Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Please Stop Saying 'Learnings.'

Lately I've noticed that, especially in the workplace, people now say "learnings" when they want to talk about someone else screwing up. Usually, it occurs in meetings and post-mortems where the intent is to say, "Someone has really f***ed up here, and I'm going to let you all know that I know someone f***ed up, but will also try to be positive by focusing on how we can do better in the future."

But instead of saying that, they say something like "There were some good learnings that came out of last week's event," or "Over the past few months there have been some great learnings that we've seen as a company" or [after an awkward pause where someone's embarrassing error has been pointed out] "Well, good learnings."

I first heard it from a boss in San Francisco, and since then, instances of the usage have only increased. It reached a critical mass during a meeting I attended today, and I had to ask myself:

When did this become a word?

I checked the dictionary: Nope, nothing there. Perhaps this usage has evolved because there's no other word that really conveys the concept? Except whoops, there is such a word: lessons.

But perhaps the person who is in the hall monitor role feels uncomfortable talking about "lessons," because it makes him or her seem schoolmarmish. Saying "learnings" sounds a bit more guru-like, not to mention inventive, because you are taking creative liberties with the English language.

Either way, can we call agree that learnings is not a word and should not be uttered?

Thank you.

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