Are you supporting new fashioned learning in the workplace?

MM900234755So what is “new fashioned” learning?  Well let’s start by thinking about what “old fashioned” learning is?

“Old-fashioned” learning is being taught or trained – that is having all you need to know neatly packaged up in a course or programme or workshop or e-learning  course.  With old fashioned learning, some one else has done the donkey work; they have identified the content you need to know, have structured it into some logical order and delivered it to you in (hopefully) an appealing way.  Old-fashioned learning is what we’ve been refining over the last couple of decades as new advances in technology have emerged. But let’s be clear, even when newer social and informal approaches are added to this old model that let you learn things a little differently, if your learning experience has in any way been organized (and/or managed) by someone else, this is still “old fashioned” learning.

Of course, there is still a need for old-fashioned learning in the workplace. It is a very useful approach for getting you up to scratch quickly on a topic with an existing body of knowledge or wisdom.  But the world is changing, and more and more information is being created and disseminated on a daily basis. New domains of knowledge are appearing which have yet to be structured and organized. New ideas are being added to old domains. We experience this constant flow of new information in our personal social media channels every day, and many people are already developing new skills to help them make sense of all this new information. This is the essence of “new fashioned” learning.

For many this new way of learning has now become a familiar activity and one on which they thrive. Others who are new to social media and are not used to dealing with the huge amount of information they are being subjected to, struggle, and find it an overwhelming experience. They can’t work out what is important, so it all becomes noise – and they often just “tune out”.

MM900234761But this state of affairs is only going to increase, as organisations ”go social” and encourage widespread enterprise knowledge sharing. Workers will be inundated with a constant stream of information, so they will need to have a good set of new skills to deal with it all, in order to flourish and work productively. There won’t be time to wait for someone else to make sense of it for them, and deliver it to them on a plate!

“New-fashioned” learning skills therefore include developing a trusted network of people as well as sources of information (from both inside and outside the organisation) that individuals can draw from on a daily basis, filtering out the “signal from the noise”, “connecting the dots” in the pieces of information they receive to make sense of it all, and then sharing what they know with individuals for whom it is relevant and who will value it.

All this is collectively referred to as personal knowledge management (or PKM).  PKM skills are vital in a social workplace, and they are also an essential set of skills for managing one’s own professional development through continuous learning. So how do you support new fashioned learners in the workplace? How do you help workers develop a PKM skill set?

Harold Jarche defines PKM as “a set of processes, individually constructed, to help each of us make sense of our world, and work more effectively.”

In other words, it’s up to every individual to manage their own knowledge in the way that best suits them.

So it’s not about designing a one-size fits all PKM approach for all your people and telling them to use it; it’s not about building a PKM system and training them how to use it, it’s about showing them what it means to manage their own knowledge, and helping them to develop their own processes and select their own tools to do so.

And it goes without saying that to help others to do this, and become a “new fashioned” learner – you need to have good PKM skills yourself.

Harold Jarche -  who is a leading advocate, speaker and writer about PKM – and I have been running a number of short workshops on PKM skills and tools at the Social Learning Centre for over a year now. But we are about to embark on a major new series of workshops that focus on helping individuals develop their own PKM strategy and toolkit so they are ready for the (new) social workplace. So, keep tuned!  Or if you want to be one of the first to find out what we’re doing, send me an email at

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