CobblersAccording to a recent Guardian article there are several trades involved in making a pair of shoes.

The Lastmaker makes the wooden form the shoe is made on
The Clicker who makes the pattern and does the “clicking” (cutting out the leather)
The Closer who sews the leather together, and…
The Shoemaker who puts the pieces together

Caroline Groves, who is a bespoke shoemaker does most of this herself – everything except the lastmaking (although a good “last” is a key requirement). She takes measurements and photos of the clients feet, she develops the style of the shoe with the client and they help select the material. Clients then wear a mock up for a little while to check and refine the fit. This for her is what “bespoke” means. Another interviewee, Peter Schwieger, explains “very often our clients can’t buy ready made shoes because they’ve got foot problems of one sort or another”.

This made me think about shoemaking as an analogy for learning theories and models. 

As a training provider we have a stock of materials that we believe are appropriate, resilient and of the best quality. We work in partnership with our clients to find out what their problems are; we find the best possible intervention we can (in line with budget and time) and we then find the best way of creating and delivering this using a range of media rich learning material. Clients are involved throughout this process and they then have the opportunity to test the fit with a pilot.

Two weeks ago I spent the day with Brian, our MD.  He was delivering a workshop to a group of Regional Financial Sales Managers from a leading bank. Most of this workshop featured a model called the Managerial Grid which is one of his firm favourites and has been used with many of our clients. It was written over 60 years ago but with some care and attention from our team we had a high impact model with exercises and handouts to work through. This raw material was shaped around the work lives of these managers; sewing the elements together with stories,  shared experiences and role playing.

Generic “off the shelf” is for us much less desirable as more effort is required by the learner to make it fit and is therefore more likely to be stored somewhere and never used again. Much like the several pairs of shoes I have that I can’t bear to throw out but I never actually wear.