Tuesday, October 4

The Number 2






An Observation

I've been hearing a lot lately about "... learning from our mistakes". Natural disasters. Personal mishaps. Problems at work. Issues at home. I keep hearing "We learn from our mistakes." So I wondered if there is a new approach to learning we might call "Mistake-Based Learning".

Then I was looking at a new piece of software that all together avoids the need to learn anything at all and make any mistakes. It lets you know what you need to do, and when, and it's all a click away. This already has several names in the hat - the one I like the most is "Workflow Learning".

Sudden Idea: Only 2 Choices to Make

So suddenly I find myself simplifying the complex universe of learning into two groups:


  • Mistake-Based Learning: Learning by making mistakes and learning from those mistakes, and
  • Workflow Learning: Not learning at all, just finding what you need to do, or know, and doing it.

Choice 1: Mistake-Based Learning

Mistake-Based Learning is actually supported by the research into how we learn in the workplace. It's the 75/25 Rule where 75% of workplace learning is done while you work and only 25% (at best) is accomplished in a more formal setting. That 25% includes everything from classes to online programs to simulations. It's been broken down into

  • 20% "I Know" and
  • 5% "I Can Do".

Most training programs barely reach the "I Know" level. The best, using the latest interactive learning technology like simulations, hit the 25% "I Can Do" mark.

The remaining 80% is the "I Adopt & Adapt" level. It's a good definition of being ready to perform your job - the ability to adopt and adapt what you know and can do in response to an everchanging set of circumstances.

I consider this real learning.

Choice 2: Workflow Learning

In The Future of eLearning, Jay Cross does a wonderful job of defining and covering the ideas, concepts and case studies of workflow learning. He does a brilliant analysis of the value of having immediate access to knowledge - what you need to know or do - when and where you need it. In summary, it means you don't ever need to learn how to do something, nor really know what to do, you just click a (fill in the blank technology tool) and get the answer, follow the instructions and move on. Seems mistake proof unless you misread the instructions.

I consider this rote learning.

Why This Matters

1. In companies and corporations all over the world, the attempt to recreate the schoolplace in the workplace is most obvious where rote learning rules, and simply testing is okay. Performance is not relevant or really demonstrable, and just knowing the answer is everything. You do not have to really learn at all, just remember for awhile. The model is not fundamentally wrong, just completely misapplied. It does not go far enough to use the emerging technology that can replace the classroom, and it is never in the right place at the right time. Sort of an 'out-of-the-workplace' learning model. What is really needed is a true Workplace Learning program.

2. In the actual workplace, as opposed to the fictional schoolplace, where learning by doing is what it's really all about, and test scores (or LMS completion rates) are irrelevant, performance is key and know-how is everything. So we have learning by your mistakes or Mistake-Based Learning, a new kind of program, of which simulations are the tip of the iceberg, as you ascend up into the 80% level through "I Know" and "I Can Do" towards adopting and adapting.


That means that in any given situation in which I am asked to help people learn something, I can easily choose to create a Mistake-Based Learning program or a real Workflow Learning program. Both of these choices involve new directions for people in charge of the Corporate Brain. The majority of the thinking has been in the "Workflow Learning" category. Again I refer you to my friend Jay Cross if you want more details.

What remains to be worked on are the Mistake-Based Programs. If we truly and really learn by our mistakes, and experience is the best teacher, then what does Mistake-Based Learning look like? When is Mistake-Based Learning a better choice than Workflow Learning? Aside from simulations, are we creating these types of programs? Will companies even allow the idea of "training" when it is a Mistake-Based Learning program? Will they let us develop programs that set up employees to make mistakes-try again-succeed-and really learn? Or will the schoolplace model, an artifact of the Industrial Economy, continue to prevail? A model in which making a mistake means a lower grade, AND less capability to not make a real mistake when you're back at work? Where's the ROI in that?

Lots more questions. Tell me what you think ...

14 comments:

Melissa Brand said...

Wow! I think this blog is great especially when people who have been at this longer than I have post a really thought-provoking piece.

I think that people who develop training programs in corporations really need to think about this as a way of cutting through the clutter. If they only need the answers - Workflow is the best bet. If they really need to learn something so you can use it - Mistake-Based is the way to go.

I hate the name and you need to find something better but I really like the ideas. Plus the links were excellent especially to Jay Cross. Great new resource. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I run a mid-size comnay an occasionally read this blog since i like ti find out what is new and interesting that I can use in my company. This blog was really interesting.

I'm having my training and HR departments read it and assess so they can start to look at what we're doing through this lens, see where we can sub in workflow and where we reall need learning.

Great job!

Gary Budridge said...

