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Informal Learning: hot topic or hype?

This morning I received a copy of the TTS Newsletter which linked to an interesting blog post on “informal learning”.  It says that informal learning is one of the hottest topics in corporate Learning and Development at the moment.  Given all the focus on “Social”, that’s hardly surprising and I’ve written previously about my scepticism about “Social BPM“.  Just because there are all sorts of social media channels available, doesn’t make them the right way to help people develop their capabilities.

I wonder how much of this is driven by a desire to “do learning quicker and cheaper”, rather than finding the most effective way to develop new knowledge and skills.  Maybe it’s also driven by learners who seem to be increasingly under pressure not to give up a half-day or whole day to attend a training event.  I was also reading some research recently that suggested people growing up in the connected, social world have their brains wired differently to some of us older folks.  They have shorter spans of attention and seek instant gratification, both of which mitigate against participating in more traditional forms of learning.  Another concern has to be how these people learn effective interpersonal skills.  By coincidence, also published today, this article “Why focusing is so much harder now“.

Clearly, there isn’t a “right answer” but the 70:20:10 approach that I’ve written about before offers a more pragmatic approach.

The 70:20:10 model suggests employees learn:

  • 70% by experience (doing the job)
  • 20% by social learning (including coaching from colleagues / boss)
  • 10% by formal planned courses and reading

Employees learn 90% of their skills in the workplace (experience & social) and 10% through formal planned training.

TTS Managing Partner Dr. Zajonc was unambiguous: “The fact is, we always have to take care to ensure that learning has actually happened!” The whole topic is a lot more complex than googling for information or fostering relationships on Facebook. What’s more, this informal learning is preferably to be managed according to the company’s interests. A contradiction in terms: you can’t manage informal learning!

Read the TTS blog post on “informal learning”.

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