Impact on Business? Not Return on Investment? A New Learning Metric.

Have you seen the whitepaper published by Blackboard? They’ve made a very persuasive case for applying a new metric for measuring learning they are calling Impact On Business – IOB. In opposition to Return on Investment (ROI) they make very good arguments for using this approach. I presume they – Blackboard – would like to see this become the standard by which all learning would be measured.

We all know ROI as a way to measure investment vs results is useful but profoundly flawed. As they say measuring something will help drive down costs because of the scrutiny applied from above, but the bottom line – the profitability – that comes from change in behaviors are what yield business or personal level improvement. And that has always been ambiguous.

What I like so much about the IOB approach is it focuses on behaviors first – the most difficult challenge for any learning leader. By re-engineering learning strategies within the organization a more honest balance between formal and informal learning will be created. We know most learning takes place after the course is completed or the instructor leaves the classroom. Why not, they say build your informal learning systems to account for this. On a continuum, rather than a series of predetermined curricula.

Naturally there is more to it but I do suggest this ‘paper’ (though it really is marketing collateral) is a well supported document worth reading.

Lastly, I’m prejudiced. It jives well with the way I build learning – with a solid foundation that begins well before any preconceived notions of what the learning should look like is discussed. Believe it or not, after many years and thousands of hours of courseware this is not standard operating procedure amongst many companies or vendors. That’s why I’m a strategist, not a manager. Someone has to aim the darts down the middle.


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