The Oprah/James Frey conversation, the Enron trials, even a recent post here got me thinking.

The Formal Learning Industries absolutely requires honesty, for Big Skills and technical ones.

  • Honesty in the end-learner.
  • Honesty in the subject matter expert.
  • Honesty in the creation and delivery of Formal Learning material.
  • Honesty in the conversation between program manager and sponsor.
Honesty is more than just not technically telling a lie, although that is a good place to start. Some common recent public dishonesty:

  • Stating something that one thinks and hopes to be true as definitely true.
  • Not saying something that is highly relevant because the question wasn't asked the right way.

For getting the truth from a SME:

  • Zooming in, getting more detail.
  • Asking surprising or novel questions.
  • Interviewing multiple people, and at multiple times.
  • Building a model, like a simulation or even a time line.
  • Doing anonymous interviews.
  • We love a good story. But if a story sounds too good, too neat, to be true, it probably is.

For getting the truth from end-learners:

  • Doing 360s and sharing results before a program.
  • Interviewing customers and co-workers.

We are at a time when the truth seems to be constantly under attack, from spammers to advertisers to writers to leaders.

Lack of honesty hurts all industries, but it devastates ours.