Being right is
better than being
As a profession we can probably say we've
moved on from the myth of learning styles. (If
you've any doubt, see Coffield, 2003 and
Pashler, 2008.) But if we have moved on, it's
not very far. I say that because at the time of
writing (February 2019) there's a new myth in
town - the Iceberg of Ignorance. You'll know it
from statements like "Executives see 4% of
the problems" and "Front line workers see
100% of the problems".
The IoB has all the traits of a great myth:
• A story that resonates - yeah, those
creepy executives know nothing!
• A simple answer to a complex problem -
why don't executives get it?
• Sciency-sounding percentages to add
• Best of all … a nice graphic of an iceberg.
A nice graphic is the key to going viral.
There's only one problem with this. It's too
simple. Do these 'problems' extend to (for
example) cash flow planning? Are all sizes of
businesses, in all sectors, in all countries, the
same? Unfortunately, as with learning styles,
it's easier to see some truth in this, and
suspend our critical thinking, rather than ask
difficult, probing questions.
Douglas E Dawson asked these questions,
and tried to track down the original work
behind the iceberg. His conclusion: it was
"likely a myth that has been perpetuated via
the internet by well-meaning individuals and
It's not enough for L&D to be well-meaning.
We must also demand high standards of
evidence. If we want to be taken seriously, we
have to base our work on more than an
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Donald H Taylor
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