In many organisations HR managers commission training…an in most of those organisations training makes no difference whatsoever. The reason for this is that there are two fundamentally different types of training and learning. One is transactional training which is the "normal" kind. The other is transformational training. There are different ways to explain what I mean by this – training that works on the level of the self, training that changes the participants , not just adding tricks and tips or just business training that really works.

Training people to do things to “fix” a problem is not enough and the issue will just re-emerge. To give a concrete example let’s take stress management training. Usually in the stress workshops I lead people will blame an external factor like “too many e-mails” or a “bad boss” for their stress. What always emerges however is that these are stimuli and symptoms of stress and the person that is under the stress that is also involved in generating it. The ability to say and ask for help for example are two key “skills” which actually exist on the level of being – what we embody, our long-term moods and how we live “in” language. If for example you are stuck in a way of being that means you cannot ask for help you will likely always be stressed no matter what tricks an tips you are taught, who your boss is or how many e-mail you have. This is why in my opinion much training and coaching is a waste of time and doesn’t get results.

How then to ensure transformational learning occurs? Here are some key factors

Peak Experiences

Intense state changes and emotional intensity is important. The role of body and emotional states cannot be overstated – intellectual understanding alone is not enough, and experiential learning is key.
Practices and Time
Practices – and by this I mean long-term recurrent activities done mindfully (not habits) – are essential for transformational learning. There are no quick fixes however intense an experience. Malcolm Gladwells’s claim that expertise takes 10,000 hours is really common-sense. No one has ever learnt a lanugauge, a sport or to drive overnight – why should business skills like leadership be any different?
If you get a junky clean in rehab and then throw out him back into a crack den to live with active users – how long will he stay clean for? The same with trainees coming off a course. My point is that environmental and cultural support for learning is crucial if it is to be sustained.

A Good Meta-Model

Being able to distinguish between “multiple intelligences and stages of development, along with quadrants (individual and collective, internal and external), types (e.g. masculine and feminine) and states (waking, dreaming, trance, etc) is crucial for transformational training. A clear model helps and Ken Wilber’s AQAL (All Quadrants, All Lines) model is the clearest and most comprehensive model I know of (applied to business training here)


So as I don’t just blow my own horn  – two other good examples of transformational training (also known as ontological training) are the Newfield coaching network out of Amsterdam and the leadership courses run by the Strozzi Institute in the US and out of Roffey park in the UK. Both highly recommended.

As a HR person the question is this – what kind of training do you want to commission? The traditional easy and safe option that doesn’t really cut it, or transformational training that works?

All the best from Brighton,


Integration Training – management training providers