The main complaint I think I have about the things L&D does isn’t so much that it’s still mired in the industrial age of plan, prepare, and execute, but that it’s just not aligned with how we think, learn, and perform, certainly not for information age organizations. There are very interesting rethinks in all these areas, and our practices are not aligned.
So, for example, the evidence is that our thinking is not the formal logical thinking that underpins our assumptions of support. Recent work paints a very different picture of how we think. We abstract meaning but don’t handle concrete details well, have trouble doing complex thinking and focusing attention, and our thinking is very much influenced by context and the tools we use.
This suggests that we should be looking much more at contextual performance support and providing models, saving formal learning for cases when we really need a significant shift in our understanding and how that plays out in practice.
Similarly, we learn better when we’re emotionally engaged, when we’re equipped with explanatory and predictive models, and when we practice in rich contexts. We learn better when our misunderstandings are understood, when our practice adjusts for how we are performing, and feedback is individual and richly tied to conceptual models. We also learn better together, and when our learning to learn skills are also well honed.
Consequently, our learning similarly needs support in attention, rich models, emotional engagement, and deeply contextualized practice with specific feedback. Our learning isn’t a result of a knowledge dump and a test, and yet that’s most of what see.
And not only do we learn better together, we work better together. The creative side of our work is enhanced significantly when we are paired with diverse others in a culture of support, and we can make experiments. And it helps if we understand how our work contributes, and we’re empowered to pursue our goals.
This isn’t a hierarchical management model, it’s about leadership, and culture, and infrastructure. We need bottom-up contributions and support, not top-down imposition of policies and rigid definitions.
Overall, the way organizations need to work requires aligning all the elements to work with us the way our minds operate. If we want to optimize outcomes, we need to align both performance and innovation. Shall we?