What’s wrong with this picture?

At the turn of the century, my vision of corporate learning put the learner at the center of resources that included the web, online learning activities, communities of practice, an intranet, and instructor-led training. My thinking has changed. Can you guess several ways I would re-draw the picture today?

The center should contain more than one person

For the most part, learning is social. This notion of the learner as individual is a legacy of the machine-age. The manager in the factory says “Just do what you are told. You are not paid to think. Don’t waste your time and ours talking to your co-workers; they should be doing what they are told, too.”

Childhood schooling mimics the factory. Study on your own. No talking during class. Collaborating to accomplish the job is called cheating. Grades measure individual performance. In school, a loner can finish at the top of the class; at work, loners are losers.

Don’t call it learning

Because most people are now knowledge workers, learning is the work. Treating learning and work as though they are separate is wrong-headed. Schools wall themselves off to protect their students from the distractions of the real world. Business managers know in their gut that taking workers off the job in order to learn defies common sense. The separation of workplace and classroom has tainted the word learning. What’s most important is know how to do the job well.

When conversing with corporate clients about how to get the job done, I try to avoid words like classroom, course, instructor, curriculum, and training.

Everything is connected

Remote islands in distant seas, once cut off from the rest of the world, are now plugged into the global grid. They read the New York Times at the same time as the rest of us. Nothing exists in isolation. The learning community, the individual, the intranet, the chat groups, and everything else in the picture are connected to one another. We’re looking at a network; functional networks do not have a center. A mesh is a more apt metaphor than hub-and-spoke.

Add the missing pieces

Learning often occurs via conversation, trial-and-error, mimicry, discovery, sharing, and collaboration. Ten years ago, I left them out. Now I know better.

Help me develop a better picture.

Five-minute university

If you need to convince skeptics that the old ways are ineffective, show them this video of Father Guido Sarducci explaining his Five-Minute University, where you learn as much in five minutes as the average college graduate remembers five years after graduation.