What does it mean to “develop others?” A few weeks ago, the ASTD, the American Society for Training and Development announced that it was changing its name to the ATD, the Association for Talent Development. Addressing members at the ASTD’s 2014 International Conference & Exposition earlier in May, CEO Tony Bingham outlined a variety of reasons why (you can watch the video here). (As an aside, curiously, they seemed to have dropped the “American” from their name, too, but didn’t explain why.)

Bingham gives a host of reasons why the association decided on the rebranding, which had been in the works for over two years. He spoke about the evolution of the training and development profession over its 70 years existence and he marshalled evidence from the ASTD’s job bank and LinkedIn, noting the increasing number of job titles with “talent” in them.

My growing engagement with the field of workplace learning and training tells me that there are a host of names and spectrum of job titles and duties, from old-school “training and development” and to ones such as “learning consultant,” “performance consultant,” “learning development consultant,” and as the new ATD brand identifies, “talent development.”

As Bingham notes in a recent blog, “some members have commented that,“talent describes a subset of people who have been identified as high potential.” Moreover, it does seem that talent often gets bandied about in generalizations, such as the “war on talent,” which emphasizes a presumably scarce commodity. This is not, however, what Bingham and the rebranding effort to ATD would emphasize. Rather than seeing talent as merely “natural aptitude or skill” as so many online dictionaries define it, the Association for Talent Development sees it as latent potential that exists in all of us that can be developed.

Indeed, what struck me, so that I scribbled it down while listening to the video, was Bingham’s pithy yet poignant assertion at the core of what those in the training and development community do is “develop others.” For me, this simple, yet profound notion captures so much of what I do as an instructor and facilitator in and out of the university and yet quietly reframes it. I am, through effective instructional design, engaging facilitation, relevant learning materials, attention to offering opportunities to practice and apply learning, leading an online discussion, shaping and building the potential talent, the skills and aptitudes, of others. This recognition is a powerful place to deepen and extend the value of what I and others do and the impact in can have when done well.

For a more detailed and organizational perspective on the name change and its consequences, see David Kelly’s piece: What’s in a Name?

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