UMBC’s ISD Now! Webinar Series is UMBC’s ISD Graduate Program’s newest online platform to share ideas and information on topics related to business, organizational productivity and workplace learning and performance.
The panelist on this was Jay Cross - the progenitor of the term Informal Learning. Jay Cross is a champion of informal learning, web 2.0, and systems thinking. His calling is to help business people improve their performance on the job and satisfaction in life.
As usual, Jay was on his favourite meme of Informal Learning and as always, it was fun listening to him.
We started off with a poll that asked us about the importance of informal learning and not surprisingly most people said it was important or very important.
Jay started off with a picture of the cloud. Well -- signs of what he's thinking, huh? Jay claims to learn a lot from his buddies at the Internet Time group and the web. Jay had a lot to say, but decided to do whatever he could do in the time he had at hand. F a while I was having a hard time keeping up -- 2230, and no visuals, what do you expect?
Convergence of Work and LearningBut then we realise that Citrix was playing up, so back to a more visual webinar. Well, Jay started on his meme of 'work is learning now' and reminded us that we need to be moving learning platforms and workscapes. Well, this can't be easy. There are risks and not everyone's going to make it.
10 Dirty WordsThis carries on from Jay's great article on 8 dirty words for us L&D professionals. So Jay doesn't like the words social, elearning, informal, learner, learning, etc. He likes to call this 'working smarter'. Jay talked about the examples of:
- how a twitter like information sharing saved a turbine company $3-$5m annually.
- how CGI saved 4000 systems engineers two hours a week by using in-house subscriptions to research findings.
- how intel's free wiki became the go-to source of information eliminating $20m a year in duplicate effort.
- how P&G has outsourced 50% of it's R&D to its customers, cut staff and increased innovation
- how 7000 workers at a major insurance company are sharing information in near real-time via Twitter
- how at Best Buy 2000 employees have providede more than 20000 answers to customer queries using Twitter
- how at CAT 3000 communities of practice have generated more than $75m in savings
Moving from Formal to Informal LearningJay finds the phrase 'Formalising informal Learning' to be absolutely incorrect. What we need to do instead, is 'institionalise' it. I agree -- that's what I like to say.
So, informal learning is more pull than push. Formal bolsters knowledge, informal is wrapped up with doing things. Formal takes a while, informal is bite sized. Formal is away from work, informal in embedded in work. Formal design is by SMEs and instructional designers, informal design is by individuals. Formal takes months/weeks to develop, informal takes minutes. You go through formal learning in advance of the need, you pull informal learning only when you need it. Formal learning is top-down, informal learning is laissez-faire.
Each of these have their space. If you're a novice, you need formal learning of some kind. Yes, some informality helps, but the recognition that a specific phase is over, becomes really important. But as you gain experience, you're looking for little wins, and small experiences which solve specific problems are really useful.
Formal Learning is like being on a bus. You need to go through the entire journey. Informal Learning is like being on a bicycle. Stop where you want to and when you need to.
We're all experienced with formality, but our focus on the informal is minimal. Most of our spending is for formal learning, but most of our learning is informal! Don't know how mathematically correct that is, but sounds right.
Spectrum of ActivitiesThe above picture talks about the various activities that move from Formal to Informal learning and illustrates the bridges amongst them. The key is that you need to go through the entire spectrum. Try wrapping the formal learning experience within informal experiences. Example: team meets in advance of a workshop and discuss their goals for the workshop; go to the formal workshop and then ends with an alumni-support network followed by brief recall sessons.
Businesses are part of a large ecosystem. What's the benefit of helping our customers and partners learn? Is it improved business results, better partnering, lesser friction? Hell, yeah!
Q to Jay by a CxO: How do you know informal learning works?
Jay's fabulous answer: Well how did you learn to standup, walk and learn? Did someone train you for hours before you spoke your first word?
OTOH, do you believe everything you learnt at a religious school? Do smokers quit only because they know that smoking is bad for them?
Skipping to the end - Cost/ Benefit of Informality.Jay skipped most other stuff and moved right to the end - bummer!
Tips to make your informal learning project succeed:
- Your sponsor is god - well they're the folks backing you aren't they?
- Coordinate throughout.
- Agree measures up front.
- Only valid metrics are business metrics. If the business don't care, you shouldn't measure!
- If numbers are squishy, interview sample and extrapolate. Don't present unconvincing data -- find what you can.
Some more tips:
- Think of an elevator pitch
- Know the ROI - you may not know the actual 'returns' but being able to articulate true value of the investment is quite useful in MY opinion
- Talk about helping people work smarter
- Ask for support from the executives