Pulling informal learning

Take a look at these 8 demand-side knowledge management principles by Nick Milton.

  1. People don’t pay attention to knowledge until they actually need it.
  2. People value knowledge that they request more highly than knowledge that is unsolicited.
  3. People won’t use knowledge, unless they trust its provenance.
  4. Knowledge has to be reviewed in the user’s own context before it can be received.
  5. One of the biggest barriers to accepting new knowledge is old knowledge.
  6. Knowledge has to be adapted before it can be adopted.
  7. Knowledge will be more effective the more personal it is.
  8. They won’t really know it until they do it.

They highlight the difference between Push and Pull learning. Training is Push. Informal learning is mostly Pull. Look at what Push can mean in the context of demand-side KM:

  1. How often are training courses aligned with the moment of need?
  2. Do participants request and value compliance training?
  3. How credible are trainers with those in the business units they support?
  4. How much time and affordance is there to put training courses into individual context?
  5. How is old knowledge respected and then challenged in a non-confrontational manner?
  6. What kinds of tools are available to adapt new knowledge?
  7. How personal are courses and classes?
  8. What opportunities do people have after a course to practice and get feedback?

There are many do-it-yourself applications available today that let people take control of their learning. Traditional courses can be designed or taken from a wide variety of sources, such as Udemy. Professional communities on platforms like LinkedIn abound. Knowledge workers are shifting their professional development from Push to Pull. They are also more in control of who Pushes to them, through social networks and other sources of online information. Networked sense-making frameworks like PKM can give more control over one’s learning.

For learning & development departments, a Pull workplace changes the traditional expert-led dynamic of content creation. The shift to more Pull and less directed Push learning also challenges the role of the instructional designer. The ID, who spends a long time getting a course “just right” with  learning objectives aligned to Bloom’s taxonomy, engaging graphics, and absolutely correct wording; may be becoming an anachronism. By the time the instructionally-sound course has been developed, the work requirements may have changed (again).

It’s not that informal learning support is better than anything instructional design can deliver, it’s really a question of time. Getting roughly integrated knowledge assets and professional advice from a network is better than waiting six months for a polished course to be developed. It’s also a matter of  increasingly complex work requirements and dealing more with exception-handling, rather than routine procedures. Exceptions cannot be taught through training; but learning about them on the job, and in networks, can and should be supported.

In the network era, the days of an instructional design team working in splendid isolation to produce award-winning courses may be numbered. The pace of change and the level of complexity are outpacing the ability to Push the knowledge artifacts needed for an agile workforce. Connections are more important than content in the networked enterprise. As workers take control of their learning by Pulling it in, the training department had better adapt.

7 Responses to “Pulling informal learning”

  1. Nora Stewart

    Re: 8 demand-side knowledge principles- these used to be called adult learning principles in my day (not that long ago). Not sure if this is really adding anything new but perhaps it’s good to give these ideas a facelift every now again?

    However, I am all for principle-based learning, as this is what will stand people in good stead as the turbulence increases.

    I also have a taxonomy incorporating Bloom and others which involves the PK of PKM. Happy to share it.


  2. Nick Milton

    Nora, I agree that these principles have been around in a training/learning context for a while, but they also need to considered when designing Knowledge Management approaches, especially those involving the use of social media. We know people learn through Pull, but how often have we seen companies attempt to introduce KM through the introduction of blogs (Push), microblogs (95% Push), wikis (Push), and so on. Maybe we need reminding that even in this field, the old principles apply.

  3. Jessica

    I do agree with your 8 principles, in-fact i am also doing the same thing and many more people. And the differences between pull and push is also very interesting to read.

  4. Paul Matthews

    I stopped and considered each on these 8 principles from my own experience, and evey one rang true for me. I don’t think I am that weird or different, so they must ring true for most people. And yet many training departments insist on piling people into a room and ‘lecturing’ at them. It’s a fascinating exercise in futility 🙂
    Cheers, Paul

  5. Ferawaty Kurnadi

    I agree with this article. 3 years ago until now, my company had implement Knowledge management. We choose one of knowledge management approaches : Community of practice, to encourage people to share their knowledge. But until now, we frustrated and finally we were fail to implement KM. Any ideas?


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