Learning and Development Lessons from Brazil’s World Cup Team

The World Cup is upon us. In Brazil, a country that’s won the tournament more than anyone else (5 times), there’s a debate on whether they should continue playing “beautiful” soccer, or if they should be playing more to win. I wonder if we should be having the same debate in the learning and development field.

Soccer Ball

In the learning and development space, “beautiful” is the equivalent of engaging, fun, entertaining, sound lesson plan design. “Winning” could be synonymous with behavior change.

There are a lot of courses and conferences and books devoted to effective training design and engaging presentation styles and gamification of elearning. ASTD (ATD) specializes in these types of events and publications. I’ve read a number of books and attended several of their conferences. I even presented at an ASTD conference. Yet, I wonder how much behavior change comes from all of this.

In 2010, McKinsey published an article stating that $100 billion was spent annually on learning initiatives yet only one quarter of those initiatives yielded any type of measurably improved business performance.

I wonder if L&D professionals should continue to look to organizations like ASTD. When I read CLO’s recent listing of 2014 LearningElite organizations, I began to wonder if we should be looking more toward organizations that don’t necessarily talk about talent development and improved business results, but rather produce such results year after year. While I know many L&D-focused organizations are on the small side and ASTD’s BEST and CLO’s LearningElite seem biased toward larger organizations, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a single organization devoted exclusively to L&D on one of these lists.

Just as this ESPN article points out that there are some in Brazil who don’t feel that the “beautiful game/playing to win” is an either/or argument, perhaps it’s not an either/or argument in the L&D space either. Or is it?

On which side do you fall in this argument? Let’s hear it in the comment section below.

And of course: Go Yanks, beat the Black Stars!

Do you train like an ESPN announcer? Or an announcer from Univision?

I’m amazed at how similar some presentations (and audiences) are to soccer games (and audiences).

Some people I know are truly soccer fans.  They’ll stream Euro League games through their computer in the afternoons as they work.  And there’s no way they’d miss a World Cup Qualifier on ESPN in the evening.  The game may end in a 0-0 draw, but these fans will stay on the edge of their seat for a full 90 minutes (plus stoppage time).

Then there are the casual fans who might really appreciate the game if there was something to get excited about. Watching a game on tv, they may sit for a few minutes, but inevitably there will be better things to do around the house.  The announcers on ESPN know what they’re talking about, but they don’t make much effort to draw casual fans into the game.

Of course, if you’re watching the game on Univision, it’s a completely different story.  You don’t have to speak Spanish to get caught up in the announcers’ excitement.  Certainly the Univision announcers are well known for shouting GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAALLLLLLL! after each score.  But these announcers also get excited about every pass.  They get excited about every player and make a big deal about every player’s nickname.  Watching soccer on Univision is fun and engaging, even for the casual fan.  And often even for the fan that may not even speak Spanish.

This pattern is similar to many presentations and their attendees.  A presenter may drone on and on and click through slide after slide, but if it’s a specific topic that speaks to a specific portion of the audience, then there will inevitably be some participants who take feverish notes and hang on every last bullet-pointed slide in order to take something away.

Most presentation attendees are much more likely to be similar to casual soccer fans.

As a presenter, do you more closely resemble an ESPN soccer analyst – professional and assuming your audience has an inherent passion for your topic? Or do you more closely resemble a soccer announcer from Univision – professional and passionate, finding fun things to talk about and that everyone in the audience can connect with in addition to sharing your deep knowledge?

The Train Like A Champion blog is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  These brief “Training Tip” posts are a series of quick reference tips that are published while your beloved Train Like A Champion blogger is currently enjoying a little vacation.  The more in-depth posts will resume again in August.