Would you rather go to a doctor who is in the band-aid business or the healing business? Prescribing training for all organizational learning is like handing out band-aids without a diagnosis. Training is often a solution in search of a problem.
This becomes evident when ~80% of learning on the job is informal and less than 10% of the knowledge needed for work is in our heads. But how much organizational effort is put into training, above all else? If it’s more than 20% of the learning support budget then it’s probably being misspent. For instance, Peter Senge’s comprehensive research showed that the average life expectancy of large companies is about 30 years, but some are over 200 years old. What is the reason for this? Organizational learning. Basically, individual learning in organizations is irrelevant. Work is almost never done by one person alone. Almost all value is created by teams and networks of people.
Enterprise training and its ADDIE framework are designed to develop individual skills, where the objective is always, “the learner will be able to …” not, “the organization will be able to …”. The basic premise is that any trained human cog will be able to fit into the organizational machine. But knowledge-intensive and creative enterprises don’t work that way. Every node in the networked enterprise is unique but the network itself is even more important. Social learning is how we get things done in networks. This is how nature and complex adaptive systems work – social learning is the best strategy.
We need to understand, encourage and support social learning in the enterprise.
Recently, Jane Hart & Jay Cross created this graphic that shows the five stages of workplace learning.
One limitation of this representation is that the first four stages look bigger than the fifth stage and could be perceived as being more important. Here’s a different perspective on the same theme.
My recent post on the value of the LMS stems from the perspective that the networked enterprise is a new organizational form that needs different support mechanisms. Siloed support functions are becoming redundant, as are siloed technologies. Unless a platform like an LMS is actually used to get work done, it will become redundant as well. When learning is the work then it has to be integrated with working. That means stand-alone L&D departments (and the stand-alone LMS) are peripheral to 90% of the learning that is happening. The new focus of the training department in the networked enterprise must be on communicating, connecting and collaborating, and that means integrating with the work being done, not using parallel processes and technologies.