CSTD Day 1 Workshop – Harold Jarche

(Harold Jarche is Chairman of the Internet Time Alliance)

The focus of Harold’s session is on Social Learning and what this concept means to the world of Learning & Development. I’ve already had the opportunity to attend one of his PKM workshops, and I’m already a bit of a practitioner, but he’s always worth seeing. Having said that, Harold’s approach is somewhat eclectic and draws from a variety of disciplines and sources. If you don’t pay attention to what’s going on it might be easy to lose the thread of the discussion. That’s not a criticism, per se, just an observation.

229 people were in attendance at the session and Harold took the opportunity to do some quick surveying of the audience to get a sense of where their relative understanding sat with respect to key workshop topics. There was an interesting split on knowledge of ISD. He expressed some surprise at the apparently low knowledge of Performance Support Systems, but was less surprised on the understanding/knowledge of Social Networking for Collaboration.

“Performance Issues” are often misidentified in organizations and it takes a skilled practitioner to get to the root cause. We can talk about a lot of different things in that regard, but HJ reminds all that Trg can only address “Skills and Knowledge” causes. That’s why ‘Training’ is often a perceived as a “solution looking for a problem”. Sad but true. Human Performance Technology (described as systemic and systematic but not very human) tries to manage the micro and macro views of learning, performance, and results, but as L&D professionals, we can’t forget to take the time to diagnose an issue before we can prescribe Trg as the appropriate solution.

When we look at the different solutions in some kind of continuum, formal training is still too “dependent” as a viable mechanism for supporting ongoing learning. For us to be more independent learners, we need to move toward sharing, social learning collaboration (self-directed learning). This means that we have to form networks and connections and that seems to be a bit of a lost art in the “wired world”. HJ emphasizes the need for “conversations” and sharing ideas. “Work is learning and learning is the work.” (ITA).

HJ notes that things like intellect, diligence, and obedience are easy to commoditize…and thus (potentially) easier to train through behavioural methods, but passion, initiative, and dedication are much harder to quantify or control. In other words, you can provide formal training on subjects, but unless someone actually cares about applying (and sharing?) the requisite knowledge, it can all go for naught.

“Work Literacy” refers to the automation of routine tasks and outsourcing of technician-level work. The informal and tacit elements (craft and knowledge, tacit and informal) are much harder to do automate or take outside the organization. He compared some of the Zeitgeist of today with the blind enthusiasm in the early 90s when “Expert Systems were going to save us all.” he pointed us McKinsey’s article (2011) about access to knowledge. It’s also important to note that there’s a marked decrease in the knowledge that workers have in their own heads about how to do their jobs, so it’s even more important to know where that information resides.

As an aside, HJ did a quick poll that generated interesting results on what organizations do/believe with respect to collab, info sharing, etc. It’s a little scary that people rarely get the time to reflect on successes or failures (especially in the face of evidence). Still seems like it’s such a “new” concept for many. It makes me wonder what I can do here at the school to push for more time for reflection (or even how we equip our instructor cadre to help our students to become better learners?)

Other little tidbits from this session: hyperlinks subvert hierarchy, so a well-connected worker who can find and manage the information may be less dependent on an “enforced sovereignty” (Thank You, Peter Block). As this network grows, the hierarchy has less influence. Mistakes can be “enhanced learning opportunities”. Embrace the value of failure, although perhaps it’s only a failure if you never learn from it? I love this concept of “safe-fail” rather than “fail-safe”. Most of your experiments will fail….but that’s OK! For me, I think the critical elements are discussion and exchange. What you consider a failure might be viewed as successful in some respects by another stakeholder. It might also be that your goals need refining…

In summary, I enjoy Harold’s approach to bringing this subject into the open and challenging the traditionalist approach to L&D. We need to have stronger networks and resources and “go-to” people and find ways to manage our own efforts in spite of the complex systems framework many of us have to endure.

Quoting Steven Johnson, he closed with the reminder, “Chance favours the connected mind.”

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