blended; you owe it to the learners to not force them into the myths of learning styles and other such debunked theories.

The Challenge Now.

The challenge in front of all of us is to think differently about performance learning and support. Creating real disruption. This is not just about changing the design of a classroom layout or PPT templates, it is not changing how we conduct role-plays or how we apply instructional design elements – it’s time for a complete overhaul.

Time for participant-centric design. Time to provide more self-directed learning with curated and accessible learning objects. Create group projects, and action learning sets (before and after a class), crowd-source class ideas and goals, use collaborative feedback sessions, provide social tools to build and gather the learning curiosity of an organization – Disrupt your space, leave status quo in shatters on the floor!

Status quo sucks. Do something about it.


Now, I want to hear from you: What was your biggest insight from this post? How would you be creating the real disruption in your life? Where would you begin? Put your thoughts down in the comments below.

Also, don’t leave without becoming an insider. SIGN UP NOW. I’ll be emailing a great resource this Sunday. You’re sure to love it!

One thought on “It’s time for disruptive learning.

  1. Basically it’s the idea of participation that strikes me the most in disruptive learning. Saying “no” and airing you own ideas about how the process of learning shoud look like goes somehow contrary to the status quo that ignores the knowledge the end-user has and which is essential for the whole process of learning to be effective.


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