What is Training?

What Is Training? 

How much do (or should) people like Braque or Byron
influence your business training programs?

 Over the last 4 months I have monitored the responses to a question posed by Michael Colucci (ASTD Group on Linkedin): How would you define “training” in 10 words or less?

We shall never know the true motivation for the responses; were they the honest conviction of the respondent or the temptation to be lyrical in ten words? What the responses do, however, is illustrate the exceptionally broad spectrum of thinking, emphasis and motivation among training professionals.

Some of the responses to Michael’s question command me to immediately arise from my computer and sit on a windowsill and seek poetic revelation and inspiration by gazing out at the azure Bay of Portovenere[i] as Lord Byron[ii] once did.  Other responses cry out for me to see if the panache of Georges Braque’s[iii] brilliantly colored Cubism art style would enhance and influence my training message.  These responses are categorized in my mind as the “training is an art form” commune.  Very tempting! What seems to be missing is a business connection.

Ah! Then you have the “middle of the road” category; for those who embrace the “encourage learning to occur” genre. It sounds so erudite and perchance ethereal; but it does little to awaken, inspire or give me purposefulness or a goal.  I would really avoid using this type of training goal or description in a presentation to the CEO who has investors lamenting the slow return to profitability. I would like to offer him/her something more in accord with revenue enhancement contributions or business agility provisioning!

Down at the other end of the spectrum … or as I prefer to call it, the real “gritty end” of training; it is more harshly “real world”. This is where the inspiration (and the imperative!) to be successful must be drawn from words like cost and time effectiveness, training ROI and “providing the who, what, when, where, why and how of the task” (Paraphrased from an actual response to the question).  This “gritty end category” sounds tough and somewhat prosaic.

Grounded in my day-to-day life in training I know that the latter category resonates much more favorably with the CFO who only opens the training budget bag rarely and with extreme reluctance, the plant manager who is desperate to increase his/her team’s production volumes or with the sales manager who wants his global sales force to hit the ground running when the new industry-leading, competition crushing solution or product is launched.

Is the “gritty end category” the best one … or the right one today?  It definitely is the training world people live in if their company’s Internet address ends in .com! I cannot imagine that a majority of training professionals have not arrived at the same conclusion in these austere times.

Today, training must ensure that the team’s knowledge and skills will specifically, significantly and measurably contribute to making smart, effective and ultimately successful business decisions and executing marketplace leading actions.  Training’s goal must constantly be to utilize every available intellectual and technological resource to focus and converge on providing business agility and solving business issues. If growing the business is a prime motivator, then it is elemental that training be the trusted starting point by flawlessly and timeously delivering the essential knowledge and skill.

Following, and beginning with, the “dose” of training reality centered on the “gritty end category” of responses is there any place or use for the “training is an art form” approach?

Yes! You must deliver the businesses essential knowledge and skills … however you will make the learning experience more vivid, probably more realistic and help expand knowledge retention time with an imaginative dash of visual, written or verbal enhancement. Never embrace art for art’s sake … its function is to deliver a strong supporting role to the “who, what, when, where, why and how of the” training goals.  Like the score to a great movie, the art should not be noticed but set the mood, bring up the excitement, emphasize the message or provide a comforting foundation for learning.

Deliver time, cost and learning effective courses and never drink the tepid tea of timidity!


[i] Located on the Ligurian coast of Italy in the province of La Spezia

[ii] George Gordon Noel, 6th Baron Byron – English poet (22 January 1788 – 19 April 1824)

[iii] Georges Braque – French painter and sculptor (13 May 1882 – 31 August 1963)

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About David Wesley Tonkin

David Wesley Tonkin is a recognized and award winning entrepreneurial training thought leader and strategist. He is practiced in identifying critical knowledge and skill needs and initiating ingenious time- and cost-effective learning solutions that energize and boost employee and organizational performance. David is the Chief Operating Officer of The EMAC Group LLC. In prior assignments David was the Vice-President of The Purposeful Clouds Inc. training academy and Director of Training Design and Development for the Unisys Corporation’s Technology Consulting and Information Systems business unit. In 2008 David and his team were honored with the “Excellence and Innovation in Corporate Learning” Award at the 9th Annual Corporate University Xchange Awards. This coveted and prestigious worldwide award is co-sponsored by The Wharton School of Business and Training Magazine. David’s passion for business training time, cost and leaning effectiveness will continuously ensure that the themes and philosophies in his "Tonkin's Training Topics" series of blogs will always be relatable to the world of enterprise reality. David's "Food for Thought" blogs are commentaries, reflections and opinions on the vagaries of today's culture. Drawing from many years of global travel, David has enjoyed and embraced a rich and varied tapestry of experiences to fuel the eclectic range of topical coverage in these blogs.

Posted on July 11, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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