Learning is everywhere

There are lots of “learning specialists” in organizations and they work for variously named departments. As learning specialists, I assume they are supporting workplace learning, so let me ask:

  • If I’m sitting at my desk with a work-related problem, can I call the Training Department to quickly get me up to speed?
  • If I want to learn about a new market sector, will the Learning & Development specialist help me?
  • If I need some coaching to prepare me for a meeting with a new client, can I call Human Resources to connect me with the right person who is available?
  • If I’m stuck on trouble-shooting an unfamiliar piece of software, can I get someone from Training to walk me through it?
  • If I’m looking for great examples of collaboration and social learning, do the folks in Training & Development model them?
  • If I want to become a better networked learner, can I call a Training specialist to get me started and coach me?

Learning & working are interconnected in the network era. If learning support is not connected to work, it’s rather useless. Learning is the new black — it’s everywhere, and that’s exactly where learning specialists should be. Net workers need more than advice (training), they need ongoing, real-time, constantly-changing, collaborative, support.

16 Responses to “Learning is everywhere”

  1. Rick Ladd

    Geez, Harold. Slow down will ya’? I’m having a hard time keeping up with you ;0)

    These questions are all rhetorical, right? From a knowledge management perspective, as well as a social business perspective, I’m of the opinion anything that doesn’t serve to connect people in need of information and knowledge – in as close to real-time as possible – to people who have what they need, is a waste of time and effort, which translates into a waste of money.

    There is no love lost between so-called learning specialists and me, just as I don’t support spending money on things like Enterprise Content Management if it supersedes, or takes away from, efforts to connect people. We in the KM field have said for years the vast majority of useful knowledge is contained between the ears of an organization’s people, not in its explicit archives (as important as they may be, it is frequently through the intervention of people who know that they are found anyway).

    As you say, net workers (I read that to be knowledge workers, but I suppose it could mean others as well) need “. . . ongoing, real-time, constantly-changing, collaborative, support.” Couldn’t agree more.

    • Harold Jarche

      Thanks for the comment, Rick. Many of my posts are variations on a theme. I figure that one of them might stick some day (unlikely). For the most part, what I have been saying here for 8 years has been largely ignored. Most days, I feel like Don Quixote.

  2. Rick Ladd

    I know how you feel, Harold, though my quest hasn’t been going on (in public) as long as yours. Now that I’m retired (kind of), I find myself writing as much for my daughters as for anyone else. Keep it up, though. I enjoy reading your thoughts. As well, Don Quixote, and even Sancho, are still read, discussed, and a large part of our Western culture, eh?

  3. Jon Husband

    I’ll enlist you when I come up against my next windmill, Rick

    Thus you mean by the end of this week, right ?

  4. Leah Good

    The gaps that you are describing are real, especially in smaller workplaces that may not have any kind of training “department.” I’ve been thinking about this for awhile, and I realized that there’s a disconnect between social and informal learning and most workplaces. Even in my last stint in a company that actually did have a training department, I was identified as the person to ask if you had something you needed to do in Excel, Word, PowerPoint, etc. People need someone to call when they are in the moment of working on their project. How to manage this?

    • Harold Jarche

      One way to begin to support (not manage) social learning is to map the social networks, through some combination of social network analysis (SNA), organizational network analysis (ONA), and value network analysis (VNA). These visualization aids help to see the organization and its ecosystem for what they are, a series of networks and relationships, not a hierarchy of titles and job descriptions.

  5. Amit

    Harold, your thoughts resonate with me.
    I agree for experienced staff informal learning is the most dominant component as they need timely advice/support. However, I’d imagine, for new staff formal should be more dominant component. Also when knowledge.information itself changes fast /suddenly a planned dose of formal will be essential to get the staff started and then may be they can rely on informal as they start becoming ‘experts’.
    Would appreciate your thoughts.

  6. Amit

    Thanks for your response.
    We recently faced a situation where I’m not sure how informal could have helped. The demand for HTML5 development in e-Learning is exploding, while resources were not yet ready / available. Only way was to train them formally to get them up to speed quickly to deliver projects.

  7. Jon Husband

    The demand for HTML5 development in e-Learning is exploding, while resources were not yet ready / available. Only way was to train them formally to get them up to speed quickly to deliver projects.

    Sounds to me like a perfect example of a specific need, anchored in time (now, or sooner 😉 where specific skills & capabilities would be best delivered through formal training workshops / classes. With some sort of qualifying threshold at the end to ensure those who experience the training / learning can deliver on the expectations that are / would be set for their work.

  8. Richard Whiteside

    I’m visiting this blog post over ten years after it was written. I’m sure I’ve been here and read before, as I have many of your posts, Harold! I’m motivated to write because I started my day listening to something that had me thinking about ‘noticing’ and how our attention to our experiences can prompt learning, from anything, anywhere, at any time, but I’ve also been using and thinking about AI, in the form of ChatGPT, and have just watched the Microsoft launch of “Copilot”.

    Noticing usually needs us to stop and think, or at least focus and think, following the format of reflective practice (in and on action) discussed by Donald Schön. I’ve been thinking about how the latest AI ‘chatbot’ style interaction could be embedded into our work software tools in order to answer the kinds of questions you list in this post. This could prompt reflection, or enable questioning, or the sourcing of support or training materials, or suggest a colleague or community to ask.

    I find it amazing and exciting, although a little dystopian, to think about the possibilities an AI “sidekick” could offer in terms of learning.


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