What’s stopping you?

Author: Karen Moloney

As much as I love writing my blog, I also love reading others’.

It’s been 10 years since Ryan Tracey started his blog, E-Learning Provocateur, and it’s always a great read.

Ryan’s latest post explores the Foundations of Innovation in L&D and is inspired by his move to a new organisation and the role he has to play there.

There was a paragraph in this post that caught my attention:

“While reasons for the disconnect between idea and action in corporate L&D abound, one of the most insidious I think is a variant of Shiny New Toy Syndrome called Bright New Idea Syndrome. When we aspire to do everything we think of at the same time, frequently flitting from one idea to another, we generally end up doing none of them – or at least none of them well.”

I think this is symptomatic of the time of information overwhelm that we live in. 15 years ago, we didn’t have access to all the resources we do now to be able to find and share information, which in some ways is great and in other ways just gives us new problems to deal with.

Being a creative person, I have had to discipline myself to stay focused and shut out the noise which can easily distract me from completing the task at hand. It’s not easy and I can’t say that I don’t stray off the path every now and again, but on the whole it’s working and I’m more productive because of it.

The article then goes on to suggest an approach to laying the foundations for innovation in L&D through a 70:20:10 lens, which is an interesting idea. I look forward to following Ryan’s progress on this initiative and think there will be a lot of learning in there for his team and many others in the industry.

So, getting back to Bright New Idea Syndrome (BNIS)…

I want to understand a bit more about this because it’s probably the main reason for where most L&D functions are right now, but what’s causing it?

In 2005 I was a smoker and had been for a number of years. I tried many different approaches to quitting the habit but the one thing that finally worked for me was identifying and addressing the reason why I started in the first place.

Once that was done, I never felt like having a cigarette again.

BNIS is a bit like addictive behaviour; we keep doing it over and over again even though we know it’s not good for us and it’s not getting us anywhere.

So why do we keep doing it?


Historically, there was a lot of responsibility on L&D to get it right.

If we didn’t give people the right information, if the manuals were wrong, if the scenario was slightly incorrect – then we fail.

So we look for new ways to make sure we don’t fail.

Let’s face it, there’s a bit of control freak in all of us!

As Rob Wilkins nicely put it at a recent Meetup, we need to “let go and let learn.”

This short phrase can be so empowering for both us and our learners.

For us, rather than spending lots and lots of time polishing one thing that may or may not work, why not get something out there, test it, get feedback, tweak it and try it again? The organisations we work for now are operating this way – they have to in order to stay alive – so we need to align with a more agile way of thinking and doing things.  By letting go of traditional ways of doing things we open up a world of learning for ourselves as professionals.

For our learners, if we start letting go of control over what and how they learn it will empower them to learn more, to share, to contribute and ultimately to be more invested in what they do.  They’re already doing it, so our role needs to shift from spoon-feeder to enabler.

Let go and let learn.


Budget has always been, and is probably always likely to be, an issue for L&D in a lot of organisations.

Being open to new ideas about how to allocate a limited budget is good, but if you decide on an approach to spending this will help you make better decisions when new ideas pop up.

There are so many tools and resources available in this gig economy and the biggest untapped resources are right under our noses; existing content and our learners.

Take one of these ideas, focus your spending decisions around it and see how much more bang you get for your buck:

  • Review and repurpose learning programs and materials that you already have
  • Curate free content from the internet
  • Explore the possibility of and tap into user generated content
  • Step outside of the L&D marketplace to find resources
  • Collaborate with others to create resources and programs you can both use.


As an instructional designer I contracted for most of my career before starting my own business. The main reason for this was the need for creativity and variety which can sometimes die a death when you stay in one place for too long. This will of course depend on the organisation you work for and their culture around learning.

The majority of people I meet in our industry are smart, well-read professionals who have a passion for and an interest in learning and helping others learn, which naturally makes us sponges for new ideas to make that happen.

But what good is being creative if we don’t stick with one idea long enough to actually create something with it?!

Focus is the key here. It’s very hard for creative people to stay focused, but it is possible. I’ve found some great ways to improve my focus and attention to increase my productivity over the last couple of years, so if you want some help please ask me.


This one is basic and primal, but it’s ever-present in our lives in everything that we do.

Common fear-based thoughts around our work go something like this:

  • What if it doesn’t work?
  • What if I look silly by suggesting that idea/approach/tool/methodology?
  • We’ve never done it before, so we don’t know where to start.
  • Learners won’t like the change.
  • Management won’t support it.
  • It will be a lot more work.

Thoughts can be debilitating, but the good news is that we all have the power to change them.

When a negative thought comes into your head, try replacing it with a positive one, for example:


Negative thought: What if it doesn’t work?

Positive thought: How can we make it work? Who else has done this that I/we can learn from? How can we run a pilot to test the idea/approach/tool/methodology?


 Negative thought: What if I look silly by suggesting that idea/approach/tool/methodology?

Positive thought: This suggestion could be the thing that makes the difference in this situation/for the team/for the learners/for the organisation – or if it isn’t, it may be the spark that gives life to a bigger and better solution.


Negative thought: We’ve never done it before, so we don’t know where to start.

Positive thought: Who else has done this that I/we can learn from? Where are the experts we could hire to get us started/walk us through/run the project for us?


Negative thought: Learners won’t like the change.

Positive thought: Learners don’t like anything that’s just dumped on them, so how can I/we best communicate what, why and how we are doing/proposing? How can we take them on a journey? Who in that audience can we bring on board to have input to and champion the idea?


Negative thought: Management won’t support it.

Positive thought: What do I need to do to get stakeholder buy-in? How can I demonstrate alignment with business strategy and outline the benefits of this idea/approach/tool/methodology? Where else inside or outside of the organisation has something like this been done successfully that I can use as a case study?


Negative thought: It will be a lot more work.

Positive thought: It will be a great challenge and I will learn a lot and grow through the experience.


Human brains deal with tens of thousands of thoughts per day.

You have complete control over what those thoughts are and whether they will help or hinder you.

Try it and see what a difference it can make.

In order to conquer BNIS, we need to identify the reason why we allow ourselves to be sucked in and then flip that into more focused, positive and productive behaviour. Only then will we be able to make the shifts we need to to take learning, and our careers in learning, to the next level.

What’s stopping you?