The New Architecture of Work VI:  Learning Technology - by John Sumser - HRExaminer

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The New Architecture of Work: VI Learning Technology

Things are changing very rapidly. Moore’s law, the stubborn force beneath the reinvention of the planet, continues its relentless doubling. Today’s smartphone has the computing capacity of a 1980s Cray computer. Capacity will double again and again in 18 month cycles.

The current rate of technical change would be unfathomable to your great grandparents. We have enormous processing power in our pants pockets and backpacks. Many low level employees have computing resources that the entire organization couldn’t afford as recently as 2000.

With the change and the rate of change comes broad impact on our jobs, the way we work and how we learn to do the next thing. Learning different things faster than ever is the challenge facing today’s organization and its workforce. Understanding the job that needs to be done requires our employees to have deepening technical skills and understandings. As learners, we need to know how to figure out what to learn and how to learn it.

Jay Cross, one of the regular contributors to the HRExaminer, is the father of informal learning. He coined the phrase and has devoted himself to popularizing the idea. One of the tools that is best used to make our organizations adaptive is informal learning.

Informal learning is what happens in the break room, over the barbeque pit, in mentored relationships. It’s the natural effect of living and working in an organization. We all learn. We all adapt. We all do this together. Jay’s notion is that part of the answer comes from setting the forces of informal learning free.

From a technical perspective, informal learning can now be documented. You tube is chock full of demos, advice, work instruction and tips and tricks for using software. The explosion of video cameras (every smartphone is a video cameras) results in a kind of unstructured and informal learning that can turbocharger organizational results.

As a complement, institutions like the Kahn Academy are championing the use of short video to deliver more formal training. The blend of micro-curriculum and informal learning means that the organization’s ability to adapt is being strengthened by social technologies without its involvement.

HR leadership has little idea, currently, about how to manage viral informal learning in the trenches. The approaches that work will involve encouragement and recognition as employees bring themselves up to speed.

(Part of the problem with most engagement processes is that they can’t effectively harness new technologies like digitized informal learning and micro-courses. Employees who are busily trying to adapt may not fit the organization’s definition of ‘engaged’. Sometimes, getting the job done and making the company whole transcends the desire of the organization’s administrators.)

But, there’s more.

Multimedia classrooms that combine video, text, chat, interactive white boarding, link exchanges and other interactive forms create intense learning environments. By harvesting the full potential of employee potential, these tools increase the depth of learning and retention across the members of the class.

Informal learning and multimedia driven learning environments have the capacity to help the company organize the turbulent times ahead. As HR shifts its focus towards the actual doing of work, Learning technology will be at the forefront.


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