Five songs into his Glastonbury set this weekend, Paul Weller told the crowd, “I’m going to play an old song now to try to liven you lot up a bit”. He then ripped into The Jam classic, That’s Entertainment.

He must have seen enough in the audience to notice that people weren’t engaging with his material.

To be fair to him, a little earlier in the day, Lionel Richie had drawn the biggest crowd of the entire festival and ‘owned’ the same stage by performing all of his hits. He clearly knew what the audience wanted.

There’s nothing quite like giving the audience what they want in order to trulyengage them.

In a recent article by Aurion Learning about elearning (the business they’re in) they explained “One of the key issues with elearning lies in its struggle to retain, engage and motivate learners”.

As Paul Weller found out, first hand, when you give people something they don’t want, it doesn’t matter how well you perform it, they still don’t want it.

So, my challenge to L&D is: be more Lionel Richie.

If we want to retain, engage and motivate learners, should we not start by capitalising on the way they want to learn and develop themselves rather than serve them what we think they should have?

What Lionel represented was audience-first.  What Paul Weller represented was material-first.

If we, L&D, are to retain, engage and motivate learners, then – as Paul Weller noticed – it’s not good enough to push out what we want.

I know what I’d prefer… All Night Long.

This post was written by David James, former-Director of Talent, Learning & OD for The Walt Disney Company EMEA and now Learning Strategist with