Deferred Gratification

This’ll be a brief one. There’s a great weekly conversation on L&D on the #ldinsight hashtag. Today’s session touched on learning impacts, measurements, MOOCs and more but it was comments about impacts that really got me thinking.

I’ve always enjoyed learning. I’ve never particularly liked having my learning proscribed by others so I’m a big fan of self-directed learning at all levels. But there’s the rub.

Our education system and often corporate approaches to learning are proscriptive. Our expectation of learning outcomes, measured at defined intervals ingrains a short-termism that we carry with us all our lives.

My personal experience leaves me convinced, rightly or wrongly, that we need to take a much longer perspective on learning outcomes and impacts.

I went to a very good school. I was not a success by any conventional measure, scraping a handful of mediocre ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels. I did not go to university, nor did I have any desire to do so. I wanted to work. My immaturity led me to make some questionable decisions about what that work might be but at no point did my lack of qualifications prove a hindrance.

At school and through my working life, I learned a great many things that continue to be of great value and to have an impact in all areas of my life. But they very often weren’t the things the people teaching me thought I should be learning.

Nobody is measuring these sorts of outcomes and impacts over 25 years later but they matter enormously and reflect a great degree of credit on the people I’ve learned from, even if they didn’t know they were having that level of impact at the time.

Heaping opprobrium on learners because we either cannot immediately, or will not eventually measure the success of their learning has unfairness built in.

Why not delay the gratification until we can see the impact these learners have later in life?


  1. Thanks Simon – I know very little about MOOCs and such like, but putting that to one side, this post really resonates with me. My learning experiences seem very similar to yours. Largely self determined and for me, at times quite meandering. I wonder if this less proscribed approach is what has brought us, and others, to a conclusion that it is more suitable and enjoyable to try and craft a life beyond the typically more rigidly structured, corporate world? Each to her or his own of course – and how much better that is once you eventually begin to realise what suits you best, eh?

    Cheers – Doug

  2. Thanks Simon, I enjoyed your blog very much. My learning has come from people I’ve met through life, often in unusual circumstances. My formal education was strict and structured and I suppose did lay the foundation of my passion to learn but can’t say I remember much of it!
    On the other hand, life experiences have stayed with me, people who made impact on me from my school days to the present day have stayed with me and shaped me and I can say that all this has seen me through time. X

  3. Learning is a journey, not a destination. We used to applaud the acquisition of knowledge and insight for it’s own sake, now we seek to tie to to a short-term financial return. What I got from my formal education was an ability to communicate and, most importantly, the ability to think for myself. That equipped me to continue learning from experience.

    1. Thanks Magnus. Looking forward to hearing you speak at the summit. And perhaps chatting in person…

    2. Hi Colin. Thanks for taking the time to reply. I couldn’t agree more with what you say.

  4. Very much like this …thanks for sharing

    I’m thinking

    going off to blog 😊

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