Working Smarter in the Enterprise

On April 27, 2011, Clark Quinn and I kicked off a meeting of the Chief Learning Officer Executive Network at Symantec in Mountain View. The Executive Networks people took notes; here are the main points from my presentation.

Work Is Changing

  • Work is no longer just doing just what is in your job description.
  • In 1986, 75% of the knowledge that a worker needed was stored in their heads.
  • By 2006, that number was estimated to be 9%. The needed information is no longer in the worker’s mind but it is “out there” in the minds of others.
  • The need for personal, informal networks – to be able to find information — has never been greater.

Conceptual Age

  • We are moving from the information age (knowledge workers) to the conceptual age (conceptual workers).
  • Historically, most managers didn’t make time for employees to learn, grow, and develop. Now work and learning are converging into a new type of work known as conceptual work.
  • Innovation has to be baked into corporate of culture.
  • Conceptual work involves gaining experience, learning, developing new thoughts and new ideas, and even developing new lines of business.
    • In this new era of work, the potential value that a worker can create is 200 times greater than average, because they no longer have physical limits.

…and why most corporations spend most of their money where the least learning takes place.

Informal learning

  • Informal learning does not mean haphazard learning. It opens up possibilities and resources – the sky’s the limit
    • Research in many countries has found that 80% of the learning required for workers to do their jobs was acquired by watching someone else do the work and other informal means.
    • Learning is not formal or informal: it’s always a mix of both.
    • Novices – those new at a job – often learn more effectively and quickly in a formal learning environment. Experienced workers prefer to acquire needed information through informal channels. You need to provide a framework for informal learning, but experienced workers don’t want to go to “courses.”
    • In informal learning situations, when someone is struggling, others step in to help in “real time.”
    • Spending/learning paradox: The majority of the training budget in most organizations is spent on formal learning – the place where it actually has the least impact on performance.
    • Training departments know how to produce formal learning because it is like school.
    • Management has to have faith that there is productive work going on and that informal learning is enabling workers to get the information that they need to do their jobs.
    • If you have high expectations of people, they will live up to them; have low expectations, and they will live down to them.

Education vs. Engagement

  • Learning is more than just education.
  • Learning should include real, meaningful tasks, not knowledge recitation, but application.
  • Learning needs to be about the problems that a worker really cares about.
  • Learning: Natural, social, spontaneous, informal, unbounded, adaptive, fun.
  • Learning engages the heart and mind.
  • Meaningful conversation is the strongest learning tool!

Classroom vs. Workscape

  • The traditional classroom environment is apart from work – it is where training is delivered via “push” mode. It is packaged inside of a program and is delivered piecemeal. It includes events, is generally static and the end result is that the learner comes away knowing things.
  • In a workscape, learning is embedded in the work, learning emerges in pull mode. It is a fluid, holistic, process. It emerges as a result of working smarter.
  • In this environment learning is natural, social, spontaneous, informal, unbounded, adaptive and FUN. It involves conversation as the main ingredient.

Social Networks

  • Happy people learn more effectively and do more work.
  • Study by Nicholas A Christakis & James H. Fowler
    • Social networks have clusters of happy and unhappy people. A person’s happiness is related to the happiness of their friends, their friends’ friends, and their friends’ friends’ friends.
    • Happy people tend to be located in the center of their social networks and to be located in large clusters of other happy people.
    • What are you doing and how happy are you?
    • What makes people happy? In this order: sex, conversation music, walking, eating, cooking, shopping, children, reading, commuting, work is on the bottom.
    • Work should be increasingly about conversations. Conceptual work – conversations that are paid for.
    • Examples of the power of social networks relating to weight and smoking – if you have friends who are obese or smoke (or they have friends who are obese or smoke), you are more likely to be obese or smoke.

New Paradigm: Working Smarter

  • Dirty words: training, learner eLearning, informal, social, school, learning. Don’t use these words in an elevator with an executive! Now call it working smarter.

Recommended Reading
Marcia Conner: The New Social Learning
Andrew McAfee: Enterprise 2.0