Learning is too important to be left to the professionals

profWorkplace learning professionals are in for a shock. Business is waking up to the fact that learning is now mission critical. Will executives continue to allow learning policy to reside in a separate department or some sub-department of HR for much longer? Do you think they will let “learning professionals” maintain sole control? I doubt it; especially if the military, which is either training for war or engaged in one, is an example.

In my presentation, from training to performance to social (slides 5-9), I show how the military lets training specialists and schools run individual training, but even more time and effort is put into collective training that emphasizes social and informal learning. The latter is run by operators (e.g. line of business owners) not learning specialists. I think business is going there as well, if the struggle over control of enterprise social media is an indicator – and the learning function seldom is allowed to run it. Using the 70:20:10 lens, it’s likely that these professionals may only look after the formal 10% of organizational learning. You could say that is being marginalized.

Enterprise social media and external social networks are where more business transactions will occur. They are also where a lot of learning will happen, but not separated from business. The networked business world is subverting the learning and development hierarchy. Scalable learning does not come from a separate departmental function.

The cost and difficulty of coordinating activities across entities, on a global scale, is far lower now. The pace of change is accelerating and the degree of uncertainty increasing. Perhaps a new rationale will be required to drive institutional success in the future. Perhaps we need to move from a rationale of scalable efficiency to one of scalable learning — designing institutions and architectures of relationships across institutions that help all participants to learn faster as more participants join. John Hagel – HBR

Mainstream media are catching on that in the network era, work is learning and learning is the work. This article from BloombergBusinessWeek is an example of the growing understanding that social learning is a business imperative:

Staff who carry out day-to-day duties—and whose productivity you’re looking to improve—should ultimately be the source for defining what knowledge they need and what knowledge they know is valuable to others.

With learning in the business spotlight, questions will be asked about the efficacy of current methods and practitioners of those methods. We are seeing a growing demand for self-directed and networked professional development. Recently, Craig Wiggins told the ASTD (training & development) community to just stop pretending – “Let’s stop pretending that, at one point or another, we haven’t for a moment wondered if we deserve to be marginalized. (Opinions on learning are never short supply.)” Learning will not be marginalized, but the learning trades, like scribes of old, will be.

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