Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

22 January 2013

Starting from scratch

Clark @ 6:21 am

From a conversation with my ITA colleagues, talking about the (self-imposed) death of L&D that Charles wrote about, Jane wondered what we might do if we were starting from scratch.  I decided to take this on, thinking about an org that was already in operation, with it’s goals, processes, and practices, and what I might do if I were to come in and get it going (with the support of the executive team to do what I thought was right).

My initial step would be to establish a social media system, supporting conversations and collaboration on work teams and communities of practice.  I’d make sure that folks could establish dialogs, work together on documents, and share files, quick pointers, and more fully developed thoughts. They’d also be able to both create and share media, video, audio, and screencasts.  I’d want to have some folks supporting the development of the use of this capability, in a performance consulting or performance strategist role.

Associated with this would be a big emphasis on transparency in communication, with the overall mission of the org percolating all the way through, and emphasizing the part each role plays in the overall picture.  Another emphasis would be on developing individual capability for self-learning.

My second step would be to set up a mechanism to support portals organized around work tasks (not by org silo), where media, files, and conversations around topics could happen.  The goal is to have tools ‘to hand’ as well as people.  Thus, any created job aids would be appropriately located. Again, with a performance strategy focus. This is related to the first point.

Finally, I’d consider formal learning to supplement the informal learning, in places where it demonstrably would add value, with a view to minimizing the use of this except where a sound business case could be made that the time spent was aligned to key business indicator, and that developing this skill was the necessary approach.  And, perhaps, on ways to effectively take advantage of the systems indicated above.  However, a longer term approach than the ‘event’ model would be used.  I’d want to track activity, not just content and assessment.  Compliance and onboarding, typically roles for formal learning, would have a different look than currently.

I’d supplement this with mobile access, and ultimately start looking for ways to add contextual support.  I’d be looking for  business impact across the board. I’d probably structure this as a performance unit, and ensure that the staff are trained to look at the full suite of opportunities to improve performance including social, and consider the emotional side – motivation, anxiety, and confidence – as well as the cognitive.

This is all hypothetical, of course, but I think it’s illustrative of a different way of approaching this.  I think that the way things are going: changing faster, dealing with more ambiguity ,and requiring more ingenuity and innovation, require a different approach than the assess, prepare, rollout model.  The focus increasingly is on supporting people meeting their needs, instead of attempting to meet their needs.  Organizations have to be more nimble, and this approach starts there and works back, instead of the other way around.



  1. Excellent approach Clark. Aligning formal to business is key as this point you make ensures the entire approach is soundly about performance and not just learning. In many ways I am starting from scratch, the long held beliefs about formal first are the most significant barrier but not insurmountable. My strategy too – social & informal are central. Continuous learning and continuous mentoring and coaching from within the workflow.

    Comment by Mark Britz — 22 January 2013 @ 6:20 pm

  2. [...] and the conversation rolled around to the role of L&D in the new era (related to yesterday’s post). I’ve previously addressed how we can now be using tech for more of the full suite of [...]

    Pingback by Internet Time Alliance | Old -> New — 23 January 2013 @ 8:53 am

  3. Mark, I was thinking of you (and a few others) as I wrote it ;).

    Comment by Clark — 24 January 2013 @ 2:15 pm

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