Is it time for a BYOL (Bring Your Own Learning) strategy in your organization? #BYOL

My previous blog post that revealed that around 70% of respondents in my recent survey found training (including e-learning) “unimportant” or only “somewhat important” has generated quite a bit of interest.

A number of comments focused on how we now need to make training/e-learning more “engaging” or “effective” to recapture the interest of these people. But I think this is rather like shutting  the stable door after  the horse has bolted; it’s just too late. An increasing number of the workforce –  smart, social, autonomous workers – are already doing their own thing and solving their own learning and performance problems much more quickly and more easily by using their own tools and devices. (In April 2011 Forrester Research estimated that 47% of users were self-provisioning technology and expected the number to rise to 60% by end 2011, and Jensen & Kline (around the same time) estimated that between 1/3 and 2/3 of employees were meeting their needs by working around L&D)

So just as some IT departments have realised the futility of banning personal devices in the workplace and are now beginning to adopt BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) strategies, L&D departments might also want to adopt a BYOL (Bring Your Own Learning) strategy and embrace all the learning that is taking place outside of training. As it is, they will never again be able to keep up with the fast speed of business and provide everything everyone needs to know in a timely fashion, so it makes good commonsense to do so. Furthermore, as Dan Pink has shown us in Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us, autonomy is a highly motivating factor within an organization:

Control leads to compliance, autonomy leads to engagement.”

Adopting a BYOL strategy will however require a different approach to learning and development.  It will not be about designing personalised training nor managing people’s learning for them, but rather supporting their own personal learning strategies. For some people, this may simply mean getting out of their way; for others it may involve providing some guidance and assistance on how to be an effective BYOLearner.

Let me also add at this point, that adopting a BYOL strategy does not mean that these people will be excluded from essential company training, but rather it offers them the flexibility to “fill in the gaps” in the best way possible for them - and to be recognized for doing so.  In other words, just like a BYOD strategy it is a complementary not a replacement strategy. Of course, there will be workers who will not feel comfortable or able to do this, because they have been conditioned to believe learning only takes place when it is “spoonfed” to them in a training room or online course, and need to be told what to learn, when and how. So they should not be forced to adopt this approach – only gently encouraged to see the value in it over time.

In this post I therefore want to look at what adopting a BYOL strategy means in terms of supporting the BYOLearner’s personal learning strategies:

Firstly, a definition of Personal Learning Strategies:

  • Personal = independent | autonomous | self-directed
  • Learning = acquisition of new knowledge and skills in many different ways (NOT just through study)| continuously and one off events | online and f2f | internal and external | formal and informal | content and people (e.g.  self-directed study of online courses, job aids, professional networks, conferences, mentoring, blog and news feeds, working collaboratively with team, conversations and meeting, resources on the Web, etc )
  • Strategies = selecting the most appropriate ways/approaches/sources that suit the individual’s job role/profession and preferences

There are 7 key elements to being a BYOLearner – and my thanks go to my Internet Time Alliance colleague Harold Jarche  for helping to create this list. For an individual it means they:

  1. Take responsibility and control
    Take responsibility for their own learning personal/professional development in the organisation
  2. Reflect and review
    Continuously review their strategies in the light of a changing world – as Harold says “life is in perpetual beta“.
  3. Seek-Sense-Share
    Use Personal Knowledge Management  (PKM) techniques as a continuous process of seeking, sense-making and sharing
  4. Contribute and share
    Become a valued contributing node in the networks to which they belong
  5. Get organized
    Use a variety of personal and organisational tools including social media tools and networks to organise and manage their own personal learning – but this certainly doesn’t mean being forced to record everything in an organizational LMS or learning platform
  6. Get things done
    Performance is key; it’s not about the learning per se but what they can do as a result of all their learning activities. Success of learning is therefore measured in terms of their new or improved performance
  7. Narrate and converse
    Narrating their learning is an integral part of narrating their work – i e.  regularly recording activity, achievements and reflections  (in a personal blog or in an activity stream)  in the workflow for others to read and learn from.

What does it require to support a BYOL Strategy in the organisation

It  won’t be about “do as I say”, but “do as I do”. That is,  it will be about modelling not shaping (as Harold puts it). It will  require people who can set the example, by modelling these behaviours and sharing their experience with others.  In other words it will require people who are themselves  confident, autonomous workers who are BYOLearners themselves.

So how can WE help you support a BYOL Strategy in the organisation?

Harold and I offer a range of opportunities to help both BYOLearners as well as organisations adopting a BYOL strategy.  We focus on understanding the importance of these new skills and developing them using “modelling” not “training” techniques.

1 – We run a two-week public online PKM workshop on Personal Knowledge Management techniques for individuals. It looks at how to create your own PKM framework that enables you to seek information and people; make sense of the online world and share with others in communities of practice. The PKM framework is based on eight years of practical research and use.

2 – We offer a set of (online and onsite) services for organizations on How to adopt a BYOL Strategy to help them that understand the relevance and importance of this strategy, and what it takes to support BYOLearners in their organization. Contact Harold harold@jarche.com  or me jane.hart@c4lpt.co.k  to discuss how we can help your organisation.

3 – We have also just set up a brand new website – BYOL (Bring Your Own Learning) - where we will be  aggregating many of our existing resources around this topic as well as providing new ones – to support both the BYOLearner as well as organizations who are adopting a BYOL strategy.

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