Monthly Archives: April 2009

Has Leave No Trace Gone Too Far?

A few weeks ago we traveled to Utah to explore both Canyon Lands and Arches National Parks. Loaded up with backpacking and camping gear, plenty of trail snacks, sunscreen, and our dogs. We had high expectations for our tour of these magnificent areas and were ready to explore every nook and cranny we could in a week’s time. Only one problem, our dogs were not permitted on the trails and there is a strict “Do not touch” rule enforced in both parks.

I understand the need to preserve the formations from the hoards of visitors that could potentially damage them, as well as get themselves hurt. But come on, this is coming from an organization that does not have the best record for preserving the natural or man-made features in its own parks.

We are fortunate to have a kiddo that loves to be in nature and isn’t afraid to explore. I think too often, we as adults overtly and covertly send the message that kids should not be outside exploring. We are either too busy being stuck on the couch watching some mindless TV show, busy paying bills, or when outside overly consumed with harvesting our weekly crop of Bermuda grass. We don’t engage in the exploration of “cool stuff” in our own backyard.

To add to this, environmentalists and educators add to the problem by telling children, “You can look, but don’t touch”. While the green thinking do-gooders are busy protecting the natural environment they discount our children’s relationship with nature. It is this relationship that will foster respect and care for the environment as well as provide the financing, volunteer labor, and brain power to protect the environment in the future.

Our Moab trip was salvaged through our creative ability to find beautiful places outside the purview of the National Park system and explore areas that many tourist don’t see. We have found that if we can find a place that is more than 150 yards from a trail or road, that is accessible only by foot, then we usually have a wonderful spot we can call our own. It is amazing how few people will get away from the comfort of their vehicle. Somehow adventure has been boiled down to the number of pictures, postcards, and trinkets purchased at the gift shop.

Maybe the trouble with our National Parks is that they are too accessible. I don’t think we should cap the number of visitors to a park but instead, use a system of attrition. Go explore, go get sunburned, go off without enough water. If you die, you don’t get to come back.

The name “park” implies some sort of comfort level or right of safety. Last year when a friend was discussing her trip to Glacier National Park and how they had a Grizzly in their camp, another person in the conversation spoke up and asked how the Park Rangers manage to keep the bears out of the camp sites, and upon finding out they didn’t , immediately protested that it should be up to the park to keep control of its bears.

I like Edward Abbey’s idea that at each park, there should be a huge parking lot at the front entrance. Park your vehicle and then you can access the park anyway you like as long as it is human powered- feet, bike, trike, etc. If you don’t make it back, then you don’t get to buy a sticker for your water bottle or patch to sew on your new backpack. Thinking about it, maybe the parks the parks simply let the wrong people in and are setting themselves up for failure. Maybe there should be a few occasions that a few people who get way out of their safety zone should not make it back. It would certainly increase the due respect the outdoors should have. When in the wild- we are no longer on top of the food chain.

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Walking the Razor’s Edge

As organizational learning and development professionals we need to be walking he razor’s edge of new and innovative ways to deliver content. Unfortunately, we don’t always have the infrastructure to support our initiatives.

I had a colleague of mine forward the above article, and I highly encourage you to take a look at it—Some very noteworthy material. But I wanted to take a moment and comment on a few of the items as I see it in many organizations I have worked with in the past.

“78% of corporate managers believe that “rapid rate of information change” is one of their top learning challenges (800+ HR and L&D managers surveyed in 2008).”

I agree with this point, but for many organizations, the greater challenge is getting the support infrastructure to execute rapidly. A lesson I learned when developing training during the dotcom explosion was that systems training had to be built and deployed in the fraction of time that traditional technical training was developed. This also meant that the delivery systems had to able to support a multiple of deployment methods.

The organizations I worked in that were successful and that could capitalize on ROI of a training project were those that were willing to break the mold. On several projects my team was responsible for reacting quickly to content changes.

The frustration often came when we did not have an IT infrastructure capable (willing) to support those changes. There needs to be more line of site between those who are responsible for developing training and information media and those who are in charge of IT support systems.

“80% of all corporate learning takes place through on-the-job interactions with peers, experts, and managers (estimated data collected from over 1,100 L&D managers late in 2008).”

Agree– but formal coaching and mentoring should be set up– with support materials such as guides, podcast, evaluation systems…otherwise it becomes both a maverick system and limited ability to track, duplicate, refine, and measure .

“Over 30% of all corporate training programs (ie. classroom or other formal programs) are not delivering any measurable value (data provided through the same survey).”

Strongly agree– we are stuck in measuring response of the learner (level 1) and butts in seats… when was the last time we negotiated a percentage of the ROI on a project or followed up on behavior/ performance changes with a manager- or even made the manager a partner/ stakeholder in the learning we are “delivering”?

“Nearly all Millenial employees (under the age of 25) expect to find an on-demand learning portal (similar to Google and YouTube) within their employer’s environment.”

Strongly agree– I can go to youtube and learn about Maslow Hierarchy of needs in prep for an exam, see how an outfitter tent is put together, or learn how memory is installed in a Macbook Pro…but I can’t get IT to support initiatives such as podcasting, video blogs, or other social media tools… In today’s instant media access culture, we need to meet learners where they are, deliver on time “burst” training, with 24×7 access, and use media sources that are cutting edge.

Most training organizations have not changed or reinvented themselves in the past 15 years– unless they were a private firm. In-house training is stuck in old delivery methods, outdated metrics, a system of “the learning universe revolves around us”, and technology that does not meet the learners need…and this is the fault of trainers and those who support the information technology infrastructure.

I want an IT department to do three things to support my client and me. First, stop asking “why” and start asking “how”. How do they help, how do they support, how do they adapt.

The second, be on the cutting edge of technology. I should not have to go to a client’s IT manager and explain Twitter, Podcasting, etc. I expect an IT manager to come to me with the newest innovations, and not just with the brand he or she is familiar with.

Finally, understand that where we are in the information age is not where we were five years ago, nor where we will be in five years. Twenty-five years ago if I was building a training manual, I had to have a type-setter, a paste-up artist, a graphics designer, etc.  For the past 10-12 years now I have been able to develop my own manuals from my own desk top.

Another example, in 1999 I had to have a digital media company come in and help me script, film, edit, and distribute a short 8 minute film on customer service. Recently I did all this for a memory installation project for a consumer electronics company. I did all the work myself.

Learning professionals have many more tools now to execute and deliver on projects and IT has not kept pace of our methods and techniques.

Remember, if you are the early adopter, you are still in second place.


for more information about me- please visit my website at or my podcast on iTunes (Adventure IQ)