Of all the blogs I've read on elearning this is the first time I had anyone write one that really means something to me. It's in normal speak (even though I can spell pedagogy)which I can understand and more than that it makes brilliant sense. I plan to spread this one around the Educational Services group in my company and start a serious conversation about which training problem is a candidate for which solution. Does the writer do any consulting?

jay said...

Indeed, a great post, David. [Blush.] I've been thinking that mistake-based learning is a subset of another brain-twister: ambiguity learning.

Here's the logic. In 1920, Bluma Zaigarnik notices that waiters in coffeehouses memorize remarkably complex orders and then flush them from memory once the transaction is complete. There's more at work here than short-term vs. long-term memory. In 1927, Bluma's research found that people retain about twice as much of a subject if they don't reach closure. When you put down a book, do it in mid-chapter. If you're leading a seminar, don't finish before the bell rings. Not closing out the topic creates tension in the brain that fades when the thing is finished.

What is it about not reaching closure? I think it's the same reason you remember something better if I first tell you it may be wrong. Uncertainty engages the mind.

School is usually crap because the curriculum is almost always composed of dull, dead certainties rather than lively, iffy experiments.

Of course, this is quite speculative. We've been chatting about this at Internet Time Blog.

I suspect that our brains are hard at work trying to end unfinished business by finding new links or information that puts it in tune with all the patterns we have already accepted. All the high-fallutin' talk about "making meaning" is really about achieving consistency in our beliefs. The brain always thirsts after order.

David Grebow said...

Jay - Thanks for that great added info on Bluma. Here's a qestion for you (and maybe worth another post).

There's all this fantastic research out there about How We Learn. We've read and talked a lot about it. Now let's do something.

Without turning people into lab rats (?) WHY aren't more of us responsible for learning creating controlled experiments in learning.

Tackle the same learning problem in several different ways and see what works, what the resoure cost was, what was the ROI? Do it as classroom, online, mistake-based/ambiguity-based/simulation? Split it into cognitive and behavioral?

We have this dinosaur of a model that we cling to like drowning sailors ... almost like keeping your large long-playing records and diode turntable to listen to music. We all know and talk about the ways that technology is changing the ways we live and work.

What about the ways we learn? And I'm not just talking about 'a classroom online'. That to me is an oxymoron like jumbo shrimp.

Anonymous said...

Nice Blog. I will keep reading. Please visit my blog at:

The Internet Marketing Genius, Carael Knight

Anonymous said...

Work at home opportunites For people who are smart enough to go after there own dreams

Work from home opportunites

Women who have children will love it...

Anonymous said...

Orange County SEO Companies Atomic SEO is the #1 Search engine Firm in Orange County.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting blog. With valuable information and tips.
It is a pleasure to read, even the archives.
Take the time to visit the following info at Click Here!"

Anonymous said...

Very informative. With valuable information and tips.It is a pleasure to read.Take the time to visit the following info at Click Here!"

Anonymous said...

myspace tutorials and huge profile customizations at www.domin8myspace.com

Anonymous said...

myspace tutorials and huge profile customizations.

Anonymous said...

runescape money runescape gold runescape money runescape gold wow power leveling wow powerleveling Warcraft Power Leveling Warcraft PowerLeveling buy runescape gold buy runescape money runescape items runescape gold runescape money runescape accounts runescape gp dofus kamas buy dofus kamas Guild Wars Gold buy Guild Wars Gold lotro gold buy lotro gold lotro gold buy lotro gold lotro gold buy lotro gold runescape money runescape power leveling runescape money runescape gold dofus kamas cheap runescape money cheap runescape gold Hellgate Palladium Hellgate London Palladium Hellgate money Tabula Rasa gold tabula rasa money lotro gold buy lotro gold Tabula Rasa Credit Tabula Rasa Credits Hellgate gold Hellgate London gold dofus kamas buy dofus kamas 血管瘤 肝血管瘤 音乐剧 北京富码电视 富码电视 富码电视台 7天酒店 7天连锁酒店 7天连锁 自清洗过滤器 过滤器 压力开关 压力传感器 流量开关 流量计 液位计 液位开关 温湿度记录仪 风速仪 可燃气体检测仪 wow power leveling wow powerleveling Warcraft PowerLeveling Warcraft Power Leveling World of Warcraft PowerLeveling World of Warcraft Power Leveling runescape power leveling runescape powerleveling
runescape money runescape gold wow power leveling 棕榈树
eve isk
eve online isk
eve isk
eve online isk

Audience Response said...

Interactive Learning Systems For more information on the Interactive Learning Systems and to chat live visit us at: -http://www.powercomars.com/.