Status Quo Sucks

Status Quo Sucks.  So sayeth George Carlin.  And you know, he’s on to something.  I have yet to read about business success where the mission/value statement said something like “Keep Calm, Keep the Status Quo” or “Status Quo is the Backbone of Innovation”.  Nope.  Can you be successful and maintain the status quo?  For a period of time perhaps; Woolworth, Blockbuster, RIM, all giants in their time – but because of a shocking lack of foresight, because of a steadfastness to the status quo that was their business model…well, you know how the story ends (or in some cases, how the story is likely to end).

Change_TimeCompanies that bury their heads in the sand, thinking that innovation will not outrun them, is not a new story.  I’m sure the buggy whip guy was a happy camper until that pesky automobile came out.  History repeats itself time and time again on this front.  But what does it mean to us?  Those of us in the profession of education, adult or otherwise?

Status quo still sucks.  I’m endlessly surprised by the people in the Learning and Development (L&D) profession, whom I’m sure mean well, but still perpetuate L&D status quo.  Excuses abound.  I would love to innovate but…no money, no support, no technology, no time, “they” won’t let me.  I could go on (y’all need new excuses). The classroom as we know it today has it’s origins in the beginning of the Industrial Age. The Industrial Age people!  Certainly we can do better?  I have read and reread the blog post on “Meaningfulness” from Reuben Tozman – . If you haven’t read it, you need to.  The idea of bringing meaning to learning is not revolutionary on its surface.  Yet surprisingly, it manages to shake up status quo.

Why? Because there are those among us who truly believe they are providing meaning to their organizations, the status quo is working just fine…thank you very much… – and they would be surprised to find out they are wrong.  Sadly, incredibly, undeniably wrong.  Oh, the smile sheets tell them otherwise; the employees enjoyed the event, they thought the presenter was great (forget the presenter was most likely some muckety, muck from the 3rd floor), students believed the information was useful and if asked would say “YES!” I use this information  LIARS. Enablers of L&D status quo and they don’t even know it.

fearWhat would happen if you conducted a formal learning session and didn’t plan a formal evaluation? Does a tree that falls in the forest make noise? That, my friend, is the sound of status quo cracking. What would happen if you planned a follow-up meeting with the attendee’s line managers to drive home the meaningfulness of said session, discussing not just the session but the people? Showing the work which was completed? Laying responsibility for performance improvement squarely on the shoulders of those who should own it? This moves an organization forward.  This is learning/performance innovation.  This provides meaning, substance and throws status quo out the window.  But I suppose the bigger question is what exactly scares us about changing how we look at learning in general?

I won’t get into the dinosaurian design of formal learning sessions/corporate universities, that’s a status-quo buster worthy of its own space, but I will challenge its meaningfulness. I challenge you to conduct a phone survey of a group who participated in a formal learning session longer than 6 months ago.  Ask them what experiences they come away with, or to pick one learning exercise they remember (and no fair cheating by reminding me of the different sessions they participated in).  Ask for one tangible example of how the session changed how they work. I double dog dare you. Perhaps it’s exactly that result that scares us?  The truth may come out; we really aren’t being all that effective.

Based on those unimpressive results the challenge in front of all of us is to think differently about performance learning, not just changing the design of a classroom layout or PPT templates, not changing how we conduct role plays or how we apply instructional design elements – really thinking differently. Group projects (outside of the classroom), crowd-sourcing class ideas, collaborative feedback sessions, using social tools to gather the learning energy of an organization – Break the glass people, leave status quo in shatters on the floor!

changeStatus quo sucks.  It’s boring. It’s frustrating. It makes us stale and lazy as developers, as educators, as professionals.  Our people, our organizations, deserve better and they will move forward without us, if they haven’t already. In the spirit of Kaizen ( ) make a change – crack status quo!

Need some ideas check out these sites:


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11 thoughts on “Status Quo Sucks”

    1. Just gives us something to talk about over dinner at LSCon in March! Would love to learn more about your Guerilla Eval session too.


    1. Thank you for forwarding this to your followers Andrew! I’m honored to be a part of your session in this abstract way and I’m curious as to your groups answer to the question. Perhaps there is a bigger question afoot…is there a defense to keeping the status-quo? “If it ain’t broke, why fix it”?


    1. Thank you Trevor. I appreciate you forwarding this to your followers and I hope it gives them something to think about this frigid Monday. I was inspired after talking to a group of L&D people who in theory believed in doing something differently but whose sole response was “Yeah but…” – Let’s not let the “buts” have it. 🙂


    2. Trevor,

      Change is inevitable which, in theory, should allay our fear of it! Nothing ever stays the same – good or bad. This helps to allow change to flow more smoothly in and through our lives.

      Change is scary and people tend to avoid it until the pain of not changing is harder than the pain of staying the same – Tony Robbins says this and I agree.

      Thanks for sharing and I think we all get it eventually. Some of us tend to be more stubborn than others, myself included, at times.

      Dawn Howard Weaver


      1. Hi Dawn – Great insight! Tony Robbins is correct, change is scary. To that I always default to this quote by Tim McMahon, “Yes, risk taking is inherently failure-prone, otherwise it would be called sure-thing-taking”. My goal with this blog post and this site specifically is to encourage, in some – the first steps of thinking of learning in a different way; and with others to keep momentum moving forward. I’m sure you will keep status-quo from nipping at your heels!


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