Why informal learning?


I’m Clark Quinn of Quinnovation, a new HPT Treasures blogger, and was struggling to get my mind around what to write. So, I revisited the ‘acceptance’ letter, and saw Guy had said: 

I am looking to increase … the diversity of HPT Practices covered

…anything that improves the performance of the worker, workflow, workplace, and the world is desirable.

Now, I have a simple (and cheeky) statement about L&D: “L&D isn’t doing what it could and should be doing, and what it is doing it is doing badly. Other than that, it’s fine.” 😀 The latter part is about better learning design. And a number of the bloggers here know this stuff well. The former part is about going beyond ‘the course’. 

I have another saying, based upon the increasing complexity in organizational success: “Going forward, optimal execution will be only the cost of entry, and continuing innovation will be the necessary differentiator.” One aspect of going ‘beyond the course’ is performance support, putting knowledge in the world instead of in the head. That, and courses, cover the ‘optimal execution’ part of the picture. And many of the bloggers here are well-versed in that, too.

Thus, it seems like the opportunity is in the ‘continual innovation’ side. Something I’ve been interested in, and have explored with my colleagues in the Internet Time Alliance.  Is this an area for HPT and L&D? Let me make the case. 

First, when you’re trouble shooting, designing, and researching, you don’t know the answer when you begin. So, these activities are inherently about learning!  However, they’re not ‘instruction’, because there’s no one to serve as the expert. We don’t know the answers yet! Instead, everyone in this situation is a learner. So what matters is using good practices. We can be expert in that. 

And, I’ll suggest, L&D should be the owner of that. We’re supposed to be the ones who know most about learning. And, yes, it means we need to know about learning together as opposed to instruction, but it’s still based upon how our brains learn. And therefore, we have a legitimate claim to take ownership.

As an aside: yes, this is a strategic move. Being the course ‘order taker’ isn’t a critically important role in the organization. Particularly since people are increasingly self-helping, with web searches and how-to videos. What the above  suggests is a critical role is serving as the facilitator of organizational innovation. That’s what I’m talking about.

At core, it’s about something near and dear to my heart, aligning what we do with how our brains work. That is, making sure that what we do aligns with how we think, work, and learn. That’s important for several reasons. The first is very pragmatic, it’s near and dear to my heart ;). The second is that when we align with how our brains work, we get happier people and better outcomes. That’s a win/win, in my book.

So, I will push for facilitating innovation as a valuable extension of the L&D role. Since this isn’t necessarily an immediate area of expertise for L&D, I’ll be talking about it here: practices to follow, policies to push for, and more. I can’t guarantee I won’t also stick my nose elsewhere, most likely to also talk about the engagement side of learning (a somewhat neglected area), but I’ll commit to keep the informal learning focus foregrounded. Fair enough? 

7 thoughts on “Why informal learning?

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