Monthly Archives: November 2008

Learning Non-believers

Have you ever had a run-in with a learning non-believer? Those people who still train like it’s 1989 and have no idea why you might be trying to do things differently? We all know these people. I had an interaction with one such person yesterday and it got me thinking about how the world of learning has changed and why we need to change with it.

When I first started in the L&D world I was a lowly instructional designer. The most cutting edge things back then were the very early attempts at e-learning. In the course of only eight years since then e-learning, just one small part of learning and development, has taken off and you can now find every possible permutation of e-learning. It changes as rapidly as the world around it. Face-to-face training does not have this kind of flexibility. We can design flexible programs, beautiful programs with many interactive activities and opportunities for practice but will this be enough in such a rapidly changing world?

In a word, no.

The world, and organisations, change so frequently these days how can we possibly hope to design valuable learning experiences that help our learners navigate this world? How can we ever expect to get our head around a topic when it all changes so much? Once upon a time the trainer was an expert who taught others what they knew. That’s how the apprenticeship system worked for hundreds of years. These days the experts are usually the learners. The modern organisation is coplex and dynamic. It no longer requires us to deliver content that we are “accredited” in or consider ourselves experts in. Our expertise is not in the content we teach but in learning and learners. Our learners and our organisations need us, as learning and development professionals, to give them the skills to learn for themselves, to critically analyse, ask questions, seek knowledge.

Organisations and learners don’t often realise this for themselves unfortunately. It is emcumbent upon the learning and development community to show them what they can do and how learning and critical thought can make a real difference. It’s not as tangible as an attendance list from a course but the business and individual learning outcomes will be far superior.

So what happens to the non-believers in this world? Sadly I think they, like the dinosaurs before them, will be left behind. Superceded by newer and better adapted learning professionals. Now, honestly ask yourself – am I still a trainer or a learning enabler?

To learn more about informal learning and complex organisations you might want to look at the following blogs:

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