Beyond Talent Development

On Tuesday, with a big presentation, the American Society for Training & Development announced a rebranding. The new name is the Association for Talent Development, going from ASTD to ATD. And while this is a necessary move, I think it wasn’t the best change they could’ve made.

ASTD needed the change, for two reasons. For one, ASTD has membership in, and runs events, around the world. There may be other orgs (e.g. CSTD for Canada), but the 800 lb gorilla is ASTD. Second, training, while still a large proportion of what ASTD does (rightly or wrongly), is increasingly being joined by other approaches such as coaching and mentoring.

The first reason resonates, but I have a problem with the second. To put it another way, I believe that the change to Association makes sense, but Talent Development doesn’t.  As I stated in Revolutionize Learning & Development, I believe that the necessary direction for organizations is to couple optimal performance with continual innovation. What’s required from Learning & Development, then, is to support all manners of performance and develop continual innovation.

What’s involved is not only to support training when it needs to be ‘in the head’, but using performance support when we can. And we need to develop and facilitate organizational innovation. The latter means not only developing individual (and group) ability to interact constructively, but to facilitate useful interactions of all sorts.

And here’s the rub. I see Talent Development as developing people through training, mentoring, and coaching, but I see the potential role for the folks in what now is termed L&D to be not only the development of people’s ability, but their ability to perform, even if it isn’t developing the person. That is, using performance support when it makes sense should be part of the unit’s responsibility, even when it doesn’t develop the person. Similarly, I see facilitating constructive interaction (curating resources, removing barriers to interaction and supporting tool use, etc), whether it develops people or not, as a vital role.

That’s the reason I chose to suggest, in the book, that the unit should be renamed Performance & Development; supporting both optimal execution and continual innovation in all relevant ways. The opportunity is to be the strategic organizational resource to ensure that all the intellectual resources of the organization are contributing.

And that is the reason I have a problem with Talent Development. To me, Talent Development is focused only on developing people instead of facilitating overall organization performance. And I think that’s falling short of the opportunity, and the need. Don’t get me wrong, I laud that ASTD made a change, and I think Talent Development is a good thing. Yet I think that our role can and should be more.  I  wish they’d thought a little broader, and covered all of the potential contribution.  So, maybe, Association of Performance & Development or APD. Regardless, it’s a dynamic organization that offers a lot. I just wonder who’s going to fill the gaps.

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