Magazine article Talent Development

The First 50 Years

Magazine article Talent Development

The First 50 Years

Article excerpt

Looking back over the first five decades of ASTD's existence, it's easy to think the world was in slow motion. We see such rapid change in the workplace nowadays that it's slightly shocking to look back over 50 years and discover that people in the training profession were championing new methods and processes for decades before they gained momentum.

It took eons for managers to shake off the influence of the industrial revolution on the practices of management and supervision. Peter Drucker's early writing on management began to change people's thinking, but progress was slow. Following such work as Abraham Maslow's theory of human motivation and Kurt Lewin's contributions to the field of human dynamics, both done in the 1940s, organizations shuttled for decades between the poles of self-determination and authoritarianism.

Technology was equally slow to transform the practice of work, relative to now. The first computer, Mark I, a behemoth that occupied an entire room, was developed at Harvard 1939 to 1944. It took nearly 50 years for that invention to become a commonplace productivity tool, shrinking in size while it grew in influence. By comparison, changes in the learning and performance profession caused by enterprise software seem to be happening at a much swifter pace.

Some artifacts of the profession have amazing endurance. The job aid, now more grandly labeled a "performance support tool," was first introduced in the 1940s. So was sensitivity training, which lives on in current diversity programs. …

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