Who Needs Formal Training When Google has All the Answers?

Young businesswoman working in the lobby of a modern business building

The Internet has an amazing power to get anyone up to speed on most any subject instantly. Heard someone use the phrase “machine learning” for the first time today?  With a bit of Googling at home, you’ll be lecturing colleagues about bootstrap aggregating and dynamic time warping tomorrow morning. Don’t know much about wine? Book a flight to Argentina and, if you’re willing to pay for in-flight WiFi, you can know your tannats from your tempranillos by the time you land.    

But does this kind of rapid Google research really help people learn new concepts – or does it merely make them feel more knowledgeable than they truly are?  Is there still a need for people to accumulate information the old-fashioned way – in their brains? Can we cancel all our training programs now that everyone carries an all-knowing digital oracle in their pocket?

The answer, of course, is “it depends”.  Specifically:

  • If it’s a simple, common question with a clear-cut answer, then let your people Google.  For instance, if you want to know first aid for a grease burn (remove tight clothes or jewelry, rinse with cold water for 20 minutes, call emergency services if the burn goes through the first layer of skin), how to use the SUMIFS function in a spreadsheet or the top export products of Uzbekistan (oil and cotton), Google will do.  If anything, you might want to provide your people with training on how to be better Googlers… though even that can be found via Google.

  • For complex questions with varying answers, you might want to do the Googling yourself then share the best results with your people.  Everything that can be written about eating healthy or writing effective sales emails has pretty much been written at this point – the only problem is a lot of what’s written is unhelpful drivel.  In cases where the answers are out there, but conventional wisdom is often wrong, it might be good to curate some recommended links for your staff, then post them in an a “find-able” place on your website, knowledge base or Slack channels (and if you don’t have a platform for sharing that kind of thing, it’s time to think about your knowledge management strategy).

  • If the topic is extremely complex or unique to your organization, then Google might not be enough.  Any organization that’s successful in its field will have at least some unique knowledge or expertise, for which you can’t find pre-existing training content on the web.  In this case, you’ll need to produce your own content, applying sound instructional design principles to ensure that whatever you create is relevant to your audience, easy to comprehend and – most importantly – easy to find on your organization’s knowledge/learning platforms.  The importance of “find-ability” cannot be overstated: otherwise, your people will just go Googling for knowledge in all the wrong places.

If your organization is dealing with these issues, or any other learning-related challenges, please contact Sonata Learning.


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