Telling people that we can “formalize informal learning” is a not so subtle way of saying, “it’s OK, you don’t have to make any fundamental changes to the way you’ve been been doing training & development for the past half century”.
I asked the question in February’s eCollab Blog Carnival, with tongue very close to my cheek, because I knew it would stimulate discussion on the role of informal learning in workplace performance. I never thought anyone would seriously adopt it, but on viewing Jay Cross’s slides yesterday, it seems many have.
Here is an excerpt from an interview I did with Jay on the subject:
When asked if we should try to formalize informal learning, Jay responded by saying that it’s the wrong question. It would be like asking if we should “informalize” formal training. A key understanding that Jay wants to get across to everyone in the workplace learning arena is that it’s not an either/or proposition, but rather how much informal and how much formal learning should we support and who is determining what’s to be done. All learning is a bit of both. His promotion of informal learning is not to replace formal training but to open up the possibilities of supporting the other 80% of learning that has been ignored for far too long.
Two core themes in supporting informal learning are control and trust. Managers and supervisors need to give up some control and organizations must learn to trust their people, says Jay. Embracing, encouraging and supporting informal learning is part of a greater workplace cultural change.
Aye, there’s the rub – our organizations actually need to change.
We need to change from this:
This kind of change is not just adding another “blend” to the training bar-mix. It is a fundamental change required to move from a command & control pyramid to a network. It means a very different training department, if it’s even called that any more, as well as a new framework for informal, social learning in the enterprise. The required role for supporting workers is connecting, communicating & collaborating.
Jim McGee summed up the difference in yesterday’s conversation on a world without KM, the “best argument for Social Networks over Knowledge Management is shift in perspective from static content to dynamic interaction“.
It’s the same for training. Informal learning is dynamic and social (on the fly, just-in-time, self-directed, group-directed, serendipitous) while formal training is static (designed, directed, evaluated). What about a world without ISD (instructional systems design)? The best argument favouring informal learning over formal training is a shift in perspective from static content to dynamic interaction. It also means a loss of control for training departments everywhere. Tough.
Don’t try to formalize informal learning. Just help people do their jobs.
Here’s some final advice from @mneff during yesterday’s KM conversation: “Focus on connection & collaboration. The management of assets is mostly obsolete by the time it is stored.”