Focusing on Root Problems

Learning is often used as a bandaid to cover root problems.

If you evaluate the typical requests for visible learning that come to enterprise learning teams, they frequently relate to issues that people of various roles are experiencing with existing processes, using technology or embracing desired behaviors.

As an example, if there’s a problem with usability, and software is counter intuitive, the learning team may receive requests to help the user to figure out how to use the software. If there’s a defect in the way software should function, and someone finds a workaround, the learning team will receive a request to address that deficiency, as well. Certainly not all requests are related to design or development issues, but many are.

“Bandaid learning” made sense in the past…maybe.

Using learning as a bandaid made some sense back in the early 2000’s when typical turnaround times for updating software were 6, 12, 18 months or even longer. Customers had to be able to get their work done and the enterprise needed their employees, business partners and customers to be successful while their software developers fixed the root problems.

Today’s methods enable high-performing teams to fix what’s broken quickly.

Today, a majority of companies reportedly using some form of agile methods. Moreover, modern software development approaches like continuous development and delivery have become more mainstream, driven by competitive enterprises, such as Netflix, Google, Amazon and Etsy. Today’s development methods (agile, DevOps, continuous delivery and  continuous deployment) are enabling high-performing organizations to fix what’s broken quickly.  The rise of Design Thinking and user stories are squarely focused on users and the user experience. There’s far less of an excuse for not fixing the core problem and instead creating an e-learning module or defect solution report that someone has to stop, search for, find, read and then apply to resolve their issue.

Dark Learning solves root problems, rather than symptoms of problems.

Dark Learning takes a more holistic approach to learning and asks, “Is this something that should be solved by visible learning or is there another way to help create the desired knowledge, skills and behaviors without creating a separate experience?

Use 5 Whys and other techniques to get to the root cause.

Dark Learning leverages techniques, such as the 5 Why’s created by Sakichi Toyoda and used within lean software development, lean manufacturing and Six Sigma, to get to the root cause of the problem that learning is expected to address.