My colleague, Clark Quinn, in Building a Performance Ecosystem states that the benefits of maximum information for people to get work done, combined with minium barriers to achieve their work goals, are good for the entire organization. “When they [workers] can get the resources they need and the right people to assist when necessary, the performance benefits are obvious.” Alignment is necessary.
Some of that alignment is missing between departmental silos though. While Clark says that “learning leaders” should step up to the challenge, there is also a strong need to get aligned with IT, marketing, and operations, to name a few. As Clark concludes:
By aligning the use of technology with business needs in this way, learning leaders are demonstrating the strategic contribution to the organization that the executive suite wants to see. Failing to grasp the opportunity at this inflection point in business operations has a grim prospect. Folks know they can learn on their own and together. If learning leaders don’t get in and facilitate the full learning spectrum, it will happen without them. Then, just what is learning’s role?
What is learning’s role? First of all, in the network era, a coherent organization is one in which learning is no longer a specialty. Much as writing was no longer a specialty when the majority of workers became literate, learning today is more than putting an X in a checkbox. Work is learning and learning is the work. I may have said this many times before but it is the essential change in how we must view knowledge-intensive and creative work in a networked environment.
Learning is not something done to us, it is what we do together. Learning delivery in a constantly changing work environment is an outdated notion. For example, training courses are artifacts of a time when information was scarce and connections were few. It is glaringly obvious in this time of ubiquitous connectivity and pervasive proximity that we can get pretty well any information we need whenever we want it. To make sense of this, we need network era literacies, and with these new literacies we no longer need the equivalent of learning scribes. Pulling informal learning, instead of having formal instruction pushed to workers, has to become the workplace norm. By norm, I do not mean something bolted on to a course or some function of an LMS. I mean integrated into the daily work flow.
Learning together is part of collaborating to get things done while also cooperating in order to participate in knowledge networks. “Strictly business” is less frequently the case in our lives, as our work/life boundaries get fuzzier. Meanwhile the work/learning boundaries also get fuzzier. We no longer limit our learning to classrooms, training centres, workstations, or our official company mobile devices. In this environment, we cannot leave the direction of our learning to a “learning professional”. If today’s learning professionals want to remain relevant in the coherent organization, then they need to participate in collaborative and cooperative work/learning flows. This will be a sea change for the training & development profession, but I am certain it will happen with our without their participation.