There's been a flurry of activity this week on the topic of snake oil: First Harold Jarche said: "“As soon as the software vendors and marketers get hold of a good idea, they pretty well destroy it." Jane Hart weighed in with “social learning is being picked up by software vendors and marketers as the next solution-in-a-box, when it’s more of an approach and a cultural mind-set”. And today Jay Cross added to the discussion, using the word "hijack" in terms of both what happened to elearning and, now, what we're seeing with the concept of "informal learning".
I agree with my colleagues but would like to twist the conversation to why the hijacking keeps taking place. Time and time again I see Training/L & D allowing this to happen. When "learning" started happening online, Training/L & D resisted and let elearning be co-opted by vendors and IT departments. Now that "learning" is finally recognized as something that often happens informally and via social connections, Training/L&D is letting "social media" decisions be made by everyone but Training/L & D. Learning is happening everywhere in organizations, but unless it looks like "training", then Training/L &D stands aside and lets it belong to someone else.
Mark Rosenberg has used the metaphor of the railroads: They saw their business taken over by the trucking industry because they defined themselves as being in the railroad business, not the transportation business. And the training department is going to go the way of the railroads if it doesn't start seeing itself as being in the learning business, not the classroom business.
So: I really can't begrudge the vendors for acting when they see a chance, even if they end up peddling a snake-oil version of a better concept. As my work email account signature says: "Opportunities are not lost. They are just taken by others."