Learning works

A posting to Learning Circuits Blog last week stated that "Training doesn't work. Knowledge Management doesn't work. eLearning doesn't work."

Nonetheless, learning works. Workers in some organizations are learning to perform complex tasks in record time. If traditional training and KM and eLearning don't work, what do we call it when learning works? And who's in charge of that?

At eLearning Producer in San Francisco, Deloitte & Touche presented Creating an Integrated Blended Environment using Simulations, Coaching and Teamwork. Their challenge was to get 6,000 professionals up and running, individually and as teams, on a "methodology," i.e. procedures for a consulting engagement. Deloitte decided early on that the learning context would model the work context, involving teams, performance risks, peer interaction, and mentors. They gave a demo; it was quite engaging.

A primary element of the learning experience was a simulation of a project that was punctuated with decisions to make. After an introduction, all learning was learning by doing. Upon completion, the learners had experience applying the methodology, working with their team, using support services and help lines, and figuring out the best way to get the job done.

Notice that what's working for Deloitte bears scant resemblance to the standard definitions of eLearning. There's no course. You don't need an LMS. You learn with others. The boundary between learning and work is blurred. Deloitte hasn't developed a "program;" they call it an "environment."

In another eLearning Producer session, my friend Marc Rosenberg pointed out that we're learning all the time, not just in a classroom. Learning is formal and informal, explicit and tacit, trial and error, doing and observing, guided and unguided. Our sources are courses, instuctors, the web, experts, books, documents, friends, newspapers, and so on and so on. Sometimes it's appropriate to go after learning; other times it's better for learning to come to us. If you know where to find an answer, you may not need to learn it at all. Success comes from applying the right tools in the right proportions to accomplish the goal.

While Marc was making his eLearning Producer presentation, Conrad Gottfredson was in the next room, making much the same point. He bought a book in London, Learn Scuba Diving in a Weekend. Clearly a mismatch of medium and message. Rather than decry the weaknesses of eLearning, we must compensate for them so that the learning that needs to take place does take place. The toolkit must contain more than "class" and "online." As designers, we must match the learning modality (including animation, video, collaboration, e-labs, telephone, on-job coaching and the like) to the human requirements (rapport, perception, inspiration, prescription and so forth).

You've probably read my thoughts on this before. Give an instructional designer an eLearning hammer, and every analysis points to the need for more eLearning nails.

The new learning embraces such things as:

  • communities of practice
  • active collaboration
  • embedded support
  • simulation
  • informal learning
  • story-telling
  • dynamic portals
  • expert locators
  • social network analysis
  • learning on demand
  • give and take
  • learner control
  • co-creation
  • workflow integration
  • search
  • help desks
  • spontaneity, emergence
  • outsourced mentoring
  • games
  • keeping up
  • personal knowledge management

At the November eLearning Forum, we grappled with what to call ourselves. If eLearning doesn't embrace the items on the above list, we've got to dump the term. So what do we call ourselves? The Learning Forum is not compelling. Someone suggested the Distributed Learning Forum but many things on the list don't have to be distributed.

The Transformation Forum, The Community of Change, The Human Side of Enterprise, The Emergent Learning Network, The Know-How Group?
Part of the dilemma is that the basket of tools and techniques above has no home on the typical business organization structure. Responsibility shared by all forfeits responsibility by any. The effectiveness of our people is too important to hand over to the training department and too humanistic to give to the CIO. The chief learning officer was supposed to tackle this, but CLO has been much more successful as a magazine title than as a position with clout in organizations.

Help me out here.

What business are we in?

Posted by Jay Cross at November 22, 2003 10:41 AM | TrackBack

Hi Jay. Not sure if these will help at all, but here's a few suggestions/ideas to chew on....

* Chief Discovery Officer

* Chief Collaboration Officer

* Chief Exploration Officer

* Chief Performance Officer

* Chief Productivity Officer

* Chief Capability Officer

* Chief Transformation Officer

* Chief Motivation Officer

Posted by: Andrew Williams at November 22, 2003 10:58 PM

I support a term that directly references performance, e.g. Chief Performance Officer...

A post on my blog kinda intersects with this topic:

So, another approach would be 'Chief Learning Architect' (with lots of little Learning Architects below....)


Posted by: mindful_learner at November 24, 2003 06:48 AM

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