The networked enterprise and learning support

Would you rather go to a doctor who is in the band-aid business or the healing business? Prescribing training for all organizational learning is like handing out band-aids without a diagnosis. Training is often a solution in search of a problem.

This becomes evident when ~80% of learning on the job is informal and less than 10% of the knowledge needed for work is in our heads. But how much organizational effort is put into training, above all else? If it’s more than 20% of the learning support budget then it’s probably being misspent. For instance, Peter Senge’s comprehensive research showed that the average life expectancy of large companies is about 30 years, but some are over 200 years old. What is the reason for this? Organizational learning. Basically, individual learning in organizations is irrelevant. Work is almost never done by one person alone. Almost all value is created by teams and networks of people.

Enterprise training and its ADDIE framework are designed to develop individual skills, where the objective is always, “the learner will be able to …” not, “the organization will be able to …”. The basic premise is that any trained human cog will be able to fit into the organizational machine. But knowledge-intensive and creative enterprises don’t work that way. Every node in the networked enterprise is unique but the network itself is even more important. Social learning is how we get things done in networks. This is how nature and complex adaptive systems work – social learning is the best strategy.

We need to understand, encourage and support social learning in the enterprise.

Recently, Jane Hart & Jay Cross created this graphic that shows the five stages of workplace learning.

One limitation of this representation is that the first four stages look bigger than the fifth stage and could be perceived as being more important. Here’s a different perspective on the same theme.

My recent post on the value of the LMS stems from the perspective that the networked enterprise is a new organizational form that needs different support mechanisms.  Siloed support functions are becoming redundant, as are siloed technologies. Unless a platform like an LMS is actually used to get work done, it will become redundant as well. When learning is the work then it has to be integrated with working. That means stand-alone L&D departments (and the stand-alone LMS) are peripheral to 90% of the learning that is happening. The new focus of the training department in the networked enterprise must be on communicating, connecting and collaborating, and that means integrating with the work being done, not using parallel processes and technologies.

9 Responses to “The networked enterprise and learning support”

  1. Dennis Callahan

    This is all interesting conversation. Here are some of my thoughts after reading this post.

    The 5 stages model seems limited to the T&D point of view. If the point is from the T&D view, it feels like it needs to be broader. The stages feel more like “Learning Approaches that T&D has used to deliver & facilitate to the organization over the years”.

    If learning=working and vise versa, it seems like work and the organization should be represented in the model beyond top down/bottom up. Shouldn’t workscape stages show how the organization is adapting from a learning and working point of view rather than how T&D has changed its approach?

    I like your statement “Every node in the networked enterprise is unique but the network itself is even more important. Social learning is how we get things done in networks”. I agree – social learning is happening at each of the 5 stages and not a specific stage. Maybe the Social Learning Stage means the use of social media type tools for learning.

    Thanks for keeping the conversation going…

    • Harold Jarche

      Excellent points, Dennis. Yes, it should be looked at from a work/management perspective. Guess I better get back to the workbench …

  2. Jon Husband

    Shouldn’t workscape stages show how the organization is adapting from a learning and working point of view rather than how T&D has changed its approach?

    Yes. The design of work that takes into account connections, flows, nodes of expertise, etc. is a critical piece of this / these emergent model(s).

    Thanks, Dennis, for pointing that out.

  3. Jay Cross

    Dennis, indeed, good points, but it helps to understand the origin of this model. Essentially, Jane was trying to demonstrate that after a while, LMS will diminish in importance as social software comes to the fore. I tried to capture that aspect with this graphic: http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4003/4587117006_24e38e036a.jpg.

    Today I finished reading John Hagels’ and JSB’s new book, Pull. They see the world as I do. We are going through a phase change. It may be more useful to describe it as before and after rather than evolutionary.

    I suspect that “after” is going to resemble a giant hairball.

    jay

  4. Jon Husband

    I suspect that “after” is going to resemble a giant hairball.

    Just like real life today, only faster ?

    The thing is … regardless of the design and features of any given LMS (or other “X”MS), people always turn to each other … for validation, for answers, for framing issues, to get connected to the next possible source of info, etc.

    It’s a hairball-ish process now, even though it’s supposed to be manageable and managed. It’ll be hairball-ish afterwards as well, no doubt … but I am willing to bet that people will somehow or other get better at finding and learning what they need to understand and know.

  5. Dennis Callahan

    Jay – I didn’t realize it was focused on LMS. I think the Workscape title is what throws me off. The graphic shows 1 node (LMS) within the network but your workscape is broad. LMS being 1 node is from Harold’s earlier post http://www.jarche.com/2010/05/lms-is-no-longer-the-centre-of-the-universe/ (makes sense to me).

    T&D is also just a node in the network too. I think you have all implied this in some of your posts, let me know if you think I’m making the wrong connections.

    Jane says “what is needed is an organisational system that SUPPORTS and ENABLES this informal approach to learning.”

    I agree and think of system as the “integrated whole” (many of the concepts from each of your blogs) and not just tools & technology. I realize Jane’s article was focusing on a LMS but think that it could be interpreted as system=technology in the statement (maybe she does mean that, I’m not sure).

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