Where to start innovating?

StartStopIf Learning & Development is to be the standard carrier for informal learning, as I argued in my last post, there has to be a start. The opportunity, of course, is to be contributing more strategically to the organization. And I’ve previously made the case for where L&D revolutionaries should start. However, it’s worth revisiting in the context here, particularly for informal learning. So, here’s my proposal of where to start.

I have two statements about where to start. For the optimal execution side, I argue that the most important thing to do is measure. (To be clear, measuring impact: effectiveness, not efficiency!) I believe that one of the barriers we face is that we don’t measure what’s important. If we did, we’d have evidence of whether our courses are working, and should be driven to the most effective approach, which may not be a course! However, that’s not what we’re talking about here.

For the ‘continual innovation’ side, my argument is different. If we’re to facilitate informal learning, we have to truly know it. And that’s more than conceptually, we have to have had experience with it, to understand how it plays out in our own organization. We have to have mastered it, abstracting the best principles and re-contextualizing it for our own organization.

To do that, I argue, we actually have to practice it. That is, we need to institute these principles in the L&D unit, and ensure they’re understood, applied, and generating tangible results. The principles that are recognized (forthcoming in further posts 😉 need to be put in place within this organization. Any changes that are needed to make them work need to be documented.

As an aside, I make the case for best principles, not best practices. It’s relatively easy to take something that someone else is doing, and instantiate it as our own practices. However, that has a low likelihood for success, because the original circumstances are different than ours. Instead, we need to abstract the core principles about why and how it works, and then figure out what they mean in our context. It’s a bit more work, but has a higher likelihood for success.

Further, we need to iterate until we are getting real results. We won’t have credibility if we’re not practicing them, nor if they’re not working for us. When they are, we can take them forward confidently to the rest of the organization.

The ultimate answer to where to start is with ourselves. Principles like working out loud, experimentation, creating a learning culture, and more, should be trialed and refined within L&D before taking it outwards. The upside is both better working within L&D, and then a more central contribution to ongoing organizational success. What are you waiting for?

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