Monday 4 February 2013

#LT13UK - learning in the workflow (and not)

Screen Shot 2013-02-01 at 14.54.50.png  So - big change!


That doesn’t mean it all changes.  Learning itself is still pretty much the same.


It’s still about experience rather than simply about information.


It’s also still conversational.  We need ‘humarithms’ as well as algorithms.  Imagination is more important than knowledge.  And our brain is bigger than big data.


And it’s also contextual - the sort of mobile phone shopping that's popular in Korea (see picture) isn't likely to catch on here.

This was the main theme taken up by Charles Jennings in his session following the keynote.


Learning works best when its contextual.  Unless you have context it’s not going to stick.  So we’re moving from information-centric to context-centric learning.  For example we’re embedding learning into the workflow.  Learning activities that are distinct events from the day-to-day job have less impact.


Given the rate of change, learning needs to be continuous too.  So it’s more important than ever that we understand how we best learn.  Charles’ suggestions included:


  • New and challenging experiences.  This can be about about adding learning to work but it also involves extracting learning from work.
  • Opportunities for repeated practice to avoid the forgetting curve (see this post from Donald Clark).
  • Rich networks and conversations through things like pizza sessions and techniques like the fishbowl technique.
  • Space for reflection.  Including things like After Action Reviews.  Moving at such a pace as we need to now it is difficult to reflect



We then went on to focus on reflection including an input from Hans Dirkzwager at BT about his Mirror tool which BT uses to create a mood map - capturing moods - high or low energy, positive or negative energy - at the start or end of a meeting.  (This was quite clever, although I still think the teams might just be best off talking to each other.)


Just as with adding learning to / extracting learning from work, reflection can be added to work - thinking what you are doing while you are doing it (Donald Schon) or done after you do the work - sit in a room and think back (Boud).


So I did do some tweeting during the conference, but actually I still prefer the blog format at an event last this as it allows a deeper level of reflection and thinking.


I agree with most of what Charles and Hans described.  But I also worry about the impact of embedding learning to deeply into the current context of work.  As Gerd Leonhard very effectively described, things are just changing far too quickly now to focus on the current state.  Too much context helps us learn about the ways things are.  But it gets in the way of learning what might and could be.


So we need to add learning to work, and we need to extract learning to work, but we also need to learn for the new world of work.  We need to reflect on what might be.


To an extent, this is also what I presented on last year - that learning needs to be fully integrated into HR but shouldn’t be too integrated into short-term business.


It’s also what I talked to Bobby Yazdani, CEO at Saba, about when we caught up following Learning Technologies this year.  He’s seeing the rise of ‘anxiety learning’ - learning that isn’t simply about doing a job, or ongoing lifelong learning, but a reaction to the shock of how quickly things are changing.  I think we both agreed that anxiety learning wouldn’t be reduced by simply focusing on the workflow.  It’s learning at the cultural level that needs to change.

  • Consulting - Research - Speaking - Training - Writing
  • Strategy - Talent - Engagement - Change and OD
  • Contact me to create more value for your business
  • jon [dot] ingham [at] strategic [dash] hcm [dot] com


Technorati Tags: , , , ,

1 comment:

  1. Jon, I agree that we need cultural change for learning to succeed at work but I’m not sure that embedding learning into work prevents the bigger picture learning and reflection that you mention?. Perhaps we need both? To learn as part of work but also to reflect on what might be in the future. The real issue, to my mind, is being able to provide the time and space for that to happen.


Please add your comment here (email me your comments if you have trouble and I will put them up for you)