How to make sense of “Auld Lang Syne”

In the few days since my last post, I’ve spent time thinking about how people get better at producing results on the job.  That’s a bit of a paraphrase, but “how people learn” is too broad for what I usually end up working on.  My projects vary widely, but what they have in common is the client’s desire to improve what people accomplish.

I believe that less and less of that improvement will come from the efforts of traditional, corporate training and development.  (Note that calling yourself “Organizational Learning” isn’t the same thing as having people in your organization learn.)  I do think there’s a role for planned, structured efforts to help people acquire and improve important skills — but it’s like the supporting role of the earl of Exeter in this clip, rather than the leading one of his nephew, King Henry (whom the king of France refers to as “our brother England”).

Some of the skills that learning professionals have specialized in — analysis, design, structuring, and so far — are moving out of their control, because other people need to apply those skills and can’t or won’t wait.  This is a topic I’ll pick up again  in 2012.  I’ve been considering what I know that’s effective and thinking about how to enable other people to be effective with that knowledge.  Like, for example, how to build job aids.

One way to look at a job aid:

  • It’s information external to you (rather than inside your head)
  • …that you apply on the job (rather than, say, reviewing beforehand)
  • …to achieve acceptable results
  • ….while reducing the need to memorize.

So in part this last post of 2011 looks ahead to what I’ll be working on in 2012.  And in part it’s a reason–as if I needed one–to (re)post my explanation of Robert Burns’s most famous song, one you’re likely to hear this weekend.  Auld lang syne is a Scots phrase. Literally, it’s “old long since;” it means “the days that are past,” and it has a sense of “the things that we shared.”

Even if you decide not to bother with my chart, you ought to take the time to listen to Eddi Reader’s singing.  The video is from the opening of the new Scottish Parliament building in 2004.  In the first half, she solos with a traditional melody.  In the second half, the attendees  join with a version you likely know better.

What Burns wrote The gist
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?
These are rhetorical questions:
– Should we forget old friends and never think about them?
– Should we forget old friends along with everything that’s past?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
Not at all–in fact, we’re going to have a drink together for the times gone by.
We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
Sin’ auld lang syne.
We two have run along the hillsides
And picked the lovely daisies together–
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot
since the times gone by.
We twa hae paidl’d in the burn
Frae morning sun till dine;
Now seas between us braid hae roar’d
Sin’ auld lang syne.
We two have paddled in the stream
From dawn till dusk
But broad seas have roared between us
Since those times gone by.
And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
(I know) you’re good for your drinks ( “be your pint-stowp” — “pay for your tankard” ), and you know I’m good for mine. We’ve still got that drink to share for the times gone by.
And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere
And gie’s a hand o’ thine
And we’ll tak a right gude-willie waught
For auld lang syne.
So, here’s my hand, my trusty friend
And give us (= give me) yours
We’ll take a good, hearty drink
For all the times gone by.

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