Thursday, April 7

Learning vs. Training

The cliche is that training is not important, learning is.


And consequently there is one school of thought that suggests we look at the richest possible learning environments, and then replicate them. For me, that is skunk works, microcosms, new responsibility, access to Internet, Massively Multiplayer Role-Playing Games, etc.

But here's the thing. There is a big difference between learning a lot broadly and learning a given objective really well. Said differently, the focus on, given a learning objective (say, project management), what is the best way of making that happen, is different than saying, given employee A, how do we make sure she is in a rich learning environment.

I am not saying both are not really important. But I am saying that the Training community has at most a two percent ability to directly influence general rich learning environment, and an eighty percent ability/responsibility to accomplish the successful deployment of specific (and hopefully business critical) learning objectives.

If training has fallen as a word, so be it. But if predictably deploying critical skills is no longer our responsibility, than it will soon be someone elses.


Ben Watson said...

George Siemens likewise struggles with the difference between 'learning' and 'knowledge'. I like his notion that learning is actionable knowledge.

Of course, I always think that it is us that are hung up on words and definitions as the average worker just wants to do his job and will use whatever he has easy access to (hopefully as efficiently and effectively as possible).

Your learning environment IS your office environment and the sooner we reconcile the two the better. What I mean by that is that if your office environment allows access to the Internet or to a training portal etc then these connections form your learning environment (which is simply a network of connections, both in terms of content and people). I like Jay Cross' notion of workflow learning and his concept that "It's not just your peers; it's the qualify of connections with anyone whose community is important to you. Learning means making better connections." (i.e. how can we optimize these connections to content and people).

It's interesting though that with the renewed attention on informal learning, which to me is inherently saying that the learner makes the decisions on how to acquire the knowledge, how the current model of 'if your job is A then you need to take training X' will be impacted (i.e. self-directed versus being told).

Is a complete loss of control over who sets the learning objectives (the individual or the company) a bad thing?

Ben Watson said...

here is the correct link
to George Siemens' post on learning and knowledge

Harold Jarche said...

Neither learning nor training are really important, except to the many specialists in either camp. Performance is important. Sometimes this performance is externally evident, other times it is intrinsic to the individual.

I feel that we spend a lot of time confusing ends with means. Learning is natural - it's like breathing - we are born learners. Then the specialists and educators come in and confuse us about education, pedagogy and other stuff. We can't even agree on the desired "results" of a public education. How can we justify any means, when we don't have a clue about the ends?

I'm beginning to rant, so I'll stop here ;-)