The doctor has spoken

This post is possibly one of the most important (and longest) I have written and it is motivated by the enormous amount of pain I see in the market place.

It has relevance to retail – I promise, so stick with me; but I have two stories to tell you by means of context.

Story #1

I grew up dirt poor and wrong side of the tracks. Getting an advanced degree was just one way for me to prove to myself that I belonged. Yet, I don’t often trot out my doctoral degree.

I have learned from experience that it is not valued (generally) in the business community and that you are often tagged derisorily as an ‘academic’ – especially if you use words like derisorily.

I initially thought it is an Australian thing – not liking people who big-note themselves. But in time I have come to realise that globally there is devaluation of formal qualifications.

And with good reason too.

Story #2

The only way I could get to university was with a government funded bursary to become a Maths teacher. I eventually became a language teacher. (The frustrated poet.)

In my first week of teaching Year 11 class, I had an amazing realisation: I wasn’t the smartest person in the room.

(I was a fresh graduate and no MBA or Doctorate at that stage, but I was still the same guy.)

This was powerful and has shaped my life in many ways.

A formal qualification is a predictor of nothing.

In fact, a formal qualification is a relic of the industrial era of education when only a few people ‘knew’ (the masters) and that the students (apprentices) had to come to the master to learn. They had to spend a minimum amount of time, and had to prove that they knew what the master knew by repeating what they knew back to the master.


How quaint is that? Yet it still happens.

Today, you can ask your Smartphone almost anything and you will have ‘knowledge’ at your disposal. And I mean knowledge, not information.

Yet, our need to LEARN has not changed.

This change in society is part of a whole shift in the way business does business.

  • People no longer buy what you sell them.
  • People no longer go where you lead them.
  • People no longer learn what you teach them.
  • People no longer believe what journalists tell them

(If you want to know more about these shifting paradigms, the 40min video presentation is here.)

The question is: How do organisations transfer, retain and optimised the knowledge that is required to run a successful, productive business of its type?

There is a new emerging philosophy about learning & development that has relevance to retailers (and all businesses). And it has nothing to do with ‘social learning’.

Some leading thinkers in the learning and development space are adopting a Non Training Approach (NTA) to Learning.

This approach immediately resonated with me. I have described what we do sometimes as ‘experiential learning’ and ‘communities of practice’. In fact, a successful program that is sponsored by Nationwide News, publisher of the Daily Telegraph, is Retail Remedy where we apply ‘Action Learning’ for small groups of newsagents. (Read more about it here, or search on this site for ‘remedy’ to get a few links and videos.)

NTA is defined by Jane Hart as “how to support continuous learning and performance improvement – in the workflow – using non-training approaches.”

Learning happens AS AND WHEN people do their job. Trainers must play the role of structuring the organisation’s workflow so that it is optimised for knowledge transfer.

Learning is:

  • Continuous
  • Spontaneous
  • Voluntary
  • Dynamic
  • Integrated
  • Social (but individual)
  • Informal (unstructured)

And if that is true, the class room (or the board room) where one person physically, intellectually and psychologically stands up front is going the same way as all other industrial relics.

Thanks for reading this far. Your prize with sticking with me is this:

One of the most important things you can do for your business is to re-think the process by which you do business. And this should be done from the perspective of how you ensure that your employees learn (as described above) in order to create FOR YOU the kind of business that will survive and prosper in this new era.


Because, just like the teacher no longer has the answers, neither do you.

That is a hard fact to absorb and accept. Just like I had to in my first week of teaching.

Will you be brave enough to do it?

But, if it does strike a chord, please comment. If you want to chat in other ways, we now installed a live chat function on our website. You can use that – or any of the other means of communication you prefer – all listed on our website.

I know you are busy. But you are also smart enough to seek out ideas and opinions on blogs/websites like this.

Make it count. Do something about what you have read.

Have fun


Dr Dennis Price is a consultant, trainer and speaker working with the retailers and the supply chain to effectively implement their brands on the consumer frontline with the right skills, strategies and systems.

PS: We published our final newsletter for 2012 at the moment. But if you subscribe at www.ganador.com.au now, I will still send you the weblink. It’s a cracker…

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