Work is learning, learning work

My Twitter bio reads, “Work is learning, learning work – that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know [apologies to Keats]. That’s pretty much what I believe will be a necessity for the post-industrial and post-information era that we are beginning to enter. Some call it the knowledge economy or perhaps even the learning age. Whatever it will be called, our networks of networks are making life and work more complex. We need to adapt to better ways of working with abundant information and expanding connections, as I said in sharing tacit knowledge:

Our current models for managing people, training and knowledge-sharing are insufficient for a workplace that demands emergent practices just to keep up. Formal training has only ever addressed 20% of workplace learning and this was acceptable when the work environment was merely complicated. Knowledge workers today need to connect with others to co-solve problems. Sharing tacit knowledge through conversations (the only way to do this) is an essential component of knowledge work. Social media enable adaptation (the development of emergent practices) through conversations.

Emergent practices are developed collaboratively while solving problems for which there are no definitive answers. For instance, what’s the “best” Internet business model? Where once we could document knowledge and develop guidelines and practices followed by most workers, we now need to let workers develop their own practices, according to their particular context, which is constantly in flux. This is a very different approach from the way we designed jobs and training in the past.

Social media are the tools that can help us develop emergent practices. They enable conversations between people separated by distance or time. The organizing framework for using social media for business is the learning network. Learning networks are not just for what we used to call training & development, but can also help us engage (not target) our markets. Chris Koch, marketing and sales strategist, shows no doubt with: There is only one objective in social media: create learning networks

The purpose of social media is to create learning networks that buyers want to join. The enticements are ideas and education. That means social media are extensions of our content development and dissemination processes. By creating content that offers relevant, timely, and useful ideas and education for buyers at all stages of the buying process, we create the incentives for buyers to engage with us in conversation and community. Whether it’s blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, or private communities that we build ourselves, the common thread is that by focusing on learning we build and retain buyers’ interest.

Social media are the vehicles by which we can share our tacit knowledge through conversations to inform the collaborative development of emergent work practices.

emergent practices

7 Responses to “Work is learning, learning work”

  1. Chris Koch

    Hi Harold,

    Really interesting post. I can see that training is ready for a revolution. It will be interesting to see whether companies and governments can leverage social media to help people improve their skills. Will they stop investing altogether, or will it become so inexpensive to deliver training simply by dipping a cup into the river of Twitter and delivering it to employees? Very interesting to think about. Thanks for the insight.

    Chris Koch

  2. Virginia Yonkers

    I agree with everything that you write about here. However, while workplace learning might be headed towards learning networks and informal training, I see there being a disconnect between workplace learning and education (primary, secondary, and higher ed). The standards based learning requires more and more formal structure which will not prepare the worker of the future for complexity and networking for learning.

    Additionally, I don’t see organizations preparing to receive workers that will need to learn how to learn informally.

  3. *Noah

    These concepts were explored in Margaret Wheatley’s book “Leadership and the New Science.” Iterating on identity and coddling chaos to allow each individual the liberty they need to find the best “in context” solution are phenomenal principles we learn from the quantum world. Relationships reign supreme in the quantum world. Hence, the focus of social media extracting incredible value from our relationships.


    • Harold Jarche

      @chris thanks for inspiration for this post.
      @virginia structural change of the workplace is “the” big issue of age, IMO.
      @noah thanks for the book recommendation, I’ll check it out.


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