As an independent adviser, I don’t have a traditional workplace – my office is the Web!
I connect with colleagues all around the Web in many different ways. For instance, I use Skype to talk on a regular basis with my close Internet Time Alliance colleagues (Jay Cross, Charles Jennings, Harold Jarche and Clark Quinn) and I mainly use Twitter to connect with my extended set of colleagues around the world. This is the way I find out what they are up to, ask them questions, share ideas and brainstorm with them. (This is my equivalent of going to meetings and having coffee breaks or watercooler conversations, etc.)
In addition to the drip-feed of new ideas and resources that come to me via Twitter, I read the blog posts of key people in the industry (that I aggregate in Feedly so that I can access them when desired), and Google sends me alerts of new stuff that I have said I am interested in too. (This is my equivalent of receiving company news, briefings and docs)
I also dip in and out of a vast range of other resources on the Web – like YouTube, SlideShare, Wikipedia, and so on – if I have a problem that I need to solve, or some new content I need to look up. (This is my equivalent of performance support and (dare I say it) training!)
I share useful links to resources that I find with my colleagues in Twitter (and other places). I also take time to “connect the dots” from the many different pieces of knowledge I have found, and reflect on my thinking in my blog. (This is my equivalent of providing evidence of my own learning)
I am continuously learning as I work. Although I do have a curiosity to find out new stuff, it is largely focused around my professional interests and work goals – the projects I am working on, the books I am writing and the workshops I am running. (This is how learning is an integral part of my work)
What does this mean for workplace learning in general?
I recognize that a lot of people do not work like this; for many in traditional workplaces, their work is confined to their four walls – and they are sent on training courses from time to time. But it is clear that for many others their workplace (and learnplace) is extending into the Web too, and they also realise that by finding out what is happening out on the Web, and then sharing new ideas and thinking with their internal colleagues, they are helping their teams to grow and thrive too.
Continuous learning of this type is becoming increasingly important in organisations of all types today. Indeed without these fresh new ideas coming into an business, the same old air is simply re-cycled in the workplace! So it is no longer just about providing a series of training courses (and teaching people stuff), it’s also about encouraging “learning the new” (and supporting people to learn stuff for themselves) – and the best place to do that is on the Web – where there are so many opportunities available in a wide range of ways, formats and approaches.
It is true, that in some organizations it will require (organisational and individual) mindset changes to appreciate that workplace learning today is more than just training. In particular, managers will need to recognize the value of this form of continuous learning, and that they will need to provide time to do it, and indeed measure its success in other ways than through training attendance or online course completion.
And there will be a number of individuals who will need help to become independent learners – to discover (what’s available) and how to learn in non-traditional (non-taught) ways, as well manage the whole process. L&D clearly has a important role to play here – not as an instructor or instructional designer, but as a Personal Learning Advisor.
In fact, my own work with a number of organisations recently has shown me that there is a need for a role of this type to complement the traditional training provider approach, so if you are interested in finding out more about this type of work, you might be interested in the online workshop that I am running 15 June to 10 July: How to become a Personal Learning Advisor.
[How to promote continuous learning is a key part of my new book, Modern Workplace Learning. You can take a look at the Table of Contents here.]