A tale of two taxis

I recently had the pleasure of working with some of our clients in the USA – a trip which I remember well for two journeys that I experienced. On the way to Heathrow, a young man in his twenties picked me up and no sooner had I got in, he started to tell me how the world was soon going to come to an end. How the government had stolen every opportunity and how he had been robbed of his future. He complained that ‘they’ were all corrupt and the working man was footing the bill. When I asked him what he was doing to make the situation better, he said “I’m just a taxi driver, what can I do?” Needless to say the ‘Welcome to Heathrow’ sign couldn’t come quick enough.

As I landed at JFK, I found myself thinking of strategies to avoid a conversation with my taxi driver. Having been subject to a depressing monologue in West London, I really felt I’d be searching for Valium if I had to go through the same thing again all the way to Manhattan.

Unsurprisingly the cabbie at JFK started to talk as soon as I hopped in. To my delight, however, the conversation took a different tone. “Sure things are hard” he said, “but what you gonna do, stay in bed all day?” he asked rhetorically. His entire view on life was that he controlled his destiny and although his fare income had dipped he was making up for it by working weekends and saving money where he could. “There’s nothing to worry about” he said, “as always, we’ll pull through and come out stronger – that’s what we Americans do.”

The point? The point is that as learning and development professionals we can learn from this story. Times are hard and things are difficult. Budgets are being cut and some of our colleagues are having to leave their positions. However, it falls on us to lift our organisations and to find new ways to improve morale and performance within the teams that we support. We have to break away from the traditional approaches and models; even e-learning (and maybe especially e-learning) needs a rethink. Do we need a course on project management or will a carefully crafted set of links do the job? Do we need to bring in a consultant or can we use a wiki to share best practice? Is the three day classroom course necessary or can we create a blend? Is e-learning the only way to run our compliance programmes or can we use our mobile devices? When we build programmes, can we build them with re-use in mind and share the assets across the organisation?

It’s really down to us to drive our businesses forward and to support them in these difficult times and I believe that now, more than ever before, L&D has the chance to shine. So my message is this: push hard and be creative – think three times about the return your programme will bring and the other ways that you could do it – what else you gonna do, stay in bed all day?