Does your organisation live in complicated or a complex world?
When you are developing training, are you addressing complicated or complex issues?
complicated = not simple, but ultimately knowable (e.g. the wiring on an aircraft)
complex = not simple and never fully knowable. Just too many variables interact.
If you are working with a complicated system, such as an aircraft, then the entire system is knowable, even though it would take much time and practice. Training would be the right tool to develop your skills to fly or fix the aircraft. I know, because I’ve designed aircraft training. There’s a lot of stuff to know and do, but training works and people can eventually master the system.
Complicated systems and the training for them can be controlled. Complex systems and learning how to work with them cannot.
If you are working with a complex system, you will never be able to know everything. For instance, the environment and communities are complex systems that cannot be controlled, only influenced. There are no right answers, there are many ways of trying to achieve your goals and there are too many variables to control.
The other day I was asked about the essence of implementing informal learning, and I believe that it is the act of giving up control. This is scary for many inside the organisation, but it’s the only way to manage in a complex environment. As the world becomes more networked, interdependent and environmentally challenged, all organisations are moving into complex environments.
Here is an indicator of how complex our work is becoming. It used to be that you could master the majority of what you needed for your work. This is no longer the case, as shown by Robert Kelley of Carnegie-Mellon University, when he asked this research question (via Jay):
What percentage of the knowledge you need to do your job is stored in your own mind?
- 1986: 75%
- 1997: 15-20%
- 2006: estimated 8 -10%
This is one more reason why informal learning structures (not procedures) are necessary to support individual learning in a complex environment, where it is impossible to control the process as we could with training. Informal learning is the way in which your employees, bosses and colleagues will have to learn that significant other 92% of knowledge necessary for their jobs – today. It’s not that we don’t need training; we just need a lot more informal learning.