How is learning cutting through formal structure?

Conversations or chats, the ability or urge to question and explore are aspects that is raising the level of interest in learning beyond the formal structure. Adoption of technology and the ease of quickly knowing multiple ways and layers of learning is a trend that has either caught up or is catching up with organizations that are continuously aiming to improve and innovate at work.

How is learning cutting through formal structure Charles Jennings, the proponent of the 70:20:10 learning model is a visionary in this domain, foreseeing that informal learning would constitute the bulk of learners’ appetite. This was much before ‘smart’ and ‘social media’ learning came to be in vogue. The consumption of learning always has to take into consideration the environment that people are in today. So much has changed. From information-less age, it is the era of information overload. Tangible and intangible have to co-exist. Classrooms or traditional ways of consuming learning information have given way to innovative formats – to an extent that technology solutions in the learning category across diverse industries are constantly evolving.

Learning, as Jennings opines, can no longer be apart from work. The immersive appeal (experience) of learning is what works today. Informal learning has become an integral part of workplace. For, learning is continuous and organizations are constantly working on making it seamless. The emphasis therefore has shifted to making learners learn by choice and not by force. The top-down or the push factor is no longer at work. It is the pull essence that organizations are keen to capitalize upon. The learning scenario almost is similar to ‘the chicken or egg’ syndrome! Outcome-based learning is all that matters at the end of the day for any organization. To allow the learner to be in charge of what gets consumed is where the effort appears to lie. Rather than being hired to do a job, it’s the ability to get better and better (continuous improvement and setting benchmarks) – improve competencies or find out of the box solutions (read innovation) –that drives organizations towards evaluating the informal aspect of learning at workplace.

Finding the right skill-set is a challenge that organizations globally are facing or having to grapple with. Shortage of human resources and the workers’ ability to come up to speed are leading organizations to look at supporting performance, instead of driving it. That approach is what delights learners who are eager to test or embrace newer and innovative modes of learning today. They, therefore, operate in their comfort zones by using the critical resource of time and leverage the power and prowess of technology from time to time. It is this aspect leading to productivity and efficiency that has made organizations to enable ease of access to people when it comes to tools and technology.

Like ‘performance detectives’, a term used by the learning expert, learning too is going through the detection and measurable mode. Learning is unrestricted, transformative, and transcending tangible benefits. Change of culture, behavior, and performance gets the added edge of a rapid change happening to learning itself provided organizations are willing to embrace the ‘experiment and experience’ approach. Terms like collaboration and consultation while expressions such as collective intelligence seem to resonate with learners and therefore, fit in easily in the sphere of the evolving learning architecture.

Jennings admits that it is “essential to stay on top of new information in the field.” Even an expert like him, with decades of experience, knows that to remain relevant, sharpening of knowledge and capability has to be done using new thinking, new people, and new approaches. So, when can real learning happen? Or, does learning actually happen?

In a dynamic business environment, it is the macro and micro economic indices that lay emphasis on fresh perspectives, effective use of technologies (like virtual reality, augmented reality, and near field communication) and having an open approach to accommodate newer dimensions of learning (blending formal and informal learning, gamification, social media learning) that augurs well for organizations focused on connecting the dots when it comes to learning.

“I make sense of new ideas by testing new knowledge/ideas with people I trust (especially where they have my trust in both their competence and their benevolence), by trying things out, getting feedback, trying again,” says Jennings. This statement only confirms that organizations willing to embrace change, experiment, and fine-tune their learning architecture by hearing the right tones will progress on a path that is predictive and can be monitored enough to correct or continue the journey as the case may be.


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