Consider these words of wisdom from a recent edition of Forbes magazine.
“Like most educated people, Michael Travis, an executive search consultant, knows how to conjugate a verb.
“That’s why he cringes when his colleagues use the word ‘learning’ as a noun. As in: ‘I had a critical learning from that project,’ or ‘We documented the team’s learnings.’ Whatever happened to simply saying: ‘I learned a lesson from that project?’
“Says Travis: ‘Aspiring managers would do well to remember that if you can’t express your idea without buzzwords, there may not be an idea there at all.’”
Says Moynihan: Travis, you never spoke a truer word.
A reader took issue with me a couple of years ago when I clutched my pearls, metaphorically speaking, about the use of ‘physicality’ in discussing sports, but I refuse to back down on this one.
‘Learnings’ must be extinguished before it, or they, take, or takes, over completely.
The reason I bring it up here is because more and more it turns up in sports, particularly after games when managers are keen to show that no, the defeat is not a cause for sackcloth and ashes but rather an opportunity to take on some valuable lessons.
And out come the learnings. For some reason this is particularly noticeable in hurling compared to Gaelic football, and not just because I tend to cover the former. About a decade ago after a championship game a manager spoke to the collected press, and a colleague nudged me when he’d gone and asked if he’d heard correctly: learnings?
He had. And ever since I’ve noticed its slow infiltration into the hurlingspeak of managers across the board. You probably think I’m exaggerating for effect, so let me show you the evidence.
This is by no means exhaustive, but last June Cork senior hurling selector Donal O’Mahony discussed what he and the Cork management had taken from their game against Waterford:
The previous month John Kiely had seen his side beat Tipperary as they embarked on their run to eventual victory in the All-Ireland. But after the game against Tipp, Kiely said: “We have to go back to the drawing board and have a lot at that game — analyse the game and see where did the couple of goals come from. There are plenty learnings from that game before we go to Cork in two weeks time.”
Just in case you feel this is a Munster hurling affliction, consider Henry Shefflin’s reflections before the 2017 Leinster semi-final. He was asked what Brian Cody and Kilkenny would take into that game against Wexford from a previous meeting between the counties.
“I would think they would be very motivated,” said Shefflin of his native county, “And will take the learnings from that game.”
That wasn’t the only sighting of the learnings in the eastern province. When Micheál Donoghue’s Galway put Kilkenny to the sword in the Leinster decider he was asked after the game for his thoughts, and . ..
“Every day I keep saying the same thing,” said Donoghue. “We get the work-on from and the learnings from this game now.”
I have to give Micheál double points for coming up with another term — work-on — which I doubt exists outside regional sales meetings, but it’s also a worrying development. The learnings have almost become normalised. If we tolerate this, the work-ons will be next.