There's nothing so practical as a good theory.
—Kurt Lewin, 1940
I'll excite their minds with the desire to know.
—Milton, Paradise Lost, 1667
"Every professional language," George Bernard Shaw once quipped, "is a conspiracy against the laity." The field of learning and performance is no different. Even within this relatively small discipline there are subdisciplines, each one spouting its own code jargon and making it difficult for beginners and even professionals to communicate readily with one another, let alone with clients. The International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI), for instance, speaks of "human performance technology"; the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) speaks of "performance improvement"; and organizational developers speak of "interventions and change management initiatives." All three speak of "knowledge management"—and yet mean something different by it in each case.
I compiled this book because of the need for a common language in the learning and performance field. When I first entered the field some twenty years ago (when it was called training and development), most of the information to be found was in unreadable five-pound textbooks and 800-page handbooks. Moreover, the field seemed less a discipline than a series of fads, fashions, and flavors of the month. By now, the field has existed for over a century since its beginnings, and it seemed to me as good a time as any for clearing the ground for a foundational discipline— for rethinking and reformulating first principles. With clearer definitions and philosophical distinctions, the field will be able to continue to thrive, and to carry even more impact than it has in the past.