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"We Don’t Need No Education”—L & D Heuristics from 6 Famous Movie Quotes

By Gerald Matykowski, Inside Sales Manager  


Recently, I reviewed responses to surveys completed by ID professionals who are active on the Allen Interactions website. The surveys collected information from respondents about major challenges that interfere with doing their job well. Perhaps you were a contributor to one of these surveys. It shouldn’t surprise you that the most typical aggravations include:

  1. Intractable, content-centric SMEs.

  2. Short timelines.

  3. Stingy budgets.

  4. Working with antiquated and prolonged ADDIE-like processes.

  5. Influencing executives to consider the potential business impact of current best practices like agile and serious e-learning programs. 

  6. Check-the-box compliance training.

Very often, these frustrations are aggravated due to communication barriers between learning and development (L&D) executives, Instructional Designers (IDs), and their managers. I have addressed such issues in several of my previous blog posts from the perspective of speaking in language that resonates with a Chief Learning Officer (CLO):

For this blog, I considered exploring how heuristics can contribute to such miscommunications.

For the record, Wikipedia defines a heuristic as: “any approach to problem solving, learning, or discovery that employs a practical methodology not guaranteed to be optimal or perfect, but sufficient for the immediate goals…Heuristics can be mental shortcuts that ease the cognitive load of making a decision.”  Gagne refers to heuristics as Higher Order Rules (or Thinking). 

CLO heuristics can be substantially different than those IDs employ when making decisions about budgeting, best practices, and achieving measurable performance improvement.


CLOs might think, “Do more with less.” IDs might think, “Do better with agile.”

After I discussed the influence of heuristics on communications between IDs and CLOs with Carrie Zens, our brilliant Marketing Director, she suggested that I might try a less academic (read: “yawn”) theme. I thought, “Well, OK, fine!” So, everybody like movies, right? What if we use famous movie quotes to help CLOs and learning executives adopt new heuristics to help them better understand the challenges learning professionals face daily? Perhaps, we could also consider what they might do to help their organizations move toward the holy grail of measurable performance improvement. “Here’s lookin’ at you, kid!” Casablanca

So, mostly for fun, here are six famous movie quotes that, perhaps indirectly, sum up many of the challenges that we hear from IDs and their managersin a tongue-in-cheek sort of way.

1. “We don’t need no education.” – Pink Floyd, from “Another Brick in the Wall (Part II),” and the movie, The Wall.

Have you ever considered the glaring irony in this lyric? We all know people who are confident that they have surpassed the need to learn, like some of the SMEs that our survey respondents described. We have all tried to manage a SME who is confident that he or she knows what learners really need to know, even though the target performance suggests otherwise. SMEs like this live by three-ring binders and “death by PowerPoint.” If we can get our CLOs to recognize the true role of the SME and direct the SME organizations (or the SMEs directly) to consider that the IDs’ expertise and an agile process will sharpen their ability to identify true performance improvement, the target population will benefit, the CLO will more closely achieve his or her goals, and IDs will be able to capture and mold the SME contributions into true learning interactions.

2. “According to the map, we’ve only gone 4 inches.” – Dumb and Dumber


CLOs certainly understand the negative impact of a training program that does not produce the desired results. These projects likely had delays as timelines were pushed and budgets exceeded. Traditional development processes may be the culprit of common pain points like these that make it difficult to achieve quality learning products. Short timelines and skimpy budgets can give the mistaken impression of progress if ‘something’ is produced to ‘get it out.’ Then, anemic performance change suggests the money spent and resources committed may have been more effective elsewhere.

Agile processes can move the ball faster and “win one for the Gipper” (Knute Rockne: All American) with respect to measurable performance improvement. Speed-to-market is an important consideration for any organization and likely a goal of most CLOs. We should be careful to read a useful map to tell us if we have gone four inches, or if we are speeding toward real performance improvement.

3. “So you’re telling me there is a chance.” Dumb and Dumber

This is a naive expression of over-optimism by a character just provided with million-to-one odds that he would marry a character in the movie. Many of you have expressed frustration by the expectations of decision-makers that content-heavy, page-turning, and boring compliance training will achieve targeted compliance levels across the enterprise.This is especially frustrating when the performance change is related to critical goals like food safety and data security. Since regulatory agencies are starting to look at actual results of compliance training instead of just “checking the box,” this level of optimism will not be acceptable in the future and indeed could result in substantial damage to a company’s reputation and good standing with customers. We need to base our optimism on best practices like agile and measurable positive business impact.

4. “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Love Story

I’ve got nothing here! Maybe when you LEAVE ADDIE FOR SAM? I’m taking suggestions!

5. “We’re gonna need a bigger boat!” Jaws

Spoken by Roy Scheider as Bruce, the mechanical great white shark, launched onto the stern of a fishing boat, nearly swamping it. The sheer size of Bruce made this quote that much more amusing and in the movie, this reaction was valid.

Let’s look at this statement from the perspective of a CLO. They expect IDs and their managers to lobby for a ‘bigger boat’ when challenged with tough timelines and miserly budget allocations. Don’t forget the ‘do more with less’ heuristic. CLOs are ready to reject the bigger boat argument out of hand.

So what can you do? Turn the quote around to propose that, “We don’t necessarily need a bigger boat.”  Since not all training is the same, you can help decision-makers understand that distributing dollars for different levels of training can help meet deadlines and advance innovation. Many organizations are reserving a smaller proportion of a budget for Level 1 interactivity, and more dollars and resources for more critical Level 3 interactivity. This practice can help to reduce resistance to innovation that will help an organization evolve to deliver more performance-focused learning experiences.

6. “Do you know who I used to be?” The Producers

Let’s face it, we all strive to generate robust and effective learning programs and at times, given the challenges discussed above, it seems that the decision makers may occasionally stand in our way. With Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Ph. D. degrees hanging on our office walls, we have high expectations for ourselves. Our enthusiasm should also extend to the enterprise paying our salary. We want company programs to help our learners excel and the enterprise to meet performance goals. So, without coming across as someone who “don’t need no education,” we need to stay strong and promote the practices that we know will generate effective learning. If we help our CLOs and decision makers consider what they experienced as a learner, what was lacking, and how the training could have been better, conversations about individualization, engagement, and context might gain some headway.

It is not my intention to have you use movie quotes to express your frustration to people who can ask you to pack your office and leave. Nor do I suggest that you begin telling content-centric SMEs that they are “just another brick in The Wall.” In the end, this article is mostly just a little fun among colleagues. But, in reality, the more ways we are able to communicate how our best practices can result in real business impact through learning, the more decision makers will develop new heuristics in favor of agile and serious e-learning. Eventually, we want to “Make them an offer they can’t refuse.” The Godfather


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Gerald Matykowski
Gerald Matykowski

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