Have you heard the one about the Chief Finance Officer and the Chief People Officer talking about L&D? It’s an oldie, but a goodie.

The CFO bursts into the CPO’s office, she’s clutching the latest quarterly budget report, “have you seen how much we’re spending on training and development! What if we invest in our people and they leave?” 

The CPO looks up from her desk, “what if we don’t invest in our people and they stay?”

There was a time in mid-2020 when I thought the pandemic might give us all the chance to pause, take stock and focus on learning and development.  With the efficiency of home working, we were promised infinite free time would rain on down from the heavens. No commute. No breaks between meetings. Camera off, eat your lunch. Camera off, make a cup of tea. Camera off, clear your inbox. Surely productivity would skyrocket, and we could use all this free time to do those things we really wanted to do.

It didn’t quite play out. More meetings seemed to appear, and more people seemed to appear on them. If anything, time became more scare. So many meetings in fact that some clever soul started recording the ones you couldn’t attend so that you can watch them at your “leisure”.

The result: an overwhelming amount of information and not enough time to consume it.

The field of learning and personal development wasn’t any different. More opportunities to dial in and half watch speakers (whilst answering calls and writing decks). In response, information has become increasingly “bite-size”.  Why spend several hours reading a book when you can listen to a 15-minute summary podcast (it’s even quicker if you switch to 1.5x speed)? Consumption and regurgitation of knowledge can sometimes feel like a competitive sport.

The exchange of information in bite-size formats has its place, but the experience of learning is so much more than data ingestion. It is only through taking the time to truly engage with a new idea that the sparks start to fly and you can begin to connect the dots and figure out how that idea might be applied to your brand or business. At KFC we put the marketing team through courses to do just that, and not just because of the content, but because of the space created in such programmes to engage in the learning process. Not only do the scholars exit with some refreshed foundational training, they also come out inspired, fizzing with new ideas that could help them make a meaningful and immediate impact. MAD//Fest’s very own MAD//Masters with Rory Sutherland is timely and will be a great addition to the learning and inspiration landscape!

Great marketers should also remember to look way beyond the discipline for education.  Inspiration comes from everywhere, not just rigorous analysis of IPA papers.  Read more fiction and less marketing theory. Better still, leave the house.  With less time in front of screens it’s worth remembering that getting out in the world and drawing stimulation and energy from culture isn’t just much more fun than zoom, it’s necessary to be great at your job.  At KFC we’ve introduced a 1pm finish every Friday, (we call it Fry-YAY), all year-round so that the team can do just that.

Investing in yourself and investing in your team is just as important as it’s always been but I am not talking about how much cash you spend on L&D. Let the CFO and CPO fight that one out. This isn’t about money, it’s about time. Indulge in the meandering thoughts and connections that come from absorbing and processing information. The greatest gift you can give your team is the time and space to get lost for a while in learning.