Looking Beyond the Learning 'Event'

by Julie Winkle Giulioni | Posted | Learning

Looking Beyond the Learning \'Event\'

Increasingly, organizations are realizing the tremendous bottom-line benefits associated with learning and development. They appreciate that highly skilled talent is required to meet customer expectations, innovate products and processes, and address the evolving challenges facing businesses today.

How we tend to think about learning

In response, learning and development professionals are investing heavily in two critical dimensions of their trade: the ‘content' and the ‘container'.


‘Content' refers to the ‘what' of a learning solution. For example, it's the cool new brain research into giving and receiving feedback; the latest and greatest on how to sell consultatively for long-term results; the specifics of how to make the system, process or equipment sing.

Content is ubiquitous and growing daily. Thought leaders, books, blogs, commercial vendors, subject matter experts... There is no end to the new and different ways to approach skills and knowledge; and learning and development professionals are mining the vast resources to build organizational capacity.


The ‘container' refers to the ‘how' of the learning solution... how the content is held together and delivered. It's the seemingly endless combinations of elements that come together to generate creative training solutions. It's the workshops, webinars, eLearning, cohort collaborations simulations, podcasts, case studies, hangouts, job aids, experiential activities, discussion boards, and more. And these are being innovated daily to meet the ever-changing needs of businesses and the employees who contribute to them.

Thinking beyond the content and container

The content and container capture the imaginations and attention of learning professionals. And it makes sense. These dimensions are fun, evolving and mentally stimulating. And, let's face it... they're the part of the process over which the learning department has the greatest control... the part of the process that we've traditionally considered the learning ‘event'.

But increasingly, organizations that are dedicated to sustainable and substantial behavior change are coming to terms with the fact that they must think beyond the content and container - beyond the learning ‘event' itself. They are recognizing that learning is organic, ongoing, multi-faceted, layered... that there is no before, during, or after the learning event; there's only learning. They're seeing that knowledge or skill acquisition is just one element of the entire complex puzzle... and that what happens around it may have as much - if not more - power to support change.

So, learning today is taking a significant turn. Professionals in this field are coming to the conclusion that offering more or different material (content) implemented even the most slick and effective of modalities (container) will not be sufficient to accomplish their goals. They're recognizing that sustainable behavior change demands more.

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