Workspace Learning


Theres a very well-written post on workspace evolution by Jay Cross. Why i say well-written is because this is something i have been thinking about for a while, and have reached a point of thinking where i have developed an understanding that the relation between learning and social interactions is important to be understood to be able to take learning to the next level. This is largely based on the understanding that learning is more of a social process than something which is done purely done individually. Agree, learning is essentially an individual process (lets face it, each one of us learns by ourselves, noone can learn on someone else’s behalf, so thats not what i am talking about here), which is facilitated by social connections. In other words, we learn through formal training, and we learn from our environment, which is primarily the people, processes, policies, etc., which the organization provides.

There are some who believe that formal training is a thing from the past. I disagree with the idea, simply because there is something to the way formal training can guide the learner through the process of learning. Formal learning, with content which is controlled by a training function, shows the learner the direction they need to take to learn more about the particular topic. This is something which is very important in the organizational context.On the other hand, so is the understanding that learning is a social process. I think both approaches need to go hand-in-hand, though i do see each impacting the other in the learning landscape. Though, as usual, i would do the fence-sitting act and say that the exact nature of this impact is probably something which would vary from organization to organization, or with context. Having said that, there is much to be said on both sides.

To begin with, formal learning is important, like i said, in giving the direction to learners. Imagine taking people who have joined the organization fresh frmo college, and putting them on the job without any training, relying purely on the social aspect of learning. Hmm … not sure if this is what you would like to see. Though, if you would, do post a comment. I think there are different parts of the learning spectrum which co-exist in an organizations, which are more effectively addressed by different approaches to learning. An issue which organizations are seeing, and will probably continue to see, is the cost associated with addressing the long tail of training requirements, as more and more niches come into the picture in organizations, and the requirement to build skills in these niches gathers more momentum. Costs associated with trying to address the long tail can at times be quite high, which is something which organizations are looking at addressing. Somewhere between the two approaches is the point i think organizations need to look at.

Which is essentially reiterating the point Jay is making. I believe there is need for both to co-exist, because there is need to meet requirements which can be best met by both. Though more components of informal learning would find their way into the organizational learning paradigm. And the point where the organization would be between the two is something which would vary for organizations. Though this may not be one point, but a set of points based on the requirements which the training function is trying to meet. While on this thought, an interesting insight from my boss, a highly knowledgeable person, Joseph John, that this continuum is probably not a sequential continuum, rather that different stages co-exist in organizations. This i think is based on the fact that different audiences in organizations who are hapless victims of training activities have different requirements from different training activities, and the key role that training functions need to play is to identify which, to what extent, which stage is appropriate.

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One Comment on “Workspace Learning”

  1. […] to leverage the social aspects of learning to create extensions to the learning process. As i have written before, that is an area which needs to be considered important in terms of developing greater […]


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