Most training experiences push learning to the learnerRegardless of our good intentions, many of the courses we design tend to take a whole bunch of learning objectives which we then push onto the learner. We keep asking ourselves the question of whether something needs to go into a course and then we say, "But they really need to know this..." and we slam that topic right into the training. While some learners enjoy it and others endure it, we need to ask ourselves if this is really effective. Research proves that human brains work very sensibly in these situations -- we stay conscious only about the pieces of knowledge or the skills that we will need/use on our immediate work. The rest slips into the subconscious and we incubate those bits of information until we need it at a later time. John Medina's Brain Rules, explain these phenomena in great detail. So if people are only going to retain what they will use, why contaminate that message with the surrounding nice-to-have stuff?
Learners need to be self awarePeople learn from experience and most learning sinks in, on the job. People learn from feedback and feedback comes not only from peers and coaches, it also comes from your environment. When you keep attempting something and get a result that you didn't expect, you're getting some feedback. The key is that as people progress on the job, they get feedback from various sources and become more and more self-aware about where they are and where they'd like to be. A safe environment to fail fast and learn from mistakes is critical to this self-awareness. So I often think that while training is important, its more important for organisations to provide a safe environment that's conducive to learning. Only then can you develop people that are truly in control of their development and have the awareness they need to succeed.
Self aware learners can pull the learning they needOnce you're self aware, you automatically know what resources you need to learn. The key is that different people learn differently. Some people learn by reading a book, others by attending a course, a lot of people can learn effectively online and there are others who learn by networking and socialising with people. The key to being a learning organisation is in providing these learning opportunities throughout someone's career. There are many ways to create these opportunities. Here are some I can think of:
- Design your instructor led courses to be no more than 90 minutes each with a targeted set of objectives for each 90 minute chunk. This way, you increase your flexibility to run them on-demand
- Design your elearning to be in the form of small coursels (like morsels in case of food). Think of bite-sized chunks no longer than 10 minutes. Adopt a how-to approach.
- Invest in Enterprise Social Software for your firm, so that people can crowdsource learning. After all, most learning happens by talking to the guy that sits beside you, or over that cup of coffee. Most importantly this opens up opportunities for your learners to network with people they never knew
- Facilitate informal events, like Hack Nights, Lunch and Learns (people bring in food and sit in a session over lunch), Pecha-Kucha nights and Ignite evenings.
- Institute other forms of support such as a book budget where people have the opportunity to spend money on something they feel can help their learning.
I'm sure there are dozens of other, non-intrusive ways to create opportunities for continuous learning. What has your experience been with things such as this? Feel free to share your thoughts liberally in the comments section of the post and if you'd like to, please write to me.
(Photograph in this post taken from cocomo7's Flickr stream)