The future of learning is the future of work

Where skills and qualifications have been acquired through formal education, many find themselves unable to secure work that makes use of these; where skills are acquired informally, the challenge is to represent these effectively to potential employers. – The Regeneration of Meaning

This image, from a series on the Future of Learning by Gerd Leonhard summarizes how technology is changing our concepts of learning, training, and education.

SoLoMo by Gerd Leonhard

The role that institutions played as gatekeepers is changing, and the support systems that many of us depended upon, like jobs, are disappearing. Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy, for good and not so good.

hyperlinks hierarchy

The answer, I believe, is to use nearly unlimited information, self-publishing, and ridiculously easy group-forming to our advantage. Thierry de Baillon, co-author of the most popular post on this blog, writes about “a new set of managerial and operational paradigms” in My Social Business Predictions, namely: no boundaries; trusted exchanges; a culture of experimentation; and emergent and adaptive structures.

Returning to the initial quote on this post, the author, Dougald, shows some concrete examples of new operational paradigms: Centers for New Work; Access Space; West Norwood Feast; the rise of house concerts; and unMonasteries. I know of many more examples, and organizations like Shareable are highlighting these new models and experiments.

So it’s important to note that it’s not really the future of learning we should be concerned with, because it is merely a symptom of the future of work. It is becoming obvious that individuals need to take control of their learning in a world where they are simultaneously connected, mobile, and global; while conversely contractual, part-time, and local. Watch how work is changing and you will see how education and training will change.

changing nature of work

5 Responses to “The future of learning is the future of work”

  1. Ara Ohanian

    Harold, one sentence jumped out from your excellent post: it’s not really the future of learning we should be concerned with, because it is merely a symptom of the future of work. I wonder if enough of us in L&D recognize this fact? It’s no longer about us – if it ever was. It’s now about how we serve the workplace as it rapidly evolves. My one concern – if L&D does not keep pace with the changes you describe, others will do so and what we have offer will be ignored.

    • Harold Jarche

      I see L&D being ignored in several organizations I have worked with. As I have mentioned before, the use of social tools is new territory that is being staked by HR, IT, PR, Marketing, Communications, etc. L&D can provide a unique perspective but they first have to understand the business and then show how they can support it. I see much more innovation around social learning, collaboration and knowledge-sharing coming from outside official company L&D departments, many of whom only concern themselves with new hire training and compliance training.

  2. Nick Shackleton-Jones

    Hi Harold,
    I am grateful to Dennis Callahan for directing me to this post. The ‘future of learning’ point is an interesting one: I would like to suggest that the future of learning really resembles its past, whilst the same cannot be said of work; that while the former is a beneficiary of technological change the latter is a casualty. People have always learned as they go, from the people they are connected to. Whilst technology has amplified informal learning and formal learning obscured it – its essential nature has not changed. For sure there are emergent phenomena. With work things are different I feel: the subversion of hierarchy arises through the emergence of entirely new ways to orchestrate collective activity, and the relative devaluation of knowledge within a system which tends towards all knowledge being openly shared. I can see how work and learning might seem to resemble each other if we are talking about formal learning: since this is also a top-down, directed activity (and agree that the conventional forms of both are doomed).


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