I used this chart, developed a few years ago, to explain in a simplified way the differences between Learning Interventions and Instructional Interventions.
It shows that training & education (in the workplace) should concentrate on addressing a clear lack of knowledge and skills by using appropriate instructional interventions, well-established over the years.
Non-instructional learning interventions are those that provide tools and resources in order to do something we don’t know (or have forgotten) how to do. This is typically the area of performance support but also communities of practice, personal knowledge management, personal learning environments, etc. Informal learning would be another name for non-instructional. Instructional Systems Development (ISD) does not address non-instructional (informal) learning requirements and even the literature on performance support lacks clear design guidelines. Informal learning (or whatever you want to call it) is a major opportunity for improving work performance.
Informal learning needs will continue to grow as more work requires access to contextual knowledge, as Robert Kelley showed over a 20 year study of knowledge workers:
“What percentage of the knowledge you need to do your job is stored in your own mind?”
1986 ~ 75%.
1997 ~ 20%
2006 ~ 10%
We cannot train individuals for that 90% but we can support access to knowledge and expertise across the enterprise. This is an opportunity. There is much experience available in the fields of knowledge management, organizational design, human-computer interaction and information design that is valid and can be put to good use.
However, practitioners don’t always talk to each other or use the same frameworks and terminology. This is where I see Jay Cross’ concept of workscapes (PDF) going – a way to integrate these fields and use what we already know.
Working smarter is the key to sustainability and perpetual improvement. Knowledge work and learning to work smarter are becoming indistinguishable. The accelerating rate of change in business forces everyone in every organization to make a choice: learn while you work or become obsolete.
The infrastructure for working smarter is called a workscape. It’s not a separate function so much as another way of looking at how we organize work. Workscaping helps people grow so that their organizations may prosper. Workscapes are pervasive. They are certainly not lodged in a training department. In fact, they make the training department obsolete.
Working smarter also means working together but first we have to get out of our disciplinary silos.