learning in the flow of work

Networked humans in a connected society:

  1. Our increasing inter-connectedness illuminates the need for cooperation.
  2. Simple work keeps getting automated, but still needs human oversight.
  3. Complicated work gets automated, outsourced, or contracted to the lowest cost of doing business.
  4. Complex work can provide a unique business advantage — but complex work is difficult to copy.
  5. Creative work can find new opportunities — but creative work is often intangible and constantly evolves.
  6. Complex and creative work require greater implicit knowledge.
  7. Implicit knowledge is difficult to share and takes time to understand.
  8. Implicit knowledge is often developed through conversations and social relationships.
  9. Social learning networks — with trusted relationships — enable better and faster knowledge feedback loops.
  10. Hierarchies constrain social interactions — so command & control management models need to change.
  11. Learning among ourselves is integral to complex and creative work.
  12. Social learning is how work gets done in a networked society.
  13. Management’s primary job is to support social learning.
  14. Work is learning, and [mostly informal] learning is the work.

This is real learning in the flow of work— connected, social, and human.

What is workflow learning? —Jay Cross (2005)

As we enter an age of informal and workflow learning, authority is less centralized than ever before. “Learning is best understood as an interaction among practitioners, rather than a process in which a producer provides knowledge to a consumer,” says Etienne Wenger, a social researcher and champion of communities of practice.

We humans exist in networks. We are part of social networks. Our heads contain neural networks. Learning consists of making and maintaining better connections to our networks, be they social, operational, commercial, or entertainment. Rich learning will always be more than a matter of bits flowing back and forth, but the metaphor of learning-as-networking gives us a way to describe how learning can be embedded in work itself.

We’ve essentially outgrown the definition of learning as an individual activity. We’ve moved back to the apprenticeship model, albeit at a higher level. We learn in context, with others, as we live and work. Recognizing this fact is the first step to crafting an effective workflow learning strategy.

learning in the flow of work


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