I’m soundly convinced that Learning Platforms are crowding out Learning Programs. This is an inevitable part of moving from Stocks to Flows, from Push to Pull, from institutional control to personal freedom, and from rigid industrialism to flexible, more human work environments. Focus on improving the learning ecology rather than tackle one event at a time.
“Learning in advance” doesn’t work in a realtime world, so learning and work have converged. Learning is simply an aspect of getting the job done. Learning new things — sometimes by inventing them — is an obligation of corporate citizens. Most of this learning takes place in the workplace. The learning platform is the organization itself, not some separate entity.
I call these learning aspects of an organization its Workscape. A Workscape is a metaphorical space. The Workscape can include the water cooler, the Friday beer bust, the conversation nook at the office, wi-fi in the cafeteria, the enterprise culture, in-house communications, access to information, cultural norms around sharing and disclosure, tolerance for nonconformity, risk aversion, organizational structure, worker autonomy, and virtually any aspect of the company that can be tweaked to enable people to Work Smarter.
This afternoon I’ve been trying to come up with next practices for Workscapes in general. What are the design principles for optimal workscapes? What aspects of good learning should migrate into the Workscape. A starter list:
- All learning is self-directed. Give people the freedom to chart their own course. “I like to learn but I hate to be taught.” Set high expectations and people live up to them. Help people make sense of and prosper in the world and the workplace.
- Conversations are the stem-cells of learning. Foster open, frequent, frank conversation both virtually and in person.
- Experiential learning is magic. People learn by doing. Encourage experimentation. Insure that managers and mentors understand the impact of “stretch assignments.” JDI. Broadcast opportunities and projects.
- Teach people the least they need know to tackle things on their own.
- Make it drop-dead simple to access people in the know, the lessons of experience, how-to information, and performance support.
- Learning is social. Encourage participation in communities. Narrate your work and share with others. Communities and guilds create knowledge as well as consume it.
- We want what we want, no more. Whenever possible, provide choices. Give me the pieces to create personalized learning experiences.
- Learning is for everyone, not just novices and up-and-comers. You can’t expect to prosper without it. Make sure everyone’s covered.
- Learning takes reinforcement in order to stick. Seek feedback. Blog, tweet, and otherwise share your reflections. Revisiting what you learn fixes it in memory.
- Innovation is born of mashing up concepts from different disciplines. Encourage looking outside the box.
- Provide feeds for what’s going on in the team, the department, the company, the industry, and technical disciplines.
- People confuse learning with schooling. Build lessons on learning how to learn into the Workscape itself.
I’ll keep building the list but I’m hungry for more. I don’t want to get caught thinking small. What other aspects of sustaining the organization should be here?
Most of the value of organizations derives from Social Capital. (See my post Measure what’s important.) Were you able to deconstruct an organization into molecules of social capital, you’d have:
- human capital – the know-how of the workforce
- relationship captal – your reputation and ways of working with customers and partners
- structural capital – processes, systems, and secret sauce
Thus far, my list deals with only human capital. Help me think through the role of the Workscape in leveraging relationship capital and structural capital as well.