Learning without Design

puzzle-210784_640 (1)Most workplace learning is based on the concept that learning has to be designed; in fact that people won’t be able to learn something unless it has been structured into a logical sequence, developed professionally and delivered to them in some authoritative way. The industry is chock full of instructional designers and content developers whose work is focused on this way of learning.

There is clearly a need and a place for people to learn things that have been designed for them, but in fact most of what we learn happens without design – over 80% of what we learn in fact.

We learn all the time accidentally, unintentionally, unconsciously and/or serendipitously as we carry out our day to day work. We learn on our own and with others.

Is this type of learning less important or valuable than the learning that has been designed for us? Does our upbringing and education mean we only value the learning that comes from studying and memorization rather than the learning that comes from experiences?

Shouldn’t we be spending more time and effort in organizations helping people to “connect the dots” and “extract the learning” that comes from everyday work? If so, who should do this, and how should they operate? Charles Jennings provides some thoughts on this.

“HR, Talent and Learning professionals can play an important role in optimising the extraction of learning from work, but only if they position their professional skills as facilitators and supporters of improved performance rather than as managers of process and learning.”

Do you help people learn without design?

3 Comments

  1. leshirst

    Hi Jane,
    I have been “preaching” this all of my career with little success. Soobvious, yet so ignored. Thanks for a succinct blog on a very essential subject!

    1. Thanks Les, yes agree with you – have been preaching it myself for a long time too. The trouble is the “learning industry” is only focused on designed learning – selling courses, authoring tools and LMSs. It just can’t get its head round the potential for supporting undesigned learning – as it sees no money in it. And yet, that is where the most significant learning happens.

  2. AndrewJacobsLD

    Good stuff Jane.

    The issue of monetising our activity is a key one; we’re trying to market 20th century services for 21st century businesses. Too many of the designer services you mention are based on how we first started commercialisation of learning.

    Significantly, as the the flow of information increases, this means that our key asset – content – becomes more devalued. I think this is why we’re seeing content dressed up in a range of different coats. Our role has to be about helping people translate this flow of information into knowledge. That doesn’t come from design – it comes from creating the environment which means people are able to do that for themselves. If they can’t – not recognising the moment of learning truth, not knowing how to apply context to content, etc – then that’s where L&D can rule.

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