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ATD Blog

Corporate informal learning culture


Sun Nov 06 2005


Dave Grebow sees a danger in meddling with the processes of informal learning, and I have to agree. But I contend that it's also possible to be pro-active without meddling. The aim in all cases is to respect informality but because the efficacy of the means employed doesn't depend on elaborate control systems, those means should be theoretically less difficult to implement. The real and very formal challenge is to "teach" decision-makers what to do because everything revolves around a gradual but radical transformation of corporate culture.

If we're going to "teach" (whether through training or publishing), we need some ideas. I have a few of my own and have borrowed others from various places. To kick off the brainstorming, here are a some suggestions (remembering that no one idea will get us very far; to succeed you need to commit to the full monty):

  • Begin modifying the physical (and virtual) working environment with the idea of moving away from a functional individual productivity model to a social model (this is sometimes done for other reasons and the two objectives can be made to merge).

  • Encourage collaboration through the widest variety of means.

  • Don't conduct any formal training without envisaging some form of mentoring, including peer mentoring.

  • For the mentoring provide a permanent collaborative learning environment that can be used for purely personal purposes as well as official or unofficial collaboration (storage of documents, data, links with other communication tools such as audio or video conferencing).

  • Do some formal training, especially at the managerial level, on the complementarity of formal and informal goals.

  • Define what I would call "evolutionary learning themes" that can be informally monitored over time by line managers, but without fixing pre-determined objectives (and devise ways of accounting for their evolution). No reporting other than collaborative!

  • Start talking about long-term learning projects without any specific constraints attached to them.

  • Refer all formal training events or activities to long-term projects (a variation of the e-portfolio concept).

  • Appoint not a "CLO" (as intimidating as a CEO or CFO), but rather a Learning Culture Coordinator (and Communicator).

  • Start thinking about performance support systems.

Finally, don't go looking for vendors of the latest ILMS (Informal Learning Management Systems)! You can bet they'll be lining up for sales appointments as soon as they see decision-makers committed to the concept. They'll be far worse than the "formal learning developers" Dave has warned us about.

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