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Informal Learning: Overlooked or Overhyped?

Informal learning represents a unique and somewhat mysterious method in workplace learning and performance. But how much informal learning is actually occurring in contemporary workplaces? Is it helping or hindering performance on the job? Do learners even realize the opportunity for gaining actionable information through casual interactions?

Organizations have begun to realize that the breadth of knowledge gained through informal channels is comparable to that gained through traditional formal methods. However, the specific steps
needed to harness the vast potential of informal learning remain puzzling.

To better understand the impact of informal learning on organizational performance, ASTD and the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) recently completed an exploratory study on the topic. The core was an online survey of 1,104 human
resource and learning professionals, who completed the survey between March and April 2008. The majority of them (86 percent) were managers, directors, vice presidents, or C-level officers. Most of the respondents represented large enterprises (60 percent had workforces of at least 1,000 people) that operate in multiple nations. Findings from the survey suggest that many organizations face a variety of issues in their handling
of informal learning.

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