For over a decade I have promoted the idea that work is learning & learning is the work. It seems the idea has now gone mainstream, as it’s even noted in Forbes that, “Work and learning will become analogous”. It is much easier to just say that workflow learning is essential rather than putting in the structures and practices that can enable it. There are many structural barriers to learning in the workplace that have been established and embedded over the past century.
Social and informal learning are key to increasing insights that can drive innovation. People at work need more than training — they need ongoing, real-time, constantly-changing, collaborative, support. Much of this they can get from themselves, their communities of practice, and their networks. But they can only work effectively if barriers to organizational learning are removed. In such an environment people at all levels are narrating their work transparently, the daily routine supports social learning, and time is made for reflection and sharing stories. A key role of any manager is holding the space so that teams can self-manage and learn for themselves.
So where can this time be found?
In our daily work, three types of activities can either help us get more time to do valued work, or take it away from us.
- Organizing and participating in meetings,
- Finding people best suited to solve a problem or to learn from, &
- Collaborating with others to achieve a task.
As shown on the image below, the objective is to optimize the blue (collaborative) activities in order to make time for the green (cooperative) activities. Working collaboratively plus learning cooperatively are essential for sensemaking at the individual and organizational level. Most organizations could start by reducing and redefining all those bloody meetings — I have never met anyone who says they don’t go to enough meetings.