Saturday, April 16, 2005

The Learning Ecology

The Learning Ecology The Workplace.

Just as the first cars were "horseless carriages" and the first refrigerators "ice boxes," the first eLearning were online classes. We replicated school and corporate training programs, leaving out a some critical components and failing to recognize the many ways that technology-assisted learning can go traditional learning one better.

[insert picture of Omega university campus]

failure of eLearning story

Gibbons experience at Stanford.

JSB & Xerox.

The Knowledgable Workplace

Let's get into what gamers call God mode. Imagine that we have no constraints. Money is plentiful. You're in charge of learning for a 100,000 person corporation. You have a blank slate. What would you put together?

My ideal looks like this: My Learning Ecology is boundaryless space group of teams and work groups populated by free-range learners. Guides and coaches roam the territory. There's a high tolerance for failure (for we learn through experimentation) and no tolerance for information hoarding (it's a career-limiting move).

The company intranet is participatory. The content repository (called "stuff we use") is chock full of blog entries, emails, plogs, and project histories, all chunked and rated by all who use them. Video of appreciative inquiry events is available, as are corporate stories and history. Daily messages appear on the daily blog; key issue discussions download into employee iPods. It's apt to think of the repository as a lake, ever changing, with streams flowing in to replenish the water than evaporates, leaks into the soil, or pours into the cattle trough.

Half of the floorspace in company's offices is set up for interaction: small meeting rooms, a tea room, two pool tables, sofas and conversation nooks, and for symbolism, a water cooler. The cafeteria serves first-rate, healthy food to encourage eating in. Customers are invited in for meals, for schmoozing, for voicing their needs, and for co-creating new concepts.

A loosely-coupled enterprise-wide system monitors the flow of value through the value chain, alerting workers when things are out of spec.

All workers are encouraged to understand and act on the values, mission, and strategy of the firm. Resources are available to help workers build life skills, e.g. learning to learn, negotiating, planning, finance, psychology, conflict resolution.

Learning is personalized via syndication.

LMS vendors provide management with a feeling of control. How many hours, classes, certifications, whatever, have we run through our system this quarter. Since seat-time is not correlated with productivity, increases in activity may or may not yield improvements in the business. The most important elements are those not captured by the LMS. It's like the story of Nasrudin looking for his keys under the street lamp because the light is better rather than where he thinks he may have left them.

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