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Today is a Good Day to Die: What Klingon Wisdom Teaches Us about Talent Development

Quite often, developing the best, most engaging, learner-focused development tools can be a battle. Who better to prepare us than the ever battle-ready warriors, the Klingons?

Heghlu’meH QaQ jajvam Today is a good day to die.

By IowaPipe - Riverside Trek Fest 2014, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39269242

By IowaPipe - Riverside Trek Fest 2014, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39269242

This Klingon phrase is said before going into battle. It speaks of the honor of leaving it all, possibly even your life, on the battlefield. As talent developers, we go to battle for our users daily. Like the Klingons, we also need to leave it all on the battlefield. We need to arm ourselves with the skills and knowledge of our industry, an understanding of the organization and its performance needs, and a passion for the learner, in order to give our all in the service of instructionally-sound content. If we do all that, we can say we fought with honor (though hopefully we survive the conflict)!

Heghlu'DI' mobbe'lu'chugh QaQpu' Hegh wanI' Death is an experience best shared.

If today is a good day to die, it’s an even better day to die with a friend, right? As talent developers we can think of this bit of wisdom as a reminder that we are not and should not be alone in our efforts. In every organization there should be others who can join you in battle: those whose expertise may reveal a different perspective, or whose knowledge and skills will complement yours. Engage the people resources around you for support in your efforts to develop the best tools for your users.

leghlaHchu'be'chugh mIn lo'laHbe' taj jej A sharp knife is nothing without a sharp eye.

By Bruno Girin - originally posted to Flickr as Dangerous Klingon, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7215959

By Bruno Girin - originally posted to Flickr as Dangerous Klingon, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7215959

 A Klingon would never go into battle with a bat’leth and a blindfold! As we go into conversations armed with our knowledge and skills, we must remember to keep our eyes and minds open to what our client or stakeholder needs and wants. We are rarely at cross purposes (we all want what’s best for the organization), it’s our focus that may be different. Our focus is on the user, while the client’s is likely on the bottom line. As talent developers, we need to keep our eyes open to solutions that provide the tools the user needs within the constraints the client presents.

Hoch jaghpu'Daj HoHbogh SuvwI' yIvup Pity the warrior who slays all his foes.

We keep our skills sharp and our minds fresh through conversational battles about the need for interactivity, conflict about the importance of a systems-thinking approach, and differences of opinion about the need for a training solution versus a performance support solution. As talent developers, engaging with stakeholders who are not invested in the process enough to question and disagree weakens our skills. The fight forces us to use our knowledge, skills and evidence in defense of our ideas. Once all the foes are slain, we have no need to keep learning and growing as professionals, and our users will suffer.

meQtaHbogh qachDaq Suv qoH neH Only a fool fights in a burning house.

We need to know when to quit the field. For example, a colleague began an organizational development project with a new client. Her main stakeholder was constantly resistant and demeaning, continually putting up barriers to her progress. My colleague fought with honor, but when faced with the fire of the stakeholder’s resistance, she had to retreat or risk going down in flames herself. When continuing with a client or project will compromise or damage our integrity as talent developers, our best course of action is to retreat and hopefully approach the situation from a different angle or with a different stakeholder, if possible.

noH QapmeH wo' Qaw'lu'chugh yay chavbe'lu', 'ej wo' choqmeH may' DoHlu'chugh lujbe'lu' Destroying an Empire to win a war is no victory. And ending a battle to save an Empire is no defeat.

There’s no shame in withdrawing from the current conflict to save the overall project or relationship. As talent developers, our main goal is to serve the user; that is, to provide what the user needs to reach development goals. Our knowledge and skills make us excellent resources to help organizations and individuals, but they don’t make us gods. We need to stand our ground in defense of the user and instructional soundness, but when your choice is between destroying the relationship to have the last word, or a peaceful retreat to try again another day and another way, choose the retreat. It’s impossible to know everything and to be right all the time. Approach the situation from a different angle and with a different perspective, and you may find that you are a lot closer to agreement.

Talent development, unlike Klingon wars, is not life or death combat, but we do battle daily against bad, ineffective training. Arm yourself well and take to heart the wisdom from the great Klingon warriors. Qapla’! (Success!)

Klingon language sources:
www.kli.org
https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Klingon_proverbs

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