In my recent Web travels I came across an interesting draft paper from 2003 that's still very relevant today. It talks about "the other 80%"of learning. That is, 20% of learning in organizations is a result of formal training, while 80% occurs through informal learning. Yet organizations put more resources toward developing formal training options.
One piece that struck me in this paper was the notion that "people love to learn, but hate to be taught." So true. It suggests that if you ask net-savvy learners what they want from a learning experience, they will ask for many of the strategies that are currently happening through Web 2.0 tools:
- Smart technology that learns about me and makes recommendations, like Amazon
- Persistent reputations, as at eBay, so you know who you’re collaborating with
- Flexible delivery options, as with the bank offering access by ATM, the Web, phone, or human tellers – give me instruction, an FAQ, a subject-matter expert
- Let me choose whether my instruction is push or pull
- Give me a way to find out how our company does things, not just generic lessons
- Adapt to the learner’s pace, as the Porsche Boxster learns your driving style
- A single, simple, all-in-one interface, like that provided by Google for search
- Community of kindred spirits, like SlashDot, The WeLL, and MetaFilter
- Ability to share information and comments, as with my blog
- Show me what others are interested in, as with pointers from BlogDex
I would argue that not just net-savvy learners would ask for these characteristics. They might not use Web 2.0 language to describe them, but I think most learners when they think about it prefer to learn with a community of kindred spirits, want choice in how and when they will learn, etc.
The question is, what are we doing to create these kinds of learning environments for our staff? Probably not much. Informal learning tends to be more haphazard and accidental with little thought put into how to foster a community of learning. We may agonize over curriculum and logistics for a formal training session, but supporting informal learning has typically been unintentional. But if 80% of learning is happening outside of the classroom, maybe we need to shift our attention to crafting an environment that supports that informal process. What can we do differently to create a culture of learning?
For me, many Web 2.0 tools start to move us in that direction. Wikis and blogs, social networks, etc. are all tremendous learning tools that support the development of individual and shared knowledge and expertise. But they are just tools. We also have to pay attention to all of those things that create a particular organizational culture that either supports or inhibits informal learning for the tools to be effective. And that's probably the bigger challenge. How to get there is the question.
What thoughts do you have on this? How do we nurture a culture of informal learning?