Paula Ketter, editor of TD magazine, made this point in a recent article celebrating 70 years of the magazine: “As we examined magazine issues published in the 1940s, we saw some of the same topics discussed then that are as relevant today. Proving training’s worth has been a constant pain point for industry professionals.”

For the past 30 or 40 years, many things have changed in learning and development, except perhaps one area: proving the value of learning. Certainly, we’ve made some progress in this arena, and there is good promise that more is to come. But in many cases, talent development leaders still struggle with the nagging issue of how to connect major learning programs to the business.

Some serious dilemmas stand out:

DILEMMA #1: More than 50 percent of learning and development is wasted.

DILEMMA #2: What senior executives want from learning and development is rarely measured. One study found that 96 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs want to see the business connection, yet only 8 percent see it. And 74 percent want to see ROI, yet only 4 percent see it.

DILEMMA #3: Very few learning and development professionals have data to show top executives that their programs make a difference to the company’s bottom line.

DILEMMA #4: Most executives perceive learning and development to be a cost, rather than an investment. Thus, in times of economic anxiety, it’s the first budget to cut—when, really, it should be enhanced.

DILEMMA #5: Hard skills are widely perceived as being far more valuable than soft skills. Although data shows the payoff of soft skills is higher. But these skills require a major learning investment that CEOs may be reluctant to continue to provide funds.

How do we correct this nagging and persistent problem? Design thinking may be the answer. We will look at this solution in the next blog post.

In the meantime, for a deeper dive on how to use design thinking to deliver business results and increase the investment in talent development, check out our new book, The Business Case for Learning. Also, be sure to join me at ATD 2017 International Conference & Exposition for the session: How to Keep (and Increase) Your Learning and Talent Development Budget.