Learning has long been defined as “knowledge and skills acquired through studying or being taught”. However, as learning animals we can’t help but learn! As children we learned instinctively from our parents and from our friends, and in the workplace we now learn from our work colleagues. In fact we learn everyday from everything we read, do, see, hear and experience – often without realizing it. And we also learn through our regular explorations on the Web and interactions with others in social networks. Of course, this is a different kind of learning but it is STILL learning – and no less powerful or important than the learning that comes from being educated or trained.
|Some of the ways we learn.
Although education (ie being taught) plays a big part in the way we learned as a child, it plays a smaller part thereafter; most of what we learn as an adult happens through the many different types of non-taught experiences that we encounter everyday. It was inevitable that organizations focused on training as the main way to enable people’s learning in the workplace, since this approach primarily evolved from the education system. But the problem worsened when Training Departments changed their name to Learning & Development Departments, because in reality nothing else changed except the name! The focus still remained on creating courses and programmes to train workers. In fact, the whole “learning industry” revolves around education, training and courses, and indeed most “learning technologies” are primarily educational or training technologies.
But as many commentators point out, in the workplace Learning =/= Training, and in fact Learning is the Work. In other words, learning in the workplace is not just about acquiring knowledge or skills through classroom training events or e-learning organized through the L&D department, but also happens
- from the shared workplace experiences of others
- from having quick and easy access to content and/or people when we need to solve a problem
- in serendipitous, aha moments which can bring enormous insight into problems and issues
- from a continuous stream of new ideas and thinking from other colleagues, practitioners, experts, thought leaders etc – both inside and outside the organisation
Much of this type of learning does already take place in organisations; and frequently happens when individuals and teams use the Web to address their own learning and performance problems – and in doing so have a very different learning experience. So there is a huge opportunity for a Modern Workplace Learning Department to become much more involved and help other individuals and teams benefit from learning in this way, in particular by
- helping them extract the learning from work
- helping them share their knowledge and experiences with one another
- helping them acquire the new skills to make the most of their time on the Web – so that they can bring fresh ideas and thinking into their work teams and groups.
There are already many Modern Workplace Learning practitioners who live and breathe this new learning mindset. They walk the talk and demonstrate the value of different ways of learning for themselves. In their organisations they are leading the change for a new learning culture and mindset that views Learning in the Modern Workplace as much broader than just training (as shown in the diagram below). For sure, it will be a big step for some organisations (and L&D departments and practitioners) to move beyond (the comfortable position of) directing and managing training and e-learning into (the unknown territory of) enabling and supporting (autonomous) knowledge sharing and independent learning of individuals and teams, so the following 5 Point Plan might be useful as a way forward. It involves moving out (left and right) from the middle towards the edges, and adopting different roles as appropriate as they do so. 5 Point Plan to Move Beyond E-Learning
- Create and support on demand, self service content (courses, tutorials, guides, resources and job aids)
- Scaffold and guide social learning experiences (for the training room, online and continuously in learning flows) (more here)
- Help work teams, groups and communities share their knowledge and experiences to learn from one another
- Help individuals (create and) share their own resources to support one another
- Help individuals acquire the new modern learning skills (building their professional networks, locating appropriate resources, managing information overload, recording their learning, building a personal brand, learning out loud) (more here)
Want to find out more how to put this 5 Point Plan into action?
- Moving Beyond E-Learning Masterclass is available as a 1 day private onsite event (or conference workshop) to help L&D teams consider their own approach to moving things forward in their organisation (It uses the guided social learning experience approach to do so.)
- Online Workshops provide the opportunity to dive more deeply into many of these areas (All workshops make use of the guided social learning experience approach too.)