I am the first to admit that I can be a bit of a stick beak. When I’m on the train for the morning commute I just can’t help but glance up from my book occasionally to see what my fellow travellers are up to. This morning my seat companion was doing something that warmed my little learning geek heart – she had a self-paced “Learn to Speak Spanish” book. Oh joy! People are still learning for fun in their own time!
In my day-to-day practice in the corporate LOD world I can sometimes become despondent about people not wanting to complete their development plans (a world of issues there, I know), not wanting to devote time to learning but at the same time whinging that they never get to go to anything like so-and-so at the next desk. It can be all too easy for me to forget that these same people are quite probably taking evening classes in origami, learning a language or turning to YouTube to learn a new crochet stitch.
We’re all learning all the time, whether intentional (like reading a book to learn Spanish) or unintentional (watching a reality cooking show and picking up a few tips along the way). The issue is convincing people of this and that learning at work need not be particularly effortful since it is something they are, in all probability, already doing.
It occurs to me though that maybe it’s like kids and vegetables. Maybe it’s better to “hide” the learning in other things that people enjoy more? Like the child who will happily eat spinach in a lasagne but claims to hate the stuff maybe learning practitioners need to get better at creating informal learning experiences that embed learning in practice and so make it just part of the everyday. The big question is how to do that in a world of compliance training, certificates and ROI. Watch this space.
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